In my defense, my forgotten breasts. In my defense, the hair
no one brushed from my face. In my defense, my hips.
Months earlier, I remember thinking that sex was a ship retreating
on the horizon. I could do nothing but shove my feet in the sand.
I missed all the things loneliness taught me: eyes that follow you
crossing a room, hands that find their home on you. To be noticed, even.
In my defense, his hands. In my defense, his arms. In my defense,
how when we just sat listening to each other breathe, he said, This is enough.
My body was a house I had closed for the winter. It shouldn’t have been
that difficult, empty as it was. Still, I stared hard as I snapped off the lights.
My body was a specter that haunted me, appearing when I stripped
in the bathroom, when I crawled into empty beds, when it rained.
My body was abandoned construction, restoration scaffolding
that became permanent. My body’s unfinished became its finished.
So in my defense, when he touched me, the lights of my body came on.
In my defense, the windows were thrown open. In my defense, spring.
Copyright © 2013 by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. “Not Doing Something Wrong Isn’t the Same as Doing Something Right” originally appeared in The Year of No Mistakes (Write Bloody Publishing, 2013). Used with permission of the author.
Life’s ironies irritate my afternoon hours like wool. One, I’m in a foreign country in my own head; two, I’m sometimes lonely living with two women; three, people are having sex in shop windows but we haven’t made love in weeks; four, the more Alexis smokes, the better her singing voice; the more I clean up, the more I feel like Alexis’ ashtray; the more I read, the more I lose my place. Unsettled, I get hungry, and remember pears and young Gouda in the refrigerator. I throw down my books. Ironically, given their status as objects, the red pear and the pale cheese are breathing furiously, inhabiting the world I left. All told, the pear is a great relief, luxuriating on a plate as blue as the Dutch flag, with the pungent Gouda such a pure moment of pale yellow!
Copyright @ 2014 by Jane Miller. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on June 17, 2014.
Talk to you tonight,
I wrote this morning, knowing
it would only be the afternoon
where you are, will be,
whole neighborhood still
wrapped in a tule fog
that won’t let up—so you reported
while I slept.
I almost wrote this afternoon
instead, taking your point
of view, dissolving into it—
but then imagined
you half-awake, and irked,
into my future/current noon
texting for clarification.
Copyright © 2015 by Nate Klug. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 3, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
You are standing in the minefield again.
Someone who is dead now
told you it is where you will learn
to dance. Snow on your lips like a salted
cut, you leap between your deaths, black as god’s
periods. Your arms cleaving little wounds
in the wind. You are something made. Then made
to survive, which means you are somebody’s
son. Which means if you open your eyes, you’ll be back
in that house, beneath a blanket printed with yellow sailboats.
Your mother’s boyfriend, his bald head ringed with red
hair, like a planet on fire, kneeling
by your bed again. Air of whiskey & crushed
Oreos. Snow falling through the window: ash returned
from a failed fable. His spilled-ink hand
on your chest. & you keep dancing inside the minefield—
motionless. The curtains fluttering. Honeyed light
beneath the door. His breath. His wet blue face: earth
spinning in no one’s orbit. & you want someone to say Hey…Hey
I think your dancing is gorgeous. A little waltz to die for,
darling. You want someone to say all this
is long ago. That one night, very soon, you’ll pack a bag
with your favorite paperback & your mother’s .45,
that the surest shelter was always the thoughts
above your head. That it’s fair—it has to be—
how our hands hurt us, then give us
the world. How you can love the world
until there’s nothing left to love
but yourself. Then you can stop.
Then you can walk away—back into the fog
-walled minefield, where the vein in your neck adores you
to zero. You can walk away. You can be nothing
& still breathing. Believe me.
Copyright © 2015 by Ocean Vuong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 2, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets
The sun drags worlds behind it
planets at its ankles
it hauls you out of bed
into the kitchen where
spoon by spoon the sun
draws itself through your body
this goes on and on one foot
after another through the usual rooms
while stars are dropping off the map
the sun drags the pen across the page
and out the sides of your eyes
the sky spins your tears
into a poem that falls back
on graves of lovers
and gardens of strangers
the sun without fail
pulls the coat of loneliness over your arms
as you walk in your own footprints
until you reach the place
where we can read these words together
From The Afterlives of Trees (Woodley Press, 2011). Copyright © 2011 by Wyatt Townley. Used with permission of the author.
The lettering on the shop window in which
you catch a glimpse of yourself is in Polish.
Behind you a man quickly walks by, nearly shouting
into his cell phone. Then a woman
at a dreamier pace, carrying a just-bought bouquet
upside-down. All on a street where pickpockets abound
along with the ubiquitous smell of something baking.
It is delicious to be anonymous on a foreign city street.
Who knew this could be a life, having languages
instead of relationships, struggling even then,
finding out what it means to be a woman
by watching the faces of men passing by.
I went to distant cities, it almost didn’t matter
which, so primed was I to be reverent.
All of them have the beautiful bridge
crossing a grey, near-sighted river,
one that massages the eyes, focuses
the swooping birds that skim the water’s surface.
The usual things I didn’t pine for earlier
because I didn’t know I wouldn’t have them.
I spent so much time alone, when I actually turned lonely
it was vertigo.
Myself estranged is how I understood the world.
My ignorance had saved me, my vices fueled me,
and then I turned forty. I who love to look and look
couldn’t see what others did.
Now I think about currencies, linguistic equivalents, how
lop-sided they are, while
my reflection blurs in the shop windows.
Wanting to be as far away as possible exactly as much as still
Shamelessly entering a Starbucks (free wifi) to write this.
Copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Grotz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 21, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets