I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to you,
And you must not be abased to the other.

Loafe with me on the grass,  loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valvèd voice.

I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning, 
How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn'd over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart,
And reach'd till you felt my beard, and reach'd till you held my feet.

Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers,  and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap'd stones, elder, mullein and poke-weed.

This poem is in the public domain.

Gelatin silver print, Hal Fischer, 1977

I swear, this filthy light could pass clean
            through me. My body—stretched & strung

across a wooden cross. Counterfeit
            Christ, corset abandoned in the corner.

There’s a precision to the intimacy
            of this ritual; strangers’ vicarious

hunger for gentle violence; being made
            a spectacle in a room filled up with spectacle.

It takes a measure of restraint. A precise
            velocity & angle to make wood or leather

into thunder. Snap & paint a red horizon
            on my spine, my ass, my chest, or thighs.

Mark skin the tint of stolen pomegranates
            split against cement, then faded to the shade

of winter figs. A broken still life—landscape
            layered over landscape. The gathered bodies:

Dom & sub, whip & cross & crowd, create
            a lexicon of their desires. Even the image

desires something—witness. When asked
            why he took the pictures of bondage gear

without a body in the frame, Fischer said:
            because it would have been too real.

Would have pushed too hard against
            an invisible boundary. Even the empty

frame demands something—a body
            to fill it. I fill it with a memory. My body

of hazy lines & thin glass longing
            to shatter.

Originally published in Ninth Letter. Copyright © 2022 by torrin a. greathouse.

Stars and people and daffodils won’t last forever.
Hands down, forever will succumb to a single sensation,
one last heaven, one last shudder     
lost voice carried over the winds of the body, the canyons
of the hands in a shower, snow or warm? Last ashes
of satisfaction dance above an open mouth, teeth like light
in an emptied room, the wet music of the tongue.
Somebody will find the edge to all of humanity’s joy, a flood,
a punctuation will flood her with its certainty,
or them, or us, all at once, and that lonely breach
will ripple through, on and out, with indefatigable atoms.
Those asking hands never to slow their speeding ship     
one last starry daffodil excess will blow its soft dunes,
that lost voice, back, over everything that ever came
before. Until emptied out. And if you slow, if you slowly reach
across your own body until you feel it, too, even now?
You can come to an end, even now. It lasts, wanting to.

Copyright © 2023 by Tobias Wray. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 24, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

translated from the Spanish by Alice Stone Blackwell

Black as the wing of Mystery thine hair,
Dark as a “Never” where deep sorrow lies,
As a farewell, or as the words “Who knows?”
Yet is there something darker still—thine eyes!

Two musing wizards are those eyes of thine;
Sphinxes asleep in shadow in the South;
Two beautiful enigmas, wondrous fair;
Yet is there something fairer still—thy mouth!

Thy mouth! Ah, yes! Thy mouth, divinely formed
For love’s expression and to be love’s goal,
Shaped for love’s warm communion—thy young mouth! 
Yet is there something better still—thy soul.

Thy soul, retiring, silent, brimming o’er 
With pity and with tenderness, I deem
Deep as the ocean, the unsounded sea; 
Yet is there something deeper still—thy dream!



Á Leonor


    Tu cabellera es negra como el ala
del misterio; tan negra como un lóbrego
jamás, como un adiós, como un «¡quién sabe!»
    Pero hay algo más negro aún: ¡tus ojos!

    Tus ojos son dos magos pensativos,
dos esfinges que duermen en la sombra,
dos enigmas muy bellos . . . Pero hay algo,
pero hay algo más bello aún: tu boca.

    ¡Tu boca! ¡oh, sí!; tu boca, hecha divina-
mente para el amor, para la cálida
comunión del amor, tu boca joven;
pero hay algo mejor aún: ¡tu alma!

    Tu alma recogida, silenciosa,
de piedades tan hondas como el piélago,
de ternuras tan hondas . . .
                                         Pero hay algo,
pero hay algo más hondo aún: ¡tu ensueño!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 17, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

Out of the tense awed darkness, my Frangepani comes;
Whilst the blades of Heaven flash round her, and the roll of thunder drums
My young heart leaps and dances, with exquisite joy and pain,
As storms within and storms without I meet my love in the rain.

“The rain is in love with you darling; it’s kissing you everywhere,
Rain pattering over your small brown feet, rain in your curly hair;
Rain in the vale that your twin breasts make, as in delicate mounds they rise,
I hope there is rain in your heart, Frangepani, as rain half fills your eyes.”

Into my hands she cometh, and the lightning of my desire
Flashes and leaps about her, more subtle than Heaven’s fire;
“The lightning’s in love with you darling; it is loving you so much,
That its warm electricity in you pulses wherever I may touch.
When I kiss your lips and your eyes, and your hands like twin flowers apart,
I know there is lightning, Frangepani, deep in the depths of your heart.”

The thunder rumbles about us, and I feel its triumphant note
As your warm arms steal around me; and I kiss your dusky throat;
“The thunder’s in love with you darling.   It hides its power in your breast.
And I feel it stealing o’er me as I lie in your arms at rest.
I sometimes wonder, beloved, when I drink from life’s proffered bowl,
Whether there’s thunder hidden in the innermost parts of your soul.”

Out of my arms she stealeth; and I am left alone with the night,
Void of all sounds save peace, the first faint glimmer of light.
Into the quiet, hushed stillness my Frangepani goes.
Is there peace within like the peace without?   Only the darkness knows.

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

The moon assumes her voyeuristic perch
to find the rut of me, releashed from sense,
devoid of focus ’cept by your design.
I never thought restraint would be my thing.
Then you: the hole from which my logic seeps,
who bucks my mind’s incessant swallowsong
& pins the speaker’s squirming lyric down
with ease. You coax a measured flood, decide
the scatter of my breath & know your place—
astride the August heat, your knuckles tight
around a bratty vers, a fuschia gag:
you quiet my neurotic ass, can still
the loudness murmuring beneath my skull.
Be done. There’s nothing more to say.

Copyright © 2023 by Imani Davis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 3, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

O Master, I can not adventure with thee; 
  At the Door of the Dawn, in my lone wandering, 
I have broken my staff; for the true dawn is she 
  Who comes every day with her jar to the spring. 

Ay, Master, I tarried last night at the gate
   Of her garden, which kisses the Lake Galilee; 
She was gathering flowers and fruits for the Fete, 
   And with tulips and poppies she beckoned to me. 

In her lamp there was oil, in my hand there was fire; 
   In her house cried a voice, ‘O make haste with the flame!’
On my lips were the names of the daughters of Tyre, 
   On her breast were the lilies that whispered thy name. 

I have dared, O my Master, to envy thy feet, 
   And to yearn for the love of a Magdalen fair; 
I have dreamed that mine, too, in the heart of the street, 
   Were laved with her own hands and dried with her hair. 

O Master, my lips her devotion have stained, 
  For her soul’s precious ointments were offered late; 
I have lost in the fire of my lust what I gained 
   In my longing and love for her love and thy fate. 

From A Chant of Mystics (James T. White & Co., 1921) by Ameen Rihani. This poem is in the public domain.

What jungle tree have you slept under,
Midnight dancer of the jazzy hour?
What great forest has hung its perfume
Like a sweet veil about your bower?

What jungle tree have you slept under,
Night-dark girl of the swaying hips?
What star-white moon has been your mother?
To what clean boy have you offered your lips?

From The Weary Blues (Alfred A. Knopf, 1926) by Langston Hughes. This poem is in the public domain.

if i believe 
in death be sure 
of this 
it is 

because you have loved me, 
moon and sunset 
stars and flowers 
gold crescendo and silver muting 

of seatides 
i trusted not, 
                        one night 
when in my fingers 

drooped your shining body 
when my heart 
sang between your perfect 

darkness and beauty of stars 
was on my mouth petals danced 
against my eyes 
and down 

the singing reaches of 
my soul 
the green-

greeting pale-
departing irrevocable 
i knew thee death. 

                                  and when 
i have offered up each fragrant 
night,when all my days 
shall have before a certain 

face become 

         from the ashes 
thou wilt rise and thou 
wilt come to her and brush 

the mischief from her eyes and fold 
mouth the new 
flower with 

thy unimaginable 
wings,where dwells the breath 
of all persisting stars

This poem is in the public domain.

Many have loved you with lips and fingers
And lain with you till the moon went out;
Many have brought you lover’s gifts;
And some have left their dreams on your doorstep.

