For now, we speak only in brooms:
sweeping sand across the teeth
of concrete slabs, we brush and repeat
each stone syllable of the clearing
where our great grandparents are buried.
Some words for memory are always here,
sounded out by the ant feet
hefting sand grit and glitter homes, fan-light
over the blue tongues of plastic flowers—
the weeds will try to cover all the other ways
of saying history.
But our pronunciation begins with the clearing we make in our bodies first:
where the broom handle widens the oh’s
in the mouth of our hands,
how we shake open the throat
to settle each pile of leaves before burning them.
Trust the body to open in our language
with the rhythm of weight—
one hand pushing sand,
the other pulling syllables
in one last sway
as we close the gate of the malaʻe
so the trees can better hiss-hush at the edge of the ancestor
speaking in all our names.
Copyright © 2022 by Leora Kava. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 17, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
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.
The cry of the cicada
Gives us no sign
That presently it will die.
—Translation by William George Aston
This poem is in the public domain.
I'd already found out that one of the secrets to happiness was never loan your books. But I loaned it anyway. We were all of us poor and living on ideas, stumbling home late to basement apartments, talking to ourselves. What did we own except books and debt? When the time came we could move it all in the trunk of a car. Tom knew what a book was worth—he brought it back a week later, seemingly unhandled, just a little looser in the spine, a trade paper edition of The Death of Artemio Cruz, required reading for a course in postmodernism we were suffering through. The book's trashed now, boxed up and buried in the garage with a hundred other things I can't throw away. When I moved back south I loaned it again to a girl I'd just met. At some party I'd said it was the best novel since Absalom, Absalom!, which may have been true, but mostly I was trying to impress her, and convince myself, still testing all I'd been told about how the matter of a book is best kept separate from, well, matter. Months later it turned up on my front steps without comment, the cover torn in two places, the dog-eared pages of self-conscious prose stuck together with dark, rich chocolate.
From Paper Anniversary, published by University of Pittsburgh Press. Copyright © 2011 by Bobby C. Rogers. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.