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.

translated from the Japanese by William George Aston

The cry of the cicada
Gives us no sign
That presently it will die.

From A History of Japanese Literature (William Heinemann, 1899) by W. G. 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.