But I who am youth among your lovers
Come like an acolyte to worship,
My thirsting blood restrained by reverence,
My heart a wordless prayer.

The candles of desire are lighted,
I bow my head, afraid before you,
A mendicant who craves your bounty
Ashamed of what small gifts he brings.

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain. 

Come and lie with me and love me,
Touch me with your hands a little,
Kiss me, as you lean above me,
With your cold sadistic kisses;
Wind your hair close, close around me,
Pain might dissipate this blankness.
Hurt me even, even wound me,
I have need of love that stings.
Come and lie with me and love me,
So that I may laugh at things.

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain. 

“Pain blesses the body back to its sinner”
            —Ocean Vuong

Handcuffs around my wrists 
lined with synthetic fur, my arms bound 

& hoisted, heavenward, as if in praise.
Once, bodies like mine were seen as a symptom

of sin, something to be prayed away;
how once, priests beat themselves to sanctify

the flesh. To put their sins to death. Now,
my clothes scatter across the floor like petals

lanced by hail. Motion stretches objects 
in the eye. A drop of rain remade, 

a needle, a blade. Mark how muscle fiber 
& piano strings both, when struck, ring. 

No music without violence or wind. 

I’ve been searching the backs of lover’s hands
for a kinder score, a pain that makes 

my pain a stranger tune. Still, my body aches 
an ugly psalm. All my bones refuse to harm

-onize. Percussion is our oldest form of song, 
wind bruised into melody. Let me say this plainly:

I want you to beat me 

into a pain that’s unfamiliar. How convenient 
this word, beat, that lives in both the kingdoms 

of brutality & song. The singer’s voice: a cry, 
a moan, god’s name broken across a blade 

of teeth. The riding crop & flog & scourge—
a wicked faith. A blood-loud devotion.  

There is no prayer to save me from my flesh. 
You can’t have the bible without the belt.

Copyright © 2021 by torrin a. greathouse. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 11, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

He felt the wild beast in him between whiles
So masterfully rude, that he would grieve
To see the helpless delicate thing receive
His guardianship through certain dark defiles.
Had he not teeth to rend, and hunger too?
But still be spared her. Once: ‘Have you no fear?’
He said: ’t was dusk; she in his grasp; none near.
She laughed: ‘No, surely; am I not with you?’
And uttering that soft starry ‘you,’ she leaned
 Her gentle body near him, looking up;
And from her eyes, as from a poison-cup,
He drank until the flittering eyelids screened.
Devilish malignant witch! and oh, young beam
Of heaven’s circle-glory! Here thy shape
To squeeze like an intoxicating grape—
I might, and yet thou goest safe, supreme.

This poem is in the public domain.

O wild rose, bend above my face!
There is no world—
Only the beat of your throat against my eyes.

White moss is harsh
Against these soft white petals of your feet.
It is hard to dream you have followed the wild goats
Aslant the perilous hills.

I have only the fire of my heart to offer you,
O peach-red lily of my love!

This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 10, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive. This poem is in the public domain.

The scent of hyacinths, like a pale mist, lies 

   between me and my book;	
And the South Wind, washing through the room,	
Makes the candles quiver.	
My nerves sting at a spatter of rain on the shutter,	
And I am uneasy with the thrusting of green shoots	        
Outside, in the night.	
Why are you not here to overpower me with your 

   tense and urgent love?

This poem is in the public domain.

O You,
Who came upon me once
Stretched under apple-trees just after bathing,
Why did you not strangle me before speaking
Rather than fill me with the wild white honey of your words
And then leave me to the mercy
Of the forest bees.

from Coterie, 1920

I am the Dark Cavalier; I am the Last Lover:
My arms shall welcome you when other arms are tired;
I stand to wait for you, patient in the darkness,
Offering forgetfulness of all that you desired.

I ask no merriment, no pretense of gladness,
I can love heavy lids and lips without their rose;
Though you are sorrowful you will not weary me;
I will not go from you when all the tired world goes.

