Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplac'd,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgrac'd,
And strength by limping sway disabled
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly—doctor-like—controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tir'd with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.
This poem is in the public domain.
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrent, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that ‘round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—
This poem is in the public domain.
This is not how it begins but how you understand it. I walk many kilometers and find myself to be the same— the same moon hovering over the same, bleached sky, and when the officer calls me it is a name I do not recognize, a self I do not recognize. We are asked to kneel, or stand still, depending on which land we embroider our feet with— this one is copious with black blood or so I am told. Someone calls me by the skin I did not know I had and to this I think—language, there must be a language that contains us all that contains all of this. How to disassemble the sorrow of beginnings, how to let go, and not, how to crouch beneath other bodies how to stop breathing, how not to. Our fathers are not elders here; they are long-bearded men shoving taxi cabs and sprawled in small valet parking lots— at their sight, my body dims its light (a desiccated grape) and murmur, Igziabher Yistilign— our pride, raw-purple again. We begin like this: all of us walking in solitude walking a desert earth and unforgiving bodies. We cross lines we dare not speak of; we learn and unlearn things quickly, or intentionally slow (because, that, we can control) and give ourselves new names because these selves must be new to forget the old blue. But, sometimes, we also begin like this: on a cold, cold night memorizing escape routes kissing the foreheads of small children hiding accat in our pockets, a rosary for safekeeping. Or, married off to men thirty years our elders big house, big job, big, striking hands. Or, thinking of the mouths to feed. At times we begin in silence; water making its way into our bodies— rain, or tears, or black and red seas until we are ripe with longing.
Copyright © 2018 by Mahtem Shiferraw. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets
Sorrow, O sorrow, moves like a loose flock
of blackbirds sweeping over the metal roofs, over the birches,
and the miles.
One wave after another, then another, then the sudden
where the feathered swirl, illumined by dusk, parts to reveal
heart of all things.
Copyright © 2024 by Vievee Francis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 12, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.
And when her son never returned
from the meant-to-crush-him camps,
the crucible of Poland,
always-hard-at-work Isa slept
for endless hours,
and once, under her lids, she was led,
by diligent female Virgils,
to a vast meadow
where an inspirited Isa embraced,
one by one,
countless women who remained
in mourning for their cherished sons.
Gallant and stricken,
together the myriad bereaved
but defiant women formed
an ever-widening circle,
prodigal with bitter tears,
and then, suddenly,
like a jackdaw darting
from eave to sun-drenched eave,
something flew between the throats
of the grieving,
and a great beauty arose:
In the dream, Isa recalled,
the singing of the harrowed women
with war-taken sons
hushed the world’s barrenness.
In the dream, the startling river of sound
altered the embattled earth.
From The Crossed-Out Swastika (Copper Canyon Press, 2012) by Cyrus Cassells. Copyright © 2012 by Cyrus Cassells. Used with the permission of the author.