on listening to "Yama"
She asked me what the song
did for me
“Be specific” she said
I tell her Lee Morgan
wrote this song
for someone he loved
& let get away
I try to explain to her
how the blues can be
how they can bring
I try to give words
to how a song can
crawl up inside you
shine a light
forgotten & make it
From Blood/Sound (Central Square Press, 2019). Copyright © 2019 by Fred L. Joiner. Used with the permission of the author.
You lay so still in the sunshine,
So still in that hot sweet hour—
That the timid things of the forest land
Came close; a butterfly lit on your hand,
Mistaking it for a flower.
You scarcely breathed in your slumber,
So dreamless it was, so deep—
While the warm air stirred in my veins like wine,
The air that had blown through a jasmine vine,
But you slept—and I let you sleep.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 25, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
A black-chinned hummingbird lands
on a metal wire and rests for five seconds;
for five seconds, a pianist lowers his head
and rests his hands on the keys;
a man bathes where irrigation water
forms a pool before it drains into the river;
a mechanic untwists a plug, and engine oil
drains into a bucket; for five seconds,
I smell peppermint through an open window,
recall where a wild leaf grazed your skin;
here touch comes before sight; holding you,
I recall, across a canal, the sounds of men
laying cuttlefish on ice at first light;
before first light, physical contact,
our hearts beating, patter of female rain
on the roof; as the hummingbird
whirrs out of sight, the gears of a clock
mesh at varying speeds; we hear
a series of ostinato notes and are not tied
to our bodies’ weight on earth.
Copyright © 2019 by Arthur Sze. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
turns out there are more planets than stars more places to land than to be burned I have always been in love with last chances especially now that they really do seem like last chances the trill of it all upending what’s left of my head after we explode are you ready to ascend in the morning I will take you on the wing
Copyright © 2019 by D. A. Powell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 28, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
I was sympathetic to language, but often it shrugged me and kept other lovers. I crawled through the commas of Romanticism and rejected the rhythms, though sometimes at night I could feel a little sad. I could emerge now into a new kind of style, but the market is already flooded and my people have lost faith in things meant to land a clear yes or no. It’s good to welcome a stranger into the house. Introduce her to everyone sitting at the table and wash your hands before you serve her, lest the residue of other meals affect your affections. “If something is beautiful we do not even experience pain as pain.” (A man said that.) “I think I owe all words to my friends.” (I said that.) “We speak to one another in circles alone with ourselves.” (He said that, too.) That’s why we go to war. We’ve gotten too big to be friends with everyone and so I like to feel the fellowship of the person next to me shooting out across a foreign plain. The streams of light on the horizon are something I share with him and this is also a feeling of love. I spoke to his widow and touched his dog. I told his daughter how his last breath was Homeric and spoke of nothing but returning home.
From The Tiniest Muzzle Sings Songs of Freedom. Copyright © 2019 by Magdalena Zurawski. Used with permission of the author and Wave Books.
You could smell the day’s heat even before the day began. Constant trickle, endless green trees flanking the highway: summer had come back. Scattered trash on the apartment landing. Everyone passed by it. Everyone felt it belonged to someone else. Grey fog, blue sunlight, stones like big footprints in a wavering line across a lawn. Everyone was talking about a new song in relation to the old: the same volume but with no feeling. Standing on the porch just before the drizzle, fiercely missing my sister, how we used to take the bag of cut grass from the lawnmower and empty it over our bodies like rain. Days lost between the clock and my phone: I made coffee, I brushed the cat, I went to work, I knew the time it took to go from one room to another to collect my ironed shirt. I kept looking back to isolate individual moments, asking why didn’t I give myself more fully to that friend, that stranger, that drinking, those days. I remembered Kira and Chicago, leaving our apartment in the middle of the night, so hot even the moon looked hurt. I watched a chained dog strain at every passerby. I thought, it must be hard to have that much desire. Meanwhile, I’d gotten older. I’d grown accustomed to my body. I could sit with my shirt off on a hot day and not think about how my body looked or how I felt inside it. Cutting my hair the barber said, heat rises, that’s a known fact. I liked her phrasing. I walked forever. I was trying not to revise history to make my present life make sense. Raised voices; faded t-shirts left in boxes on the street. Such strange intimacies. The telephones ringing in the houses as I passed.
Copyright © 2019 Grady Chambers. This poem was originally published in Quarterly West. Used with permission of the author.
We used to say,
That’s my heart right there.
As if to say,
Don’t mess with her right there.
As if, don’t even play,
That’s a part of me right there.
In other words, okay okay,
That’s the start of me right there.
As if, come that day,
That’s the end of me right there.
As if, push come to shove,
I would fend for her right there.
As if, come what may,
I would lie for her right there.
As if, come love to pay,
I would die for that right there.
From The Crazy Bunch by Willie Perdomo. Copyright © 2019 by Willie Perdomo. Published by arrangement with Penguin Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.