I am the Dark Cavalier; I am the Last Lover;
I promise faithfulness no other lips may keep;
Safe in my bridal place, comforted by darkness,
You shall lie happily, smiling in your sleep.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 9, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

It was deep April, and the morn
          Shakspear was born;
The world was on us, pressing sore;
My Love and I took hands and swore,
   Against the world, to be
Poets and lovers ever more,
To laugh and dream on Lethe’s shore,
To sing to Charon in his boat,
Heartening the timid souls afloat;
Of judgment never to take heed,
But to those fast-locked souls to speed,
Who never from Apollo fled,
Who spent no hour among the dead;
          With them to dwell,
Indifferent to heaven and hell.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 18, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

A fancy halts my feet at the way-side well.
It is not to drink, for they say the water is brackish.
It is not to tryst, for a heart at the mile’s end beckons me on.
It is not to rest, for what feet could be weary when a heart at the mile’s end keeps time with their tread?
It is not to muse for the heart at the mile’s end is food for my being.
I will question the well for my secret by dropping a pebble into it.
Ah, it is dry.
Strike lightning to the road, my feet, for hearts are like wells.
You may not know they are dry ’til you question their depths.
Fancies clog the way to heaven, and saints miss their crown.

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

When you came, you were like red wine and honey,
And the taste of you burnt my mouth with its sweetness.
Now you are like morning bread,
Smooth and pleasant.
I hardly taste you at all for I know your savour,
But I am completely nourished.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 25, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Our love is woven
Of a thousand strands—
The cool fragrance of the first lilac
At morning,
The first dew on the grass,
The smell of wild mint in the wood,
The pungent and earthy smell of ground ivy crushed under our feet;
Songs of birds, songs of great poets;
The leaping of the red squirrel in the tree,
The running of the river,
The commotion of stars and clouds in the high winds at night;
And dark stillness.
It is adorned with all the flowers
That stand in our garden;
It holds the night and the day.

Our love is made
Of the South Wind and the West Wind,
And the soft falling of rain;
Of white April evenings;
It is made of trees,
And of the many-coloured fields on the hills;
Of horizons,
Dark sea-blue of the west, thin sky-blue of the east,
With a yellow road between.
The flames of sunset and sunrise
Mingle in the fire of our love.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

A maiden wept and, as a comforter,
Came one who cried, 'I love thee,' and he seized
Her in his arms and kissed her with hot breath,
That dried the tears upon her flaming cheeks.
While evermore his boldly blazing eye
Burned into hers; but she uncomforted
Shrank from his arms and only wept the more.

Then one came and gazed mutely in her face
With wide and wistful eyes; but still aloof
He held himself; as with a reverent fear,
As one who knows some sacred presence nigh.
And as she wept he mingled tear with tear,
That cheered her soul like dew a dusty flower,—
Until she smiled, approached, and touched his hand!

This poem is in the public domain. 

I shall never have any fear of love, 
Not of its depth nor its uttermost height,
Its exquisite pain and its terrible delight.
I shall never have any fear of love.

I shall never hesitate to go down
Into the fastness of its abyss
Nor shrink from the cruelty of its awful kiss.
I shall never have any fear of love.

Never shall I dread love’s strength
Nor any pain it might give.
Through all the years I may live
I shall never have any fear of love.

I shall never draw back from love
Through fear of its vast pain
But build joy of it and count it again.
I shall never have any fear of love.

I shall never tremble nor flinch
From love’s moulding touch:
I have loved too terribly and too much
Ever to have any fear of love.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 20, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Silence with you is like the faint delicious
Smile of a child asleep, in dreams unguessed:
Only the hinted wonder of its dreaming, 
The soft, slow-breathing miracle of rest. 
Silence with you is like a kind departure
From iron clangor and the engulfing crowd
Into a wide and greenly barren meadow, 
Under the bloom of some blue-bosomed cloud;
Or like one held upon the sands at evening, 
When the drawn tide rolls out, and the mixed light 
Of sea and sky enshrouds the far, wind-bellowed
Sails that move darkly on the edge of night.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 10, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

You're jealous if I kiss this girl and that.
You think I should be constant to one mouth.
Little you know of my too quenchless drouth.
My sister, I keep faith with love, not lovers.

Life laid a flaming finger on my heart,
Gave me an electric golden thread,
Pointed to a pile of beads and said:
Link me one more perfect than the rest.

Love's the thread, my sister, you a bead,
An ivory one, you are so delicate.
These first burned ash-grey—far too passionate.
Farther on the colors mount and sing.

When the last bead's painted with the last design
And slipped upon the thread, I'll tie it so,
Then smiling quietly, I'll turn and go
While vain Life boasts her latest ornament.

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain.