In the late eighties, in the middle
              of middle school we break from studying our ancestors,
pass on the Phoenicians for a while, leave the terraced fields
 
of Canaan and the hanging gardens of Babylon
              for European History. Miss Magda
is our guide and she contextualizes
 
the continent, intertwines it with our own lives, the shapes
              of our maps, the narrowing of our family names. She has
no patience for girls who are charmed by France,
 
even though a veil of Chanel No 5 unfurls
              over our heads as she enters the room, nor for adults
who praise London’s museums. She narrates
 
a list of our possessions housed there. Miss Magda speaks
              many languages: the queen’s English, impeccable
French, some Greek, maybe others? Her Arabic
 
an elegant Cairene, her eyeliner distinctly Cleopatran. She speaks
               مش فارقة معها her mind, she names conquerors, and the servile
regimes they birthed. She liberates the word احتلال
 
from its quotidian presentation, locates our current colonizers
              on a continuum of violence, sends us asking
our grandparents for stories. She enacts her name
 
as she towers over our desks and asks rhetorical questions
               كثر خير العرب  who translated Aristotle? Who filled
       libraries
with books that would later make الرينيساس بتاعهم  possible?
 
In the middle of middle school we are devotees
              of American pop songs, they trickle into our lives
 months after they top the charts, our childhoods are museums
 
housing the no-longer hits of the Reagan era. Miss Magda’s
              class coincides with our Laura Branigan phase.
Miss Magda barely tolerates our tastes. When she cannot find
 
a way to escape playground duty and we are perfecting
              our hair flips, passing the Walkman around and singing
 “Gloria,” she raises a perfect eyebrow and turns toward us
 
and I think maybe even smiles. In class, ever the historian,
              she remarks على فكرة that’s originally an Italian song.
 و كانت مش بطالة بس خربوها الأمريكان

Copyright © 2018 by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 11, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

I want thirty more years of poems
I want tiger lily poems
orange blossom poems
poems by Lucille Clifton and Suheir Hammad

poems by Dionne Brand and Joy Harjo
I want Grace Jones to sing she “Bumper song,” sweet and lawless
doh care a damn what nobody feel
I want Jamaican yard talk poems how I love that Nannie ah de Maroons talk

gimme some Trini bush poems
spiked with Vat 19 rum
and plenty blue hundred dollar bills
lots and lots of blue bills so mami cud just stay home brush she hair and count bills

make flying fish and dumplings count blue bills and
make babies with names like
tamarind and flambeau names like one sweet braid down she back
names like kneel-n-pray

names like inhabited and poems to light white candles
poems that blow kerosene and inspire rage
poems to taunt the gods and almost get them
vex                                                             let mami stay home cut oil drums to
make steel pan

and rock melodies until my dead
twin come walking unshaven in de yard
with Malik on he arm and say
all right all’yuh we home

we light ah big yard fire make pigtail soup and smoked duck
and Guinness stout ice cream this time around de girls go churn de ice
       de boys go pour de salt we go praise sing for we dead
we go drink old oak rum rub a little on de chiren gums

we go brew mauby bark and sorrell
and at sixty-seven granny go collect fresh blood an child-bear again
Cheryl and mami go get back de twins dey lost at birth
da go be bacchanal plenty ting fer neighbors to talk bout.

Copyright © 2018 by Cheryl Boyce-Taylor. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 3, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

In the invitation, I tell them for the seventeenth time
(the fourth in writing), that I am gay.

In the invitation, I include a picture of my boyfriend
& write, You’ve met him two times. But this time,

you will ask him things other than can you pass the
whatever. You will ask him

about him. You will enjoy dinner. You will be
enjoyable. Please RSVP.

They RSVP. They come.
They sit at the table & ask my boyfriend

the first of the conversation starters I slip them
upon arrival: How is work going?

I’m like the kid in Home Alone, orchestrating
every movement of a proper family, as if a pair

of scary yet deeply incompetent burglars
is watching from the outside.

