When I touch your skin and goosebumps lift,
it’s your mind that surfaces there.
When your iris tightens mechanically
around your pupil, that aperture
becomes for me the blacked-out
cockpit of your mind.
It’s your mind
that touches your tongue to mine,
your mind that, when you’re driving,
lowers your hand to my thigh
like a pilot light inside your sleep,
your mind that beats your heart—
slower, then faster—infusion pump
in the chest, flooding your mind.
But your heart is not your mind.
The curve of your hip; the soft
skin of your wrist is not your mind.
The tumor growing in your brain
is just your brain, I say.
of your face; the sound of your voice,
which I love so much, is not your mind.
Your mind spills through—fire
I can’t stop watching from the far
side of this darkening valley.
Copyright © 2016 by Wayne Miller. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 16, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
I was born among the bodies. I was hurried
forward, and sealed a thin life for myself.
I have shortened my name, and walk with
a limp. I place pebbles in milk and offer
them to my children when there is nothing
else. We can not live on cold blood alone.
In a dream, I am ungendered, and the moon
is just the moon having a thought of itself.
I am a wolf masked in the scent of its prey
and I am driven—hawk like—to the dark
center of things. I have grasped my eager
heart in my own talons. I am made of fire,
and all fire passes through me. I am made
of smoke and all smoke passes through me.
Now the bodies are just calcified gravity,
built up and broken down over the years.
Somewhere there are phantoms having their
own funerals over and over again. The same
scene for centuries. The same moon rolling
down the gutter of the same sky. Somewhere
they place a door at the beginning of a field
and call it property. Somewhere, a tired man
won’t let go of his dead wife’s hand. God
is a performing artist working only with
light and stone. Death is just a child come to
take us by the hand, and lead us gently away.
Fear is the paralyzing agent, the viper that
swallows us living and whole. And the devil,
wears a crooked badge, multiplies everything
by three. You—my dark friend. And me.
Copyright © 2015 by Cecilia Llompart. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
A gift is a risk. Let roses be the prodrome.
It’s like it dropped a gold and a silver
ring with its name on it
in my brain. That was the gift
before the storm. It sent you a stumbling
block. Just scribble yes or no
on the form. Now every time the doorbell
rings I think someone’s sent me one.
A gift is a guess. Did it come close?
It’s what you need most
that turns you nerve side out. Right
now I think I’m growing something
long thought and kind of
clumsy. Just wrap it in drafts with awk
in the margins. Stuff it
in a wooden pillow with a drawer.
A gift is a task. It could be oxblood
or puce. You have to decide
whether to send those flowers that drop
whole from the stem or
the ones whose petals fall one
by one. You know how rain will
turn the roses nerve side out?
A gift is a test. They need to know that.
When she wrote their thorns
are the best part of them I can’t begin
to tell you how many kinds of
right she was. Now I think I’m growing
something long thought
to be the prerogative of certain
entitled individuals. Wings
or thorns. When all I wanted was
a more subtle pulse
at the throat bone. Well what size
do you wear? I am smelting you a surprise.
Not another luminous lyre
cum lint remover. Take it
from me. If you depend on gifts
for what you need you’ll end up with
a gold and a silver shoe both
for the same lame foot.
Copyright © 2015 by Alice Fulton. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 22, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
Sometimes I don’t know if I’m having a feeling
so I check my phone or squint at the window
with a serious look, like someone in a movie
or a mother thinking about how time passes.
Sometimes I’m not sure how to feel so I think
about a lot of things until I get an allergy attack.
I take my antihistamine with beer, thank you very much,
sleep like a cut under a band aid, wake up
on the stairs having missed the entire party.
It was a real blast, I can tell, for all the vases
are broken, the flowers twisted into crowns
for the young, drunk, and beautiful. I put one on
and salute the moon, the lone face over me
shining through the grates on the front door window.
You have seen me like this before, such a strange
version of the person you thought you knew.
Guess what, I’m strange to us both. It’s like
I’m not even me sometimes. Who am I? A question
for the Lord only to decide as She looks over
my résumé. Everything is different sometimes.
Sometimes there is no hand on my shoulder
but my room, my apartment, my body are containers
and I am thusly contained. How easy to forget
the obvious. The walls, blankets, sunlight, your love.
Copyright © 2015 by Matthew Siegel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 8, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
How time slowed when any thought
or apprehension of the next instant
vanished (no obligation, then or later),
how in that long moment, all at once,
yet without surprise, how what was close
was present in a sudden suspense,
as such things rarely exist
as they did then, each apart from all,
seen as it might be truly,
and gave way to a pleasure
that had long been missing,
to expleasure, as if I were akin
to the smallest things—ribs
of a leaf, penny on a dresser—
of a saving stillness, doubtless
always here, just beyond
the scrim of what calls us
from that silent astonishment,
the more so since the feeling
dissolves with its presence of detail
merging with a distant seeing,
as when I walk through a room
and nothing is equal there to the calm
from the simply seen.
Copyright © 2015 by James Brasfield. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.