You walked in like the light From every sun that rose This year had exploded Symmetrically from your eyes I was uncertain—no I was certain I wanted your eyes to shoot Laser beams straight through me It was certain we were soon to be Bound by something mythological It was certain that when you moved The hair away from my mouth A locust in your eyes Moved farther afield It was uncertain if one day We would be saying I will not love you The way I love you presently It was certain we spoke The danger language of deer Moving only when moving Our velvet bodies in fear
room fills up with iced tea, something gives: the sun peels from your window, a sugared lemon, whole, flaming, hanging there—You tell them they must: puncture your chest with a straw to suck all the empty out, but because they say love they think they can’t hurt you, even to save your life, which is why you float up up up knocking your curled toes and bedeviled breath hard against the tea-stained ceiling, why you swim sentry over the oxheart that flooded your bed, hollowed you out. See it there: big and bobbing wax fruit, sweating with the effort of its own improbable being, each burst of wetness a cry to which you are further beholden, a sweetness trained against your own best alchemy—Witch, you can only watch this bloodletting from above, can only amend the deed to your body: see it say it back, see it like a little rabbit with a twist on its neck and wish you could be that, being had, being held, but instead you grow wooden and spin on your back. Propeller? No, there is no getting away from this, and so: ceiling fan, drowning their hushed joy, going schwa schwa schwa in
the bed’s sheath of late afternoon light.
What things are steadfast? Not the birds. Not the bride and groom who hurry in their brevity to reach one another. The stars do not blow away as we do. The heavenly things ignite and freeze. But not as my hair falls before you. Fragile and momentary, we continue. Fearing madness in all things huge and their requiring. Managing as thin light on water. Managing only greetings and farewells. We love a little, as the mice huddle, as the goat leans against my hand. As the lovers quickening, riding time. Making safety in the moment. This touching home goes far. This fishing in the air.
From All of It Singing. Copyright © 2008 by Linda Gregg. Used with permission of Graywolf Press.
In some other life, I can hear you
breathing: a pale sound like running
fingers through tangled hair. I dreamt
again of swimming in the quarry
& surfaced here when you called for me
in a voice only my sleeping self could
know. Now the dapple of the aspen
respires on the wall & the shades cut
its song a staff of light. Leave me—
that me—in bed with the woman
who said all the sounds for pleasure
were made with vowels I couldn’t
hear. Keep me instead with this small sun
that sips at the sky blue hem of our sheets
then dips & reappears: a drowsy penny
in the belt of Venus, your aureole nodding
slow & copper as it bobs against cotton
in cornflower or clay. What a waste
the groan of the mattress must be
when you backstroke into me & pull
the night up over our heads. Your eyes
are two moons I float beneath & my lungs
fill with a wet hum your hips return.
It’s Sunday—or so you say with both hands
on my chest—& hot breath is the only hymn
whose refrain we can recall. And then you
reach for me like I could’ve been another
man. You make me sing without a sound.
Copyright © 2019 by Meg Day. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 1, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Like light but
in reverse we billow.
We turn a corner
and make the hills
my parts until no
No more skin-sunk
No more blameless death.
My hair loses its atoms.
My body glows
in the dark.
Planets are smashed
stripped of their power
to name things.
Our love fills the air.
Our love eats
the deadly sounds men
make when they see
how much magic
we have away
Copyright © 2017 by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.
I am taken with the hot animal
of my skin, grateful to swing my limbs
and have them move as I intend, though
my knee, though my shoulder, though something
is torn or tearing. Today, a dozen squid, dead
on the harbor beach: one mostly buried,
one with skin empty as a shell and hollow
feeling, and, though the tentacles look soft,
I do not touch them. I imagine they
were startled to find themselves in the sun.
I imagine the tide simply went out
without them. I imagine they cannot
feel the black flies charting the raised hills
of their eyes. I write my name in the sand:
Donika Kelly. I watch eighteen seagulls
skim the sandbar and lift low in the sky.
I pick up a pebble that looks like a green egg.
To the ditch lily I say I am in love.
To the Jeep parked haphazardly on the narrow
street I am in love. To the roses, white
petals rimmed brown, to the yellow lined
pavement, to the house trimmed in gold I am
in love. I shout with the rough calculus
of walking. Just let me find my way back,
let me move like a tide come in.
Copyright © 2017 by Donika Kelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
maybe one day, during a point in time, without a particular point in time, without a reference, a point in time without a point, without a reference, without a connection, when someone or anyone being someone, processes a confluence of points and lines, designating nothing, processing in a process, proceeding in a connection, between a connection and an operation, and an operation and a process, connecting the process and operation to a future, between, voluntary actions and tangential beings, being one of many, doing an extended process, extending endlessly into an oncoming process, into the whole of matter at the beginning of the process, proceeding to another process, beginning with an ending and ending with a beginning, the whole of matter at the beginning without a beginning and / or an end, but an endless string of events, endlessly extending throughout the whole of matter, an operation in constant conjunction with the innumerable outside, outside walls of brute naming, or external objects bumped into doctrines of fixed limits, the discourse of lovers as a discourse of lovers, a constellation of objects, thick in layered shades, embroiled always dwellers, always close to obscure, dreaming merging lines on diverging edges, in the pleasure at midnight sharp, where action is the action taken, where the chains no longer imprison, where there is a constant period in time, that is a matter of fact, in the now, being a period in time, filling a blank now, being now being constant, with a connection to the self, being unintelligible to a definition of the disavowing now, constantly installing sediment of then now, in a make believe intelligible constant, with the nonexistent already mentioned, that has no existence, in the shallow of shadows, in the tender canopy of sorrow, wedged in the future viaducts, at the margins, in the venue of morning, in the palm of one's hand, without resistance or insult, these with a blessing and buds of beginning, in the clarity of hands, in the moment of amino, viewing motion's emergence, emerging in all actions, in all object's inner connection, an object of original connection, without origin, a universal action unrecognizable in action, that is an animal action, that is rock in action, or an object action interconnected to the sediment of all action, no sham or quilt, lost on a rock, living with the suffering universe, suffering with the living universe, on a rock in a house, as a dog or teacher, as a double locked-down disconnect, grieving in fearful hunger, immune in the misery of others, living in past present tense on the geography of cross-town traffic, scrawling daily existence in the moment of being, in the connection of being, being without a specific point in time, being cross-town traffic, or a rock in the universe.