My boyfriend responds in his chipper way.
I pass my father a bowl of fish ball soup—So comforting,

isn’t it? My mother smiles her best
Sitting with Her Son’s Boyfriend

Who Is a Boy Smile. I smile my Hurray for Doing
a Little Better Smile.

Everyone eats soup.
Then, my mother turns

to me, whispers in Mandarin, Is he coming with you
for Thanksgiving? My good friend is & she wouldn’t like

this. I’m like the kid in Home Alone, pulling
on the string that makes my cardboard mother

more motherly, except she is
not cardboard, she is

already, exceedingly my mother. Waiting
for my answer.

While my father opens up
a Boston Globe, when the invitation

clearly stated: No security
blankets. I’m like the kid

in Home Alone, except the home
is my apartment, & I’m much older, & not alone,

& not the one who needs
to learn, has to—Remind me

what’s in that recipe again, my boyfriend says
to my mother, as though they have always, easily

talked. As though no one has told him
many times, what a nonlinear slapstick meets

slasher flick meets psychological
pit he is now co-starring in.

Remind me, he says
to our family.

Copyright © 2018 by Chen Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

          After Jen Bervin / After Quan Barry

River spidering across the wall, sailing 
through the air. River flashing with silver 
sequins fastened to sunbeams. River always 
in pieces, a torn ribbon streaming everywhere.
River carving out a canyon through the years, 
seen from a sudden grassy overlook, 
an old bridge, a new shoreline, endlessly
crossing and recrossing our lives. River 
this winter with sixteen eagles alert 
and searching. River unfrozen and pooling 
around the ankles of trees in springtime, 
daring us closer. River asleep inside 
the black night like a spent lover, 
dreaming of being a chandelier of rain, 
first velvet wet drops on bare skin. Go, 
go on. Conveyor belt of clouds, destroyer 
and preserver of towns, longest breath 
of the earth, tell us what floating means 
to you. Some trees are weeping, river. 
Speak of all you carry and carry off
in river song and river silence. Be horse, 
be ferry, carry us from now to next to. 
River, I’m done with fading shadows. 
Give me daylight broken and scattered
across your fluid transparent face, 
come meet me with the moon and the stars 
running and tumbling along your sides. 
River swinging open like a gate to the sea,
time’s no calendar of months, you say,
but water in the aftermath of light.  
Your drifting cargo tells us everything 
arrives from far away and long ago 
and ends in the body, boat of heartache 
and ecstasy we pilot, in quest of passage also. 
River we call Mississippi or Mekong, 
sing us forth to nowhere but here, 
with your perfect memory be our flood.

Copyright © 2019 by Hai-Dang Phan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Poem in which I have wisdom. 
Poem in which I have a father.
Poem in which I care. 
Poem in which I am from another country. 
Poem in which I Spanish. 
Poem in which flowers are important. 
Poem in which I make pretty gestures. 
Poem in which I am a Deceptacon. 
Poem in which I am a novelist. 
Poem in which I use trash. 
Poem in which I am a baby. 
Poem in which I swaddle. 
Poem in which I bathe. 
Poem in which I am a box. 
Poem in which its face is everything. 
Poem in which faces are everywhere. 
Poem in which I swear. 
Poem in which I take an oath. 
Poem in which I make a joke. 
Poem in which I can’t move.

Copyright © 2018 by Paola Capó-García. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

My son wants to know
his name. What does he look like? What does
he like? My son swims
four days a week. When my son swims
underwater, he glides
between strokes. When he glides underwater, he is
an arrow aimed
at a wall. Four days a week, his coach says,
Count—1…2…—before
coming up for air.
My father had blue eyes, blonde hair,
though mine are brown.
My father could not speak
Spanish and wondered, How can you love
another man? We rarely touched.
When my son
is counting, I count
with him. I say, I am
your father, too. 1…2…

Copyright © 2019 by Blas Falconer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 18, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

You, who have bowed your head, shed
another season of antlers at my feet, for years

you fall asleep to the lullabies of dolls,
cotton-stuffed and frayed, ears damp with sleep

and saliva, scalps knotted with yarn, milk-breath,
and yawns. Birth is a torn ticket stub, a sugar

cone wrapped in a paper sleeve, the blackest
ice. It has been called irretrievable, a foreign

coin, the moon’s slip, showing, a pair
of new shoes rubbing raw your heel.

