Alabama Eagle and egret, woodcock and teal, all birds gathering to affirm the last gasp of sunset. Alaska Maybe I should stay in bed all day long and read a book or listen to the news on the radio but truthfully, I am not meant for that. Arkansas Then, as we talked, my personage subdued, And I became, as Petit jean, a ghost, California I can stand here all day and tell you how much I honor, admire, how brave you are. Connecticut Dark grays and fainter Grays of near fields and far hills Motionless, his mind Playing silently Over and over with his Worry beads of words. Delaware On her dresser is one of those old glass bottles of Jergen's Lotion with the black label, a little round bottle of Mum deodorant, a white plastic tray with Avon necklaces and earrings, pennies, paper clips, and a large black coat button. I appear to be very interested in these objects. Florida We learn from our animals, if we're smart. They know how to wait. They know how to run To catch up. Much of their life is spent at windows. Georgia Loaded on beer and whiskey, we ride to the dump in carloads to turn our headlights across the wasted field, Idaho I imagined him wading the shallows of a mountain stream— the breeze still cold off the higher snow fields, the fish smell of fresh water, the pitched hum of insects waking to the sun. Illinois Fact is, each breath becomes bone becomes dust Indiana Hill Thoughts, Midnight Flight Iowa The afternoons go by, one by one. My old friend, who shone like a tropic sun Amid the poets of our day, too soon Grown wan and thin as the late May moon, Kansas In river country flint nodules rest among limestone sea bottoms, unexplained, glassy among the porous tangles of shells Kentucky I see her in a photograph I found, unsmiling in a drop-waist dress. No telling how the roaring twenties roared through here. Louisiana i search but i can not find out the streets of my ancestors nor any relative to receive me Maine When I was a child and angels argued slamming doors, I lolled, feet up the couch, head on the floor Maryland Before I leave, almost without noticing, before I cross the road and head toward what I have intentionally postponed— Mississippi Behind the