Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

From The Poems of Dylan Thomas, published by New Directions. Copyright © 1952, 1953 Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1962, 1966, 1967 the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1938, 1939, 1943, 1946, 1971 New Directions Publishing Corp. Used with permission.

These be 
three silent things: 
The falling snow . . . the hour 
Before the dawn . . . the mouth of one 
Just dead.

This poem is in the public domain.

Listen…
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.

This poem is in the public domain.

If it 
Were lighter touch 
Than petal of flower resting 
On grass, oh still too heavy it were, 
Too heavy! 

This poem is in the public domain.

Written in a Moment of Exasperation

How can you lie so still? All day I watch 
And never a blade of all the green sod moves 
To show where restlessly you toss and turn, 
And fling a desperate arm or draw up knees 
Stiffened and aching from their long disuse; 
I watch all night and not one ghost comes forth 
To take its freedom of the midnight hour. 
Oh, have you no rebellion in your bones? 
The very worms must scorn you where you lie, 
A pallid mouldering acquiescent folk, 
Meek habitants of unresented graves. 
Why are you there in your straight row on row 
Where I must ever see you from my bed 
That in your mere dumb presence iterate 
The text so weary in my ears: "Lie still 
And rest; be patient and lie still and rest." 
I'll not be patient! I will not lie still! 
There is a brown road runs between the pines, 
And further on the purple woodlands lie, 
And still beyond blue mountains lift and loom; 
And I would walk the road and I would be 
Deep in the wooded shade and I would reach 
The windy mountain tops that touch the clouds. 
My eyes may follow but my feet are held. 
Recumbent as you others must I too 
Submit? Be mimic of your movelessness 
With pillow and counterpane for stone and sod? 
And if the many sayings of the wise 
Teach of submission I will not submit 
But with a spirit all unreconciled 
Flash an unquenched defiance to the stars. 
Better it is to walk, to run, to dance, 
Better it is to laugh and leap and sing, 
To know the open skies of dawn and night, 
To move untrammel'd down the flaming noon, 
And I will clamour it through weary days 
Keeping the edge of deprivation sharp, 
Nor with the pliant speaking on my lips 
Of resignation, sister to defeat. 
I'll not be patient. I will not lie still. 

And in ironic quietude who is 
The despot of our days and lord of dust 
Needs but, scarce heeding, wait to drop 
Grim casual comment on rebellion's end: 
"Yes; yes . . . Wilful and petulant but now 
As dead and quiet as the other are." 
And this each body and ghost of you hath heard 
That in your graves do therefore lie so still. 

November, 1913. This poem is in the public domain.

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it—

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?—

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot—
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Dying
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call.

It's easy enough to do it in a cell.
It's easy enough to do it and stay put.
It's the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

'A miracle!'
That knocks me out.
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart—
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash—
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there--

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Beware
Beware.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

23-29 October 1962

From The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath, published by Harper & Row. Copyright © 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. Used with permission.

You are like a war novel, entirely lacking
female characters, except for an occasional 
letter that makes one of the men cry. 

        I am like a table 
        that eats its own legs off
        because it’s fallen 
        in love with the floor.

My frantic hand can’t find where my leg
went. You can play the tourniquet. A tree
with white limbs will grow here someday.

        Or maybe a pup tent
        that’s collapsed in on itself, 
        it so loves the sleep
        of men sleeping beneath it.

The reason why women dislike war movies 
may have something to do with why men hate 
romantic comedies: they are both about war.

        Perhaps I should
        live in a pig’s trough.
        There, I’d be wanted.
        There, I’d be tasted.

When the mail bag drops from the sky
and lands heavy on the jungle floor, its letters 
are prepared to swim away with your tears.

        One letter reads: 
        I can barely feel
        furtive. The other: 
        I am diminishing.

First published in The Kenyon Review New Series, Summer 2004, Vol. XXVI, No. 3. Copyright © Cate Marvin. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Here's my head, in a dank corner of the yard.
I lied it off and so off it rolled.
It wasn't unbelieving that caused it
to drop off my neck and loll down a slope.
Perhaps it had a mind of its own, wanted
to leave me for a little while.

Or it was scared and detached itself
from the stalk of my neck as a lizard's tail
will desert its body in fright of being caught.
The fact is, I never lied. The fact is,
I always lied. Before us, we have two mirrors.
At times, they say, one must lie in order

to survive. I drove by the house, passed
it several times, pretending it was not
my own. Its windows were red with curtains
and the honeyed light cast on the porch
did not succeed in luring me back inside.
I never lied. I drove by the house,

suckling the thought of other lovers
like a lozenge. I was pale as a papery birch.
I was pure as a brand new pair of underwear.
It will be a long while before I touch another.
Yet, I always lied, an oil slick on my tongue.
I used to think that I was wrong, could

not tell the truth for what it was. Yet, one
cannot take a lawsuit out on oneself.
I would have sworn in court that I believed
myself and then felt guilty a long time after.
I hated the house and I hated myself.
The house fattened with books, made me

grow to hate books, when all the while
it was only books that never claimed
to tell the truth. I hated him and I hated
his room, within which his cloud of smoke
heaved. I disappeared up narrow stairs,
slipped quick beneath the covers.