I lose the back of my earring and bend
the metal in such a way as to keep it

fastened to me. In the universe where we are
strangers, you kick with fury, impatient

as grass. I have eaten all your names.
In this garden you are blue ink, baseball cap

wishbone, pulled teeth, wet sand, hourglass.
There are locks of your hair in the robin’s nest

and clogging the shower drain. You, who are
covered in feathers, who have witnessed birth

give birth to death and watched death suck
her purple nipple. You long for a mother

like death’s mother, want to nurse until drunk
you dream of minnows swimming

through your ears—their iridescence causing
you to blink, your arms twitching.

Even while you sleep I feed you.

Copyright © 2018 by Ama Codjoe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

When we first met, my heart pounded. They said
the shock of it was probably what broke
his heart. In search of peace, we traveled once
to Finland, tasted reindeer heart. It seemed
so heartless, how you wanted it to end.
I noticed on the nurse who took his pulse
a heart tattooed above her collarbone.
The kids played hearts all night to pass the time.
You said that at its heart rejection was
impossible to understand. “We send
our heartfelt sympathy,” was written in
the card your mother sent, in flowing script.
I tried interpreting his EKG,
which looked like knife wounds to the heart. I knew
enough to guess he wouldn’t last much longer.
As if we’d learned our lines by heart, you said,
“I can’t explain.” “Please don’t,” was my reply.
They say the heart is just a muscle. Or
the heart is where the human soul resides.
I saw myself in you; you looked so much
like him. You didn’t have the heart to say
you didn’t want me anymore. I still
can see that plastic statue: Jesus Christ,
his sacred heart aflame, held out in his
own hands. He finally let go. How grief
this great is borne, not felt. Borne in the heart.

Copyright © 2018 by Rafael Campo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 8, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Your ride home complains      the grocery store is freezing
they’d rather wait outside       the burly guy
with the walrus stache asks whether you want your Italian
with the works              You’re not sure what that means

So you ask and he tells you    laboriously surprised
and also do you want tomato              thanks
you lean on the counter and focus     on condensation
the chill on your palm and forearm    and under the glass

the meats in trays and butcher paper beds
some sausages            sad stacked-up tongue
a leathery souse or loaf            so out of it

that when he wants to know if that’s your order
and calls out loud         Is that your order ma’am
you startle and then apologize            for taking up his time
but he called you ma’am          so you don’t mind

Copyright © 2019 by Stephanie Burt. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 9, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

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.

My mother said this to me
long before Beyoncé lifted the lyrics
from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs,

and what my mother meant by
Don’t stray was that she knew
all about it—the way it feels to need

someone to love you, someone
not your kind, someone white,
some one some many who live

because so many of mine
have not, and further, live on top of
those of ours who don’t.

I’ll say, say, say,
I’ll say, say, say,
What is the United States if not a clot

of clouds? If not spilled milk? Or blood?
If not the place we once were
in the millions? America is Maps

Maps are ghosts: white and 
layered with people and places I see through.
My mother has always known best,

knew that I’d been begging for them,
to lay my face against their white
laps, to be held in something more

than the loud light of their projectors
of themselves they flicker—sepia
or blue—all over my body.

All this time,
I thought my mother said, Wait,
as in, Give them a little more time

to know your worth,
when really, she said, Weight,
meaning heft, preparing me

for the yoke of myself,
the beast of my country’s burdens,
which is less worse than

my country’s plow. Yes,
when my mother said,
They don’t love you like I love you,

she meant,
Natalie, that doesn’t mean
you aren’t good.

 

 

*The italicized words, with the exception of the final stanza, come from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs song "Maps."

Copyright © 2019 by Natalie Diaz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 20, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Mostly I’d like to feel a little less, know a little more.
Knots are on the top of my list of what I want to know.
Who was it who taught me to burn the end of the cord 
to keep it from fraying?
Not the man who called my life a debacle, 
a word whose sound I love.
In a debacle things are unleashed.
Roots of words are like knots I think when I read the dictionary.
I read other books, sure. Recently I learned how trees communicate, 
the way they send sugar through their roots to the trees that are ailing. 
They don’t use words, but they can be said to love. 
They might lean in one direction to leave a little extra light for another tree.
And I admire the way they grow right through fences, nothing
stops them, it’s called inosculation: to unite by openings, to connect 
or join so as to become or make continuous, from osculare
to provide with a mouth, from osculum, little mouth.
Sometimes when I’m alone I go outside with my big little mouth
and speak to the trees as if I were a birch among birches.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Catherine Barnett. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 16, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

They descend from the boat two by two. The gap in Angela Davis’s teeth speaks to the gap in James Baldwin’s teeth. The gap in James Baldwin’s teeth speaks to the gap in Malcolm X’s Teeth. The gap in Malcolm X’s teeth speaks to the gap in Malcolm X’s teeth. The gap in Condoleezza Rice’s teeth doesn’t speak. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard kisses the Band Aid on Nelly’s cheek. Frederick Douglass’s side part kisses Nikki Giovanni’s Thug Life tattoo. The choir is led by Whoopi Goldberg’s eyebrows. The choir is led by Will Smith’s flat top. The choir loses its way. The choir never returns home. The choir sings funeral instead of wedding, sings funeral instead of allegedly, sings funeral instead of help, sings Black instead of grace, sings Black as knucklebone, mercy, junebug, sea air. It is time for war.

Copyright © 2018 by Morgan Parker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Pristine the ash                                   no one has touched yet
before wind sweeps it along                         across the altar
                         dusting chrysanthemum and bees
before it is swept off again                
                                                              the way the body burns
            part by part
particle by particulate
                                                              particularly diverging
                                                              its tiny cinders
                        of moth wings.
After sound                                        there is no sound
                                                              a wolf sanctuary
           void of howling
                        headlights on the winding road
picking up snow
                                     a tuft falling on the heron
                         as her wingtips dip into water.
Evolution:    
                         bat wing
                         whale fin
                         my hand shielding myself from light
as I adjust
                                                              frames along the wall
barefoot on the black bookcase
                                     the heat of my footprint
             disappearing though no hand wipes it.
In taking inventory of what’s left
                         what the dead have cleared in space
             a question
                                      like the body of a boy
curled inside his dog’s bed
                                      a boy filling his own rice bowl
                                      until he doesn’t want to
anymore.
                        I want to be beside him in the dark
to hear his voice again
                                      to stop seeing him on the street
                         in the back row         
                                      of a classroom where I teach.
            Is there no end to this need
mushrooms inching along
                         blades of grass after a field of rain
                                                             the heron fishing
wings spread to lure prey into her shade.
In war they say We’re not the top species because we’re nice
In life I say Let me come closer
                                      even if it kills me.

Copyright © 2019 by Diana Khoi Nguyen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 31, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

it was clear they were hungry
with their carts empty the clothes inside their empty hands

they were hungry because their hands
were empty their hands in trashcans

the trashcans on the street
the asphalt street on the red dirt the dirt taxpayers pay for

up to that invisible line visible thick white paint
visible booths visible with the fence starting from the booths

booth road booth road booth road office building then the fence
fence fence fence

it started from a corner with an iron pole
always an iron pole at the beginning

those men those women could walk between booths
say hi to white or brown officers no problem

the problem I think were carts belts jackets
we didn’t have any

or maybe not the problem
our skin sunburned all of us spoke Spanish

we didn’t know how they had ended up that way
on that side

we didn’t know how we had ended up here
we didn’t know but we understood why they walk

the opposite direction to buy food on this side
this side we all know is hunger

From Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Javier Zamora. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

I hear the sound of the sprinkler outside, not the soft kind we used to run through
but the hard kind that whips in one direction then cranks back and starts again.

Last night we planned to find the white argument of the Milky Way 
but we are twenty years too late. Last night I cut the last stargazer 
lily to wear in my hair. 

