Not many passions take your pants off—
painting with oils, reading in the afternoon,
other people’s bodies. I want to really
say something here. I want to be clear.
But just as no two people see the same
colors, what you hear is not what I’m
saying. Not conversations as much as
serial misunderstandings, proximate
in space. One considers the dictionary
definition of “man.” One considers
the definition of “woman.” One considers
arm hair, soft spaces on a hot body.
The obsessive heat-seeking quality of
attraction. The paint on my pinkie is for
you—a little poison, a little turpentine.
The snaggletooth I want to stick my
tongue into. This is pigment from a rock,
this is pigment from a bug, this is pigment
from a bleeding heart, and this is jeopardy.
Passion brought me here, but passion
cannot save me. To mix linseed and
varnish, to create something is to vanish
what was there before. Chroma for fastness,
chemistry tricks. Such bold strokes in
erasing and framing delicate beginnings.
Copyright © 2017 by Erika Jo Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 1, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Kelli Russell Agodon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 29, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
he said describing the fantasy novel he was reading as they walked the drizzled streets she was listening & laughing & realized she’d been walking through one city or another next to this man for more than twenty years longer of course than their kids were old their smart alecky sons who hadn’t yet met the person with whom they might walk through rain discussing ridiculous books with great sincerity & pleasure Seriously he said I can’t stop reading it but when they went upstairs to the good bed in the good hotel he did stop reading & found a place where her shoulder met her neck & touched it until her mind finally went away for a while & they became bedraggled & he went out like a light but not even the good bed at the good hotel after good sex could put her to sleep not the meditation app or the long online essay about the White Supremacy of Conceptual Poetry she missed her dead mother & her middle-aged cousin who’d died the summer before she wondered if miles away her youngest was whimpering was her oldest awake texting was her middle son worrying she wanted the husband to tell her the plot again but didn’t want to wake him he lay over the covers on his back his breath audible & regular folded hands rising & falling peaceful & fearless as if she’d never once meant him harm as if she’d always loved this warm animal as if this were not the same summer she’d said If that’s really how you feel this isn’t going to last & he hadn’t said anything anger sadness doubt & disappointment was a wave that slapped them down & under so many people had died & life felt shorter than how long they’d been together they had through so many omissions & commissions hurt & been hurt it was that same summer but she was alive & awake he was asleep & alive they were weak but still there
Copyright © 2018 by Rachel Zucker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
for Natalie So much like sequins the sunlight on this river. Something like that kiss— remember? Fourth of July, with the moon down early the air moved as if it were thinking, as if it had begun to understand how hard it is to feel at home in the world, but that night she found a place just above your shoulder and pressed her lips there. Soft rain had called off the fireworks: the sky was quiet, but back on Earth two boys cruised by on bikes trying out bad words. You turned to reach her mouth, at last, with yours after weeks of long walks, talking about former loves gone awry— how the soul finally falls down and gets up alone once more finding the city strange, the streets unmarked. Every time you meet someone it’s hard not to wonder who they’ve been—one story breaking so much into the next: memory engraves its hesitations— but that night you found yourself unafraid. Do you remember what the wind told the trees about her brown hair?— how the cool dark turned around: that first kiss, long as a river. Didn’t it seem like you already loved her? Off the sidewalk: a small pond, the tall cattails, all those sleepy koi coloring the water.
Copyright © 2018 by Tim Seibles. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Will it never be possible
to separate you from your greyness?
Must you be always sinking backward
into your grey-brown landscapes—and trees
always in the distance, always against a grey sky?
Must I be always
moving counter to you? Is there no place
where we can be at peace together
and the motion of our drawing apart
be altogether taken up?
I see myself
standing upon your shoulders touching
a grey, broken sky—
but you, weighted down with me,
yet gripping my ankles,—move
where it is level and undisturbed by colors.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 20, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
I beg for invisible fire.
Every night I pray to love,
please invent yourself.
I imagine a place after this place
and I laugh quietly to no one
as the hair on my chin
weeds through old makeup.
When I go to sleep
I am vinegar inside clouded glass.
The world comes to an end
when I wake up and wonder
who will be next to me.
Police sirens and coyote howls
blend together in morning’s net.
Once, I walked out past the cars
and stood on a natural rock formation
that seemed placed there to be stood on.
I felt something like kinship.
It was the first time.
Once, I believed god
was a blanket of energy
stretched out around
our most vulnerable
she’s the sound
of a promise
Copyright © 2020 by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 14, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
The light retreats and is generous again.
No you to speak of, anywhere—neither in vicinity nor distance,
so I look at the blue water, the snowy egret, the lace of its feathers
shaking in the wind, the lake—no, I am lying.
There are no egrets here, no water. Most of the time,
my mind gnaws on such ridiculous fictions.
My phone notes littered with lines like Beauty will not save you.
Or: mouthwash, yogurt, cilantro.
A hummingbird zips past me, its luminescent plumage
disturbing my vision like a tiny dorsal fin.
But what I want does not appear. Instead, I find the redwoods and pines,
figs that have fallen and burst open on the pavement,
announcing that sickly sweet smell,
the sweetness of grief, my prayer for what is gone.
You are so dramatic, I say to the reflection on my phone,
then order the collected novels of Jean Rhys.
She, too, was humiliated by her body, that it wanted
such stupid, simple things: food and cherry wine, to touch someone.
On my daily walk, I steal Meyer lemons from my neighbors’ yard,
a small pomegranate. Instead of eating them,
I observe their casual rot on the kitchen counter,
this theatre of good things turning into something else.
Copyright © 2021 by Aria Aber. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 19, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
translated by Peter H. Goldsmith
Who thankless flees me, I with love pursue,
Who loving follows me, I thankless flee;
To him who spurns my love I bend the knee,
His love who seeks me, cold I bid him rue;
I find as diamond him I yearning woo,
Myself a diamond when he yearns for me;
Who slays my love I would victorious see,
While slaying him who wills me blisses true.
To favor this one is to lose desire,
To crave that one, my virgin pride to tame;
On either hand I face a prospect dire,
Whatever path I tread, the goal the same:
To be adored by him of whom I tire,
Or else by him who scorns me brought to shame.
Prosigue el mismo assumpto, y determina que prevalezca la razon contra el gusto
Al que ingrato me dexa, busco amante;
al que amante me sigue, dexo ingrata;
constante adoro, á quien mi amor maltrata;
maltrato, á quien mi amor busca constante.
Al que trato de amor, hallo diamante,
y soy diamante, al que de amor me trata;
triunfante quiero vèr al que me matá,
y mato á quien me quiere vèr triunfante.
Si á éste pago, padece mi deseo;
si ruego a aquel, mi pundonor enojo:
de entrambos modos infeliz me veo.
Pero yo, por mejor partido escojo
de quien no quiero, ser violento empleo,
que, de quien no me quiere, vil despojo.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 10, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
Love me stupid.
Love me terrible.
And when I am no
mountain but rather
a monsoon of imperfect
thunder love me. When
I am blue in my face
from swallowing myself
yet wearing my best heart
even if my best heart
is a century of hunger
an angry mule breathing
hard or perhaps even
hopeful. A small sun.
Little & bright.
Copyright © 2019 by Anis Mojgani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 14, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Your singular, my love. Rehearses its absence.
You see light, hear noise, feel the warmth of the sun. Do you connect it into “day”?
You move through shards and splinters. Toward.
You are no longer possible.
Because, my love. The night such a vast space. And you a bird in oblique flight.
I try to hold on. To moments still ours. Even as they slip away.
Each word of yours, each gesture, gently. Once upon no more.
Do not fall again. Not even like an apple in autumn.
Because we say: we. We are each hour and each minute. Not altogether alone.
I have looked deep in the eyes of men and women. And feared that lastly. We make no contact.
And yet. The space between.
Can fill with love.
I no longer know what to think. About death. Which stands ready.
About you. A hunger hallucinating outward. From the ruins of memory.
Because yes, you. Still make my heart beat.
Irregularly. Like yours.
Copyright © 2023 by Rosmarie Waldrop. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.