with some help from Ahmad
I wanna write lyrical, but all I got is magical.
My book needs a poem talkin bout I remember when
Something more autobiographical
Mi familia wanted to assimilate, nothing radical,
Each month was a struggle to pay our rent
With food stamps, so dust collects on the magical.
Each month it got a little less civil
Isolation is a learned defense
When all you wanna do is write lyrical.
None of us escaped being a criminal
Of the state, institutionalized when
They found out all we had was magical.
White room is white room, it’s all statistical—
Our calendars were divided by Sundays spent
In visiting hours. Cold metal chairs deny the lyrical.
I keep my genes in the sharp light of the celestial.
My history writes itself in sheets across my veins.
My parents believed in prayer, I believed in magical
Well, at least I believed in curses, biblical
Or not, I believed in sharp fists,
Beat myself into lyrical.
But we were each born into this, anger so cosmical
Or so I thought, I wore ten chokers and a chain
Couldn’t see any significance, anger is magical.
Fists to scissors to drugs to pills to fists again
Did you know a poem can be both mythical and archeological?
I ignore the cataphysical, and I anoint my own clavicle.
Copyright © 2021 by Suzi F. Garcia. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 28, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
for Major and Didi Jackson
There’s no suffering among dandelions,
in the way the corral gate swings open
or how the gears stay up late
to keep the wrists of the dead company.
And there’s no suffering in silt or the word marsh
or in the quadratic equation, which scurries
beneath the floorboards of my thought
like a mouse drunk on plum wine.
There’s no suffering in the steam backlit
and seared into the world at an early hour
with the horse as its guide. And there’s no suffering
in lag bolts or u-joints, nor in the sexed-up shadows
of grain elevators. There’s no suffering
in the verb itself—to suffer—which, in my kin’s tongue
means charged by the sight of an owl,
let loose from a barbed hook, returned
to the reservoir of the mind.
Today, I’m a chemical emulsion
that burns light onto paper, a three-cent stamp
honoring a woman whose name
is cloth spread throughout a meadow,
mortar setting up in a constant breeze.
The mountain air takes a handful of memories
from my chest, spreads them before me
like pewter figurines until I feel
like a tube of lipstick with an erotic name
or the long vowels in a wave’s trough,
all hum and echo. Friend, I’m both
a keyhole in a star and the key chained
to a young boy’s neck. I’m the thistle and its bloom,
father rack and pinion son, gravel and its dust.
And here, before you now, I’m on a measure
of consonants gnawing the green roots
from a blinded moon, where I say to hell with kings
and jeweled blood, for in this kingdom
suffering shall be, but never be invented.
Copyright © 2022 by Michael McGriff. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 2, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
The life of a garment worker in midtown Manhattan.
She worked as seamstress in the sweatshops of New York City.
Whose mother is not the love of their life?
She pushed her lunch on co-workers
from Russia, Togo, Haiti, Dominican Republic.
They disliked the sugar fried anchovies.
They saw the nimbus on each fish
and politely or raucously declined. The cavernous
spaces of her mind. Having studied graphic design
at Duksung Women’s College, Dobong-gu, Seoul,
what else was she going to do but write a novel.
Staring at sea windows, she scrawled and chalked
in her head. Drong of eternal absence. An expert
on the social history of the Staten Island Ferry,
she confided in me the act of crying was a privilege.
What type of person leaves a near full can of
coconut water on the bleachers? You have to be
happy in order to weep, or sob. I can teach you,
she said to me. If you can hold a pencil, I can teach you
how to draw. But I’ve known people who have
no hands. Who have no fingers.
Copyright © 2022 by Haesong Kwon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 3, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
Averts his gaze: nare & lore, a body;
of water braided into itself: bone
of herring, its blackness among the bone
white rush plumage against his bare body,
wind (upstroke) cascades a woman’s body.
Coyote grows feathers over keel bone,
thrusting, as if to buoy gently— blown
over himself, prone to leave the body
he embraced. No, there is no beauty here!
Estuary of thick mutter and honk,
up close: water, herring, & wind howl bare,
gnat embedded in matted feathers. Here—
Copyright © 2022 by Tacey M. Atsitty. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 9, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2022 by Katy Didden. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 20, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
I stared at the tiny xeroxed faces
we wore like blurry jokes
pinned to our lapels.
Outside, the light raked the dry brown foothills
we slid down on flattened cardboard boxes,
decades ago, out of control, fast,
fast as years.
I still love the California hills,
I still love boxes and the way a word
is a box. It holds things,
flotsam holding flotsam.
Be the void, said the strobe-light disco ball.
The red wine warmed in my hands, it
spilled on my bare feet as I danced
above the San Andreas Fault.
“Cathy,” they called me that night,
and in the reunion’s obsolete blear
I looked a little like a Cathy,
or a Nadia, unrecognizable save for the eyes
and the animal drive to throw herself
into a long line of aerial cartwheels,
propelled forward and upside down
past language into anachronistic light.
Copyright © 2023 by Catherine Barnett. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 22, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.