From obedience (Factory School, 2005). Copyright © kari edwards. Used with permission of Frances Blau, literary executor.
In the first place—I wanted him and said so
when I had only meant to say. His eyes
opened beyond open as if such force would unlock me
to the other side where daylight gave reason
for him to redress.
When he put on his shirt,
after I asked him to keep it off, to keep putting off
the night’s usual end, his face changed beneath
the shirt: surprise to grin, to how even the body
of another’s desire can be a cloak behind which
to change one’s power, to find it.
In the first place
he slept, he opened the tight heat of me that had been
the only haven he thought to give a name:
Is-it-mine? Why-you-running? Don’t-run-from-it—as though
through questions doubt would find its way away from me,
as though telling me what to do told me who I was.
Copyright © 2018 by Phillip B. Williams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
the clock is on time
because the stars fall
because all form forms time
falls on the body
freezes a book
beneath the water
because the water is an organ
because all arguments are similar
because we can never discover the subject
because is always an object
which is an object among objects
which is neither and or
because we expect to find a similar
before a different set of circumstances
being repeated for convenience
causing a similar
to seem familiar
which we think
has an experimental conclusion
similar to a set of circumstances
based on an object
that falls in the water
which is a simile
because nothing is like an egg
or a concept of an egg
because there is no apparent singular
couched in a connection between
sensible and secret powers
because the question occurs in a medium
which is a thing
among other things
multiplied times a hundred times
a thought is an object within a thought
an oncoming proposition
of a possible position
a reference to clocks on the body
as an object without a memory
a memory without thoughts
because the future will resemble the past
because we want our colors to match
because on a supposition
resembling something that could happen
because the hand that shook the hand
of another mislaid thought
is based on an object
that relates to the clock
what matters is a seat
in a new convertible
because what matters is good theme music
an antidote to putting the horse before the cart
or a thought with an anecdote
because the object could swim before it could walk
like interchangeable silence is a demand
for milk in your pudding
because we are doing the doing
which is based on the bones of direction
because matter is everywhere
and like a hammer
we feel the touch before meaning
remember touch through memory
as an object with destiny
that wrote an essay
something that astonished someone
that's now a thought in time
that has a past
that's now newer than before
before it could ever be a question
From obedience (Factory School, 2005). Copyright © kari edwards. Used with permission of Frances Blau, literary executor.
We wrote of the facefulls of wind
which would gnaw
which wind fills readily again
space is not place but
is the possibility:
a twig in the sand then
crayon on rough paper
later with blue school ink
through a Parker medium nib
on lined paper I drew rockets
clipper ships, small whales
and large dogs smiling. And
windows against wind
the wind a group of lines leaning
against trees. A shape of trees.
From Light Wind Light Light (Omnidawn, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Bin Ramke. Used with the permission of Omnidawn Publishing.
Going abruptly into a starry night It is ignorance we blink from, dark, unhoused; There is a gaze of animal delight Before the human vision. Then, aroused To nebulous danger, we may look for easy stars, Orion and the Dipper; but they are not ours, These learned fields. Dark and ignorant, Unable to see here what our forebears saw, We keep some fear of random firmament Vestigial in us. And we think, Ah, If I had lived then, when these stories were made up, I Could have found more likely pictures in haphazard sky. But this is not so. Indeed, we have proved fools When it comes to myths and images. A few Old bestiaries, pantheons and tools Translated to the heavens years ago— Scales and hunter, goat and horologe—are all That save us when, time and again, our systems fall. And what would we do, given a fresh sky And our dearth of image? Our fears, our few beliefs Do not have shapes. They are like that astral way We have called milky, vague stars and star-reefs That were shapeless even to the fecund eye of myth— Surely these are no forms to start a zodiac with. To keep the sky free of luxurious shapes Is an occupation for most of us, the mind Free of luxurious thoughts. If we choose to escape, What venial constellations will unwind Around a point of light, and then cannot be found Another night or by another man or from other ground. As for me, I would find faces there, Or perhaps one face I have long taken for guide; Far-fetched, maybe, like Cygnus, but as fair, And a constellation anyone could read Once it was pointed out; an enlightenment of night, The way the pronoun you will turn dark verses bright.
Reprinted from Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems by William Meredith, published by Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press in 1997. Copyright (c) 1997 by William Meredith. All rights reserved; used by permission of Northwestern University Press and the author.