My stomach hurts, I told him, I was tired.
I grew my dreams thick through hot nights:
dear, flickering flowers. They had eyes
which stared, and I found I could not afford
their nurture, could not return their stare,
Meanwhile, liars began their parade

without my asking, strode sidewalks inches
before my doorstep. I watched their hulking
and strange beauty, their songs pregnant
with freedom, and became an other self.
I taught children how to curse.
I bought children gold pints of liquor.

I sold my mind on the street.
1 learned another language. It translates easily.
Here's how: What I say is not what I mean,
nor is it ever what I meant to say.
You must not believe me when I say
there's nothing left to love in this world.

From Fragment of the Head of a Queen by Cate Marvin. Copyright © 2007 by Cate Marvin. Reprinted by permission of Sarabande Books. All rights reserved.

Dead girls don't go the dying route to get known.
You’ll find us anonymous still, splayed in Buicks,
carried swaying like calves, our dead hefts swung
from ankles, wrists, hooked by hands and handed
over to strangers slippery as blackout. Slammed
down, the mud on our dress is black as her dress,
worn out as a throw-rug beneath feet that stomp
out the most intricate weave. It ought not sadden
us, but sober us. Sylvia Plath killed herself. She ate
her sin. Her eye got stuck on a diamond stickpin.
You take Blake over breakfast, only to be bucked
out your skull by a cat-call crossing a parking lot.
Consuming her while reviling her, conditioned to
hate her for her appetite alone: her problem was
she thought too much? Needling an emblem’s ink
onto your wrist, the surest defense a rose to reason
against that bluest vein's insistent wish. Let’s all
us today finger-sweep our cheek-bones with two
blood-marks and ride that terrible train homeward
while looking back at our blackened eyes inside
tiny mirrors fixed inside our plastic compacts. We
could not have known where she began given how
we were, from the start, made to begin where she
ends. In this way, she's no way to make her amends.

Copyright © 2013 by Cate Marvin. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on February 11, 2013. Browse the Poem-a-Day archive.

“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
            —Mexican Proverb

I was born among the bodies. I was hurried
forward, and sealed a thin life for myself.

I have shortened my name, and walk with
a limp. I place pebbles in milk and offer

them to my children when there is nothing
else. We can not live on cold blood alone.

In a dream, I am ungendered, and the moon
is just the moon having a thought of itself.

I am a wolf masked in the scent of its prey
and I am driven—hawk like—to the dark

center of things. I have grasped my eager
heart in my own talons. I am made of fire,

and all fire passes through me. I am made
of smoke and all smoke passes through me.

Now the bodies are just calcified gravity,
built up and broken down over the years.

Somewhere there are phantoms having their
own funerals over and over again. The same

scene for centuries. The same moon rolling
down the gutter of the same sky. Somewhere

they place a door at the beginning of a field
and call it property. Somewhere, a tired man

won’t let go of his dead wife’s hand. God
is a performing artist working only with

light and stone. Death is just a child come to
take us by the hand, and lead us gently away.

Fear is the paralyzing agent, the viper that
swallows us living and whole. And the devil,

wears a crooked badge, multiplies everything
by three. You—my dark friend. And me.

Copyright © 2015 by Cecilia Llompart. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

                              Said the Barnacle,

You enchant me, with your carnival
of force.

Yours is a system of slow.

There is you, the pulley
and there is you, the weight.

Your eyes wide on a hymn.

Your deep song like the turn
of that first,

that earliest of wheels.


                              Said the Whale,

I have seen you, little encruster,
in that business of fouling the ships.

Known, little drum machine, you
to tease out food from the drink.

Little thimble of chalk and hard water.

You could be a callus of whiter skin.

You could be a knucklebone. You
who hang on me,

like a conscience.

Copyright © 2014 by Cecilia Llompart. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 28, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

From The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994) by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the author.

Why are you grieving?

Because the others are grieving.

You are not compelled to grieve independently?

The grass needs raking.

The grass?

The leaves. I will build a fence to keep them from the sea.

Then will you help the others?

Tollers ring bells even the dead can hear,
a ringing such that I am bound to.

And the leaves?

When they are taken by the waves I give them names,
desiring in this act a homecoming
to which I am constantly denied
on account of other people’s prayers.

Copyright @ 2014 by Rob Schlegel. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on May 26, 2014.

Where do you keep all these people?
The shoemaker with his rumpled cough.
The man who twisted straws into brooms.
My teacher, oh my teacher. I will always cry
when I think of my teacher.
The olive farmer who lost every inch of ground,
every tree,
who sat with head in his hands
in his son's living room for years after.
I tucked them into my drawer with cuff links and bow ties.
Touched them each evening before I slept.
Wished them happiness and peace.
Peace in the heart. No wonder we all got heart trouble.
But justice never smiled on us. Why didn't it?
I tried to get Americans to think of them.
But they were too involved with their own affairs
to imagine ours. And you can't blame them, really.
How much do I think of Africa? I always did feel sad
in the back of my mind for places I didn't
have enough energy to worry about.

Originally published in Transfer (BOA Editions, 2011). Copyright © by Naomi Shihab Nye. Used with the permission of the author.

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Burning the Old Year” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

she heard tales about saving grapefruit skins for cooking
she grew bright under the neon dragon of Chinatown
she made saffron curry rice for friends
she attended a barbecue in Amarillo, Texas
she stepped around yellow piss in snow
she cut herself on a Hawaiian pineapple
she learned to name forsythia where it grew
visions of ochre and citronella eluded her

From Crazy Melon and Chinese Apple by Frances Chung, published by Wesleyan University Press. Copyright © 2000 by the estate of Frances Chung. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.

an essay on assimilation

I am Marilyn Mei Ling Chin
Oh, how I love the resoluteness
of that first person singular
followed by that stalwart indicative
of “be,” without the uncertain i-n-g
of “becoming.”  Of course,
the name had been changed
somewhere between Angel Island and the sea,
when my father the paperson
in the late 1950s
obsessed with a bombshell blond
transliterated “Mei Ling” to “Marilyn.”
And nobody dared question
his initial impulse—for we all know
lust drove men to greatness,
not goodness, not decency.
And there I was, a wayward pink baby,
named after some tragic white woman
swollen with gin and Nembutal.
My mother couldn't pronounce the “r.”
She dubbed me “Numba one female offshoot”
for brevity: henceforth, she will live and die
in sublime ignorance, flanked
by loving children and the “kitchen deity.”
While my father dithers,
a tomcat in Hong Kong trash—
a gambler, a petty thug,
who bought a chain of chopsuey joints
in Piss River, Oregon,
with bootlegged Gucci cash.
Nobody dared question his integrity given
his nice, devout daughters
and his bright, industrious sons
as if filial piety were the standard
by which all earthly men are measured.

*

Oh, how trustworthy our daughters,
how thrifty our sons!
How we've managed to fool the experts
in education, statistic and demography—
We're not very creative but not adverse to rote-learning.
Indeed, they can use us.
But the “Model Minority” is a tease.
We know you are watching now,
so we refuse to give you any!
Oh, bamboo shoots, bamboo shoots!
The further west we go, we'll hit east;
the deeper down we dig, we'll find China.
History has turned its stomach
on a black polluted beach—
where life doesn't hinge
on that red, red wheelbarrow,
but whether or not our new lover
in the final episode of “Santa Barbara”
will lean over a scented candle
and call us a “bitch.”
Oh God, where have we gone wrong?
We have no inner resources!

*

Then, one redolent spring morning
the Great Patriarch Chin
peered down from his kiosk in heaven
and saw that his descendants were ugly.
One had a squarish head and a nose without a bridge
Another's profile—long and knobbed as a gourd.
A third, the sad, brutish one
may never, never marry.
And I, his least favorite—
“not quite boiled, not quite cooked,”
a plump pomfret simmering in my juices—
too listless to fight for my people's destiny.
“To kill without resistance is not slaughter”
says the proverb.  So, I wait for imminent death.
The fact that this death is also metaphorical
is testament to my lethargy.

*

So here lies Marilyn Mei Ling Chin,
married once, twice to so-and-so, a Lee and a Wong,
granddaughter of Jack “the patriarch”
and the brooding Suilin Fong,
daughter of the virtuous Yuet Kuen Wong
and G.G. Chin the infamous,
sister of a dozen, cousin of a million,
survived by everybody and forgotten by all.
She was neither black nor white,
neither cherished nor vanquished,
just another squatter in her own bamboo grove
minding her poetry—
when one day heaven was unmerciful,
and a chasm opened where she stood.
Like the jowls of a mighty white whale,
or the jaws of a metaphysical Godzilla,
it swallowed her whole.
She did not flinch nor writhe,
nor fret about the afterlife,
but stayed!  Solid as wood, happily
a little gnawed, tattered, mesmerized
by all that was lavished upon her
and all that was taken away!

From The Phoenix Gone, The Terrace Empty by Marilyn Chin, published by Milkweed Editions. Copyright © 1994 Marilyn Chin. Used with permission.

Yellow gold is meaningless
Learning is better than pearls
A woman without brilliance
Leaves nothing but dim children
 
You can hawk your gold if you’re hungry
Sell your mule when you’re desperate
What can you do with so many poems
Sprouting dead hairs in an empty coffin
 
*

Lotus: pink     dewlapped     pretty
Lotus: upturned palm of my dead mother
Lotus:  a foot       a broken arch
Lotus:  plop      and a silent     ripple
 
*
 
I hum and stroll
And contemplate a poem
While young boys are dying
In West Darfur
 
I hum and stroll
And contemplate a poem
While young boys are dying
In West Darfur

Copyright © 2014 by Marilyn Chin. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 24, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Poseidon was easier than most.
He calls himself a god,
but he fell beneath my fingers
with more shaking than any mortal.
He wept when my robe fell from my shoulders.

I made him bend his back for me,
listened to his screams break like waves.
We defiled that temple the way it should be defiled,
screaming and bucking our way from corner to corner.
The bitch goddess probably got a real kick out of that.
I'm sure I'll be hearing from her.

She'll give me nightmares for a week or so;
that I can handle.
Or she'll turn the water in my well into blood;
I'll scream when I see it,
and that will be that.
Maybe my first child 
will be born with the head of a fish.
I'm not even sure it was worth it,
Poseidon pounding away at me, a madman,
losing his immortal mind
because of the way my copper skin swells in moonlight.

Now my arms smoke and itch.
Hard scales cover my wrists like armour.
C'mon Athena, he was only another lay,
and not a particularly good one at that,
even though he can spit steam from his fingers.
Won't touch him again. Promise.
And we didn't mean to drop to our knees
in your temple,
but our bodies were so hot and misaligned.
It's not every day a gal gets to sample a god,
you know that. Why are you being so rough on me?

I feel my eyes twisting,
the lids crusting over and boiling,
the pupils glowing red with heat.
Athena, woman to woman,
could you have resisted him?
Would you have been able to wait
for the proper place, the right moment,
to jump those immortal bones?

Now my feet are tangled with hair,
my ears are gone. My back is curving
and my lips have grown numb.
My garden boy just shattered at my feet.

Dammit, Athena,
take away my father's gold.
Send me away to live with lepers.
Give me a pimple or two.
But my face. To have men never again
be able to gaze at my face,
growing stupid in anticipation
of that first touch,
how can any woman live like that?
How will I be able 
to watch their warm bodies turn to rock
when their only sin was desiring me?

All they want is to see me sweat.
They only want to touch my face
and run their fingers through my . . .

my hair

is it moving?

© 1992 by Patricia Smith, from Big Towns, Big Talk, published by Zoland Books (Cambridge, MA). Used with permission. All rights reserved.

anything over zero is zero
anything over one is itself

a bed over zero
is a funhouse mirror aimed

at a cloudy sky
a sky and its clouds over zero

a storm over one
is an infinite storm

a night over one
is a kiss over zero

and the minute hand eating its tail
is a red ear on a wet pillow

the memory of laughter
is a lamp over one

one inhales before one sighs
a lamp over zero is zero

the hole in a satin sheet
slowly ate up the yellow

till splitting the hem
the hole was unleashed

like a kiss
a long kiss over zero

Copyright © 2015 by George David Clark. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 6, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

The enemy misled that missed the island in the fog,
I believe in one or the other, but both exist now
        to confuse me. Dark from dark.

Snow from snow. I believe in one—

Craggy boundary, knife blade at the throat’s slight swell.

From time to time the sound of voices
                                    as through sun-singed grass,

or grasses that we used to insulate the walls of our winter houses—
walrus hides lashed together with rawhide cords.

So warm within the willows ingathered forced into leaf.

I am named for your sister Naviyuk: call me apoŋ.

Surely there are ghosts here, my children sprung
        from these deeper furrows.

The sky of my mind against which self-
                                               betrayal in its sudden burn
        fails to describe the world.

We, who denied the landscape
                                               and saw the light of it.

Leaning against the stone wall ragged
I began to accept my past and, as I accepted it,

I felt, and I didn’t understand:
                                               I am bound to everyone.

Copyright © 2013 by Joan Kane. Used with permission of the author.

or is true as
Happiness

Birth
A pure river

Conditions for the equal good
to be as wise and fortunate

at the start

Lost in the pursuit

Under a white oak
two children sitting back
to back on a plank swing, calling

The hand
that touches the earth 
to witness

Presses the metal latch, opens
the screen door out from home

sunlight, pond water silence
damselfly at rest on a frond

Having come with you
this far into the drafty air
 

Copyright © 2015 by Jeffrey Yang. Used with permission of the author.