Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall’d as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me or a girl with me,
I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become not yours only nor left my body mine only,
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass, you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit alone or wake at night alone,
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.
This poem is in the public domain.
The war was all over my hands.
I held the war and I watched them
die in high-definition. I could watch
anyone die, but I looked away. Still,
I wore the war on my back. I put it
on every morning. I walked the dogs
and they too wore the war. The sky
overhead was clear or it was cloudy
or it rained or it snowed, and I was rarely
afraid of what would fall from it. I worried
about what to do with my car, or how
much I could send my great-aunt this month
and the next. I ate my hamburger, I ate
my pizza, I ate a salad or lentil soup,
and this too was the war.
At times I was able to forget that I
was on the wrong side of the war,
my money and my typing and sleeping
sound at night. I never learned how
to get free. I never learned how
not to have anyone’s blood
on my own soft hands.
Copyright © 2019 by Donika Kelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 25, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
after Mary Oliver
Here is the meat
and fat and bone
of the day. The smoke
too for the god of recognition.
A love offering,
where love is also
grief and mourning,
the business of waking
and moving in a body far
away from you,
and moving mean
crying or not crying,
but always breathing.
Mark how the light
bends through the dry
air, like breath,
at the end of the day.
Mark the chirbling of the bird
outside my window.
Mark the day we will see
one another again,
and what light there will be,
Originally published in West Branch (Issue 97, 2021). Copyright © 2021 by Donika Kelly. Used with the permission of the poet.