I am a body
of ghost—
haint-kin cloaked
in earthen flesh

learning to see
my Self 
in the unyielding 
barrenness of my mother’s 
front yard.

The salted fault lines
become me. I bear
a trace of invasion
and reek
of a martyr’s will.

A tangle
of medicinal weeds
interrupts my molting 

Dandelion greens fuzz
up my apathy. A flower
dares itself to bloom
amongst my most quiet

When the rain comes,
I turn mud in my lover’s mouth.
Something fecund hums
through my blood

And maybe . . . this 
is the living. These 
would-be dead things in
the same place, the same time

that is 
my body. Ours. Not mine— 
unowned and fruited and
poor and black and ugly and Here

with you. I reach
a hand      out the wildness
And catch hold
a soft pulse

                                                      we nursed you
                                                      don’t you dare
                                                             give up

Copyright © 2023 by Ra Malika Imhotep. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 30, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 


I have long wanted to be starlight in spring
and the late snow that lingers there, coming down
at Harpers Ferry over the river or gathered 
on a windowsill on third street in Brooklyn 
when I was twenty-two—the potpourri 
of sky the wind carries after a storm. 
The gray darkening on a far ridge. If you are reading this
there is still a way. I can take your smooth palm in mine
and lead you toward a distant city and a night
when you were on the mountain and dreaming of the other world
and we can walk together past the pre-war homes 
converted now to low-rent apartments for college students
or workers come in from long days on a road crew,
coveralls draped over the backs of kitchen chairs
and the light swaying just so. We can go on—
along the cracked sidewalks above the train tracks
that can’t exist again even as the grasses come up between them
and look through a fog and a single pair of headlights
making definite beams in the material cold. 
No moonlight to get netted up in on the surface of the water
no traffic at this hour just the scraps of paper blown
into gutters and the electric hum of streetlights,
a few voices, which almost walk like footfall down alleys
overgrown with briars and creeping vines, their crude
latticework against the brick and the exhale
of a bartender on a smoke break and the smoke
which still drifts. Now it must be all worn through
but then it was barely remarkable though I stop
to look back at the homes and at snow melt on roads
the flat glitter on the black road, the moiré pattern 
yet to be captured by language—and for a minute believe
in something as my stepfather believed in the smell of fire
whenever he left in the middle of the night
and returned before dawn and spoke to no one, didn’t
wake anyone up. Sometimes I feel that alone, 
that pure, as if looking back at myself
through the scrim of time and you are there 
standing in our kitchen at this hour and I can almost 
hear you and the first singing caught-up there in the back 
of your throat. Lately I’ve stopped worrying about the end. 
Each day my hand is smaller on your shoulders. New birds
still return and the hillsides green all around, the stars 
have traveled over the horizon and in the blink 
of an eye you are here—grape-vine charcoal in your hand;
little hyphen I have become.

Copyright © 2022 by Matthew Wimberley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 10, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

The sound of quiet. The sky 
indigo, steeping 
deeper from the top, like tea.
In the absence
of anything else, my own
breathing became obscene.
I heard the beating
of bats’ wings before 
the air troubled above 
my head, turned to look
and saw them gone.
On the surface of the black
lake, a swan and the moon
stayed perfectly 
still. I knew this was
a perfect moment.
Which would only hurt me
to remember and never
live again. My God. How lucky to have lived
a life I would die for.

Copyright © 2023 by Leila Chatti. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.