We borrow from the land what we can but cannot
return to it: bluestem, coneflower, boneset, broomcorn,
a ring-necked pheasant tied to a pole, a flat stretch of land
we strip and tar and pave, a creek that gets deeper
as it downrivers, its edges spoiled with runoff.
We collect seeds from the sunflowers and sow them
like quilt pieces, a little scrap of prairie rose here,
scrap of meadowlark feather there. Tamp down
the soil with plodding hooves, steel-toed boots.
Listen as the tallgrass rattles its dry stems,
cottonwood leaves quake as they remember mountain
lakes. Listen to the grain trucks rumble the highway.
We startle at the deer who startle at our footsteps.
A tree frog croaks from its harddark hole in
the otherwise empty change slot of a vending machine.

Copyright © 2024 by Sarah McCartt-Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 5, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

What seeps in me from weeks of rain 
making me forget 
the life-give part in water. 

The world this morning 
reminds me too much 
of my insides that night I almost 

abandoned the balcony. 
Three pages deep of furious 
language. Scratching 

worry into my journal 
before I can say, please, 
let me 

stop. Notice, 
on the outside table 
this jagged bouquet: 

tobacco seeds, dried, 
still attached to the cut 
few inches of their last-year stalks, 

wrinkled fire 
in a mini vase. It doesn’t look much 
like promise, but it is. 

Copyright © 2024 by Hari Alluri. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 1, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

From The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1916, 1923, 1928, 1930, 1934, 1939, 1947, 1949, © 1969 by Holt Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Copyright 1936, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1953, 1954, © 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 by Robert Frost. Copyright © 1962, 1967, 1970 by Leslie Frost Ballantine.

When I stepped homeward to my hill,
   Dusk went before with quiet tread;
The bare laced branches of the trees
   Were as a mist about its head.

Upon its leaf-brown breast the rocks
   Like great grey sheep lay silentwise,
Between the birch trees’ gleaming arms,
   The faint stars trembled in the skies.

The white brook met me half-way up,
   And laughed as one that knew me well,
To whose more clear than crystal voice
   The frost had joined a crystal spell.

The skies lay like pale-watered deep,
   Dusk ran before me to its strand
And cloudily leaned forth to touch
   The moon’s slow wonder with her hand.

This poem is in the public domain. 

My native tongue doesn’t allow
imperfect tense, so it’s difficult
to say how something might used
to happen but no more. Elizabeth
used to walk among these trees.
She used to walk among these trees
but doesn’t anymore. Elizabeth
is no more though she used to be.

She doesn’t anymore but she used
to walk among these trees because
she used to be happy but only
for a short while before she descended
in despair. Elizabeth we could say
used to walk among these trees
because they made her happy.
Elizabeth used to be but no more.

Copyright © 2022 by Michael Simms. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 20, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.