This morning, the hardest geography quiz I’ve ever taken: how does one carry
oneself from mountain to lake to desert without leaving anything behind?

Perhaps I ought to have worked harder. 
Perhaps I could have paid more attention.
A mountain I didn’t climb. Music I yearned for but could not achieve.

I travel without maps, free-style my scripture, pretend the sky is an adequate
representation of my spiritual beliefs. 

The sprinkler switches off. The grass will be wet. 
I haven’t even gotten to page 2 of my life and I’m probably more than halfway through,
who knows what kind of creature I will become.

Copyright © 2019 by Kazim Ali. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 8, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

say it with your whole black mouth: i am innocent

& if you are not innocent, say this: i am worthy of forgiveness, of breath after breath

i tell you this: i let blue eyes dress me in guilt
walked around stores convinced the very skin of my palm was stolen

& what good has that brought me? days filled flinching
thinking the sirens were reaching for me

& when the sirens were for me
did i not make peace with god?

so many white people are alive because
we know how to control ourselves.

how many times have we died on a whim
wielded like gallows in their sun-shy hands?

here, standing in my own body, i say: the next time
they murder us for the crime of their imaginations

i don’t know what i’ll do.

i did not come to preach of peace
for that is not the hunted’s duty.

i came here to say what i can’t say
without my name being added to a list

what my mother fears i will say

                       what she wishes to say herself

i came here to say

i can’t bring myself to write it down

sometimes i dream of pulling a red apology
from a pig’s collared neck & wake up crackin up

           if i dream of setting fire to cul-de-sacs
           i wake chained to the bed

i don’t like thinking about doing to white folks
what white folks done to us

when i do
                      can’t say

          i don’t dance

o my people

          how long will we

reach for god

          instead of something sharper?

          my lovely doe

with a taste for meat

          take

the hunter

          by his hand

Copyright © 2018 by Danez Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

                It turns out however that I was deeply
Mistaken about the end of the world
        	The body in flames will not be the body
In flames but just a house fire ignored
        	The black sails of that solitary burning
Boat rubbing along the legs of lovers
        	Flung into a Roman sky by a carousel
The lovers too sick in their love
        	To notice a man drenched in fire on a porch
Or a child aflame mistaken for a dog
        	Mistaken for a child running to tell of a bomb
That did not knock before it entered
        	In Gaza with its glad tidings of abundant joy  	
In Kazimierz a god is weeping
        	In a window one golden hand raised
Above his head as if he’s slipped
        	On the slick rag of the future our human
Kindnesses unremarkable as the flies
        	Rubbing their legs together while standing
On a slice of cantaloupe Children
        	You were never meant to be human
You must be the grass
        	You must grow wildly over the graves

Copyright © 2018 by Roger Reeves. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden in the shade.
            —Ringo Starr

The article called it “a spectacle.” More like a garden than a nursery: 
hundreds of purple octopuses protecting clusters of eggs 
while clinging to lava rocks off the Costa Rican coast. 
I study the watery images: thousands of lavender tentacles 
wrapped around their broods. Did you know there’s a female octopus 
on record as guarding her clutch for 53 months? That’s four-and-a-half years 
of sitting, waiting, dreaming of the day her babies hatch and float away. 
I want to tell my son this. He sits on the couch next to me clutching his phone, 
setting up a hangout with friends. The teenage shell is hard to crack. 
Today, my heart sits with the brooding octomoms: not eating, always on call, 
always defensive, living in stasis in waters too warm to sustain them. 
No guarantees they will live beyond the hatching. Not a spectacle 
but a miracle any of us survive.

Copyright © 2019 by January Gill O’Neil. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 7, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

para mi abuela en la isla

A hurricane destroyed your sense of home
and all you wanted was to pack your bags
in dead of night, still waving mental flags,
forgetting the nation is a syndrome.
All that’s left of the sea in you is foam,
the coastline's broken voice and all its crags.
You hear the governor admit some snags
were hit, nada, mere blips in the biome,
nothing that private equity can’t fix
once speculators pour into San Juan
to harvest the bad seed of an idea.
She tells you Santa Clara in ’56
had nothing on the brutal San Ciprián,
and yes, your abuela’s named María.

Thoughts of Katrina and the Superdome,
el Caribe mapped with blood and sandbags,
displaced, diasporic, Spanglish hashtags,
a phantom tab you keep on Google Chrome,
days of hunger and dreams of honeycomb.
Are souls reborn or worn thin like old rags?
The locust tree still stands although it sags,
austere sharks sequence the island’s genome
and parrots squawk survival politics
whose only power grid is the damp dawn.
There is no other way, no panacea.
Throw stuff at empire’s walls and see what sticks
or tear down the walls you were standing on?
Why don’t you run that question by María?

Beyond the indigenous chromosome,
your gut genealogy’s in chains and gags,
paraded through the colonies’ main drags
and left to die. So when you write your tome
please note: each word must be a catacomb,
must be a sepulcher and must be a
cradle in some sort of aporía
where bodies draw on song as guns are drawn,
resilient, silent h in huracán.
Your ache-song booms ashore. Ashé, María.

Copyright © 2018 by Urayoán Noel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 13, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

That streetlight looks like the slicked backbone
            of a dead tree in the rain, its green lamp blazing
like the first neon fig glowing in the first garden
            on a continent that split away from Africa
from which floated away Brazil. Why are we not
            more amazed by the constellations, all those flung
stars held together by the thinnest filaments
            of our evolved, image making brains. For instance,
here we are in the middle of another Autumn,
            plummeting through a universe that made us
from its shattering and dust, stooping
            now to pluck an orange leaf from the sidewalk,
a small veined hand we hold in an open palm
            as we walk through the park on a weekend we
invented so we would have time to spare. Time,
            another idea we devised so the days would have
an epilogue, precise, unwavering, a pendulum
            strung above our heads.  When was the sun
enough? The moon with its diminishing face?
            The sea with its nets of fish? The meadow’s
yellow baskets of grain? If I was in charge
            I’d say leave them there on their backs
in the grass, wondering, eating berries
            and rolling toward each other’s naked bodies
for warmth, for something we’ve yet to name,
            when the leaves were turning colors in their dying
and we didn’t know why, or that they would return,
            bud and green. One of a billion
small miracles. This planet will again be stone.

Copyright © 2019 by Dorianne Laux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

                    For the community of Newtown, Connecticut,
                    where twenty students and six educators lost their
                    lives to a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary
                    School, December 14, 2012

 

Now the bells speak with their tongues of bronze.
Now the bells open their mouths of bronze to say:
Listen to the bells a world away. Listen to the bell in the ruins
of a city where children gathered copper shells like beach glass,
and the copper boiled in the foundry, and the bell born
in the foundry says: I was born of bullets, but now I sing
of a world where bullets melt into bells. Listen to the bell
in a city where cannons from the armies of the Great War
sank into molten metal bubbling like a vat of chocolate,
and the many mouths that once spoke the tongue of smoke
form the one mouth of a bell that says: I was born of cannons,
but now I sing of a world where cannons melt into bells.

Listen to the bells in a town with a flagpole on Main Street,
a rooster weathervane keeping watch atop the Meeting House,
the congregation gathering to sing in times of great silence.
Here the bells rock their heads of bronze as if to say:
Melt the bullets into bells, melt the bullets into bells.
Here the bells raise their heavy heads as if to say:
Melt the cannons into bells, melt the cannons into bells.
Here the bells sing of a world where weapons crumble deep
in the earth, and no one remembers where they were buried.
Now the bells pass the word at midnight in the ancient language
of bronze, from bell to bell, like ships smuggling news of liberation
from island to island, the song rippling through the clouds.

Now the bells chime like the muscle beating in every chest,
heal the cracks in the bell of every face listening to the bells.
The chimes heal the cracks in the bell of the moon.
The chimes heal the cracks in the bell of the world.

From Bullets Into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence (Beacon Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Martín Espada. Used with permission of the author and Beacon Press.