In a world of loss
gratitude is what
I demand for keeping
within my reach.
No one despises
the shepherd for
collecting his flock.
No one accuses
the watchman of
making a captive
of his charge.
I’m like a holster,
or sheath, all function
and no fury. Don’t
you worry as I
swallow you whole. Those
ulcers in my gut
are only windows,
the stoma punched
in my throat is just
a keyhole. Don’t be shy.
Hand me the rattle
of your aching heart
and I’ll cradle you,
bird with broken wing.
Let me love you. I
will hold your brittle
bones together. I’ll
unclasp your beak
so you can sing.
It’s a world of always
leaving but here
you can always stay.
Copyright © 2019 by Rigoberto González. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 30, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Wouldbelove, do not think of me as a whetstone
until you hear the whole story:
In it, I’m not the hero, but I’m not the villain either
so let’s say, in the story, I was human
and made of human-things: fear
and hands, underbelly and blade. Let me
say it plain: I loved someone
and I failed at it. Let me say it
another way: I like to call myself wound
but I will answer to knife. Sometimes
I think we have the same name, Notquitelove. I want
to be soft, to say here is my underbelly and I want you
to hold the knife, but I don’t know what I want you to do:
plunge or mercy. I deserve both. I want to hold and be held.
Let me say it again, Possiblelove: I’m not sure
you should. The truth is: If you don’t, I won’t
die of want or lonely, just time. And not now, not even
soon. But that’s how every story ends eventually.
Here is how one might start: Before. The truth?
I’m not a liar but I close my eyes a lot, Couldbelove.
Before, I let a blade slide itself sharp against me. Look
at where I once bloomed red and pulsing. A keloid
history. I have not forgotten the knife or that I loved
it or what it was like before: my unscarred body
visits me in dreams and photographs. Maybelove,
I barely recognize it without the armor of its scars.
I am trying to tell the truth: the dreams are how
I haunt myself. Maybe I’m not telling the whole story:
I loved someone and now I don’t. I can’t promise
to leave you unscarred. The truth: I am a map
of every blade I ever held. This is not a dream.
Look at us now: all grit and density. What, Wouldbelove
do you know of knives? Do you think you are a soft thing?
I don’t. Maybe the truth is: Both. Blade and guard.
My truth is: blade. My hands
on the blade; my hands, the blade; my hands
carving and re-carving every overzealous fibrous
memory. The truth is: I want to hold your hands
because they are like mine. Holding a knife
by the blade and sharpening it. In your dreams, how much invitation
to pierce are you? Perhapslove, the truth is: I am afraid
we are both knives, both stones, both scarred. Or we will be.
The truth is: I have made fire
before: stone against stone. Mightbelove, I have sharpened
this knife before: blade against blade. I have hurt and hungered
against flesh. I won’t make a dull promise.
Copyright © 2019 by Nicole Homer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
10. Here on my knees I look for the single animal: you left
ravaged at the edge of a meadow
9. Is everything accounted for? The fingers dipped
beneath the torso—to keep this body bright
8. Every breath we are desperate to take
sounds as if a war lost against a country of promise
7. Discarded halos: the light you remember
in your head—you feed on what is crushed between the teeth
6. America declares these dreams I have every night be re-
dreamed & pressed into names
5. Upended petals of qém’es
abandoned like torn butterfly wings—we’é I pray
4. I pray that nobody
ever hears us
3. An eye gone
bloodshot: I tear through the crisp apple of your throat & find—
2. myself: this—a boy beside a boy. An eyelash
fallen at the base of a valley, our dark bones bursting in-
1. to bloom. I stare into your beloved face & enter: yes,
yes, this nation, under god, its black sky we lay our nightmares to
0. where I am your animal: my Lamb—now eat
Copyright © 2019 by Michael Wasson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 1, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
The air is close by the sea and the glow from the pink moon
drapes low over a tamarind tree.
We hold hands, walk across a road rushing with traffic
to an abandoned building site on the bay, look out across the dark marina.
Sea cows sleep by the side of a splintered dock, a cluster of them
under the shallow water,
their wide backs covered in algae like mounds of bleached coral.
Every few minutes one floats up for air,
then drifts back down to the bottom,
without fully waking.
They will do this for hours, and for a while we try to match
our breath to theirs, and with each other’s.
In the morning, sitting in the garden beneath thatch palms,
we drink black coffee from white ceramic cups.
Lizards killed by feral cats are scattered on the footpath.
I sweep them into a pile with the ones from the night before.
Waves of heat rise from the asphalt,
and we sense a transparent gray fuzz lightly covering everything
as if there were no such thing as empty space,
that even a jar void of substance holds emptiness as if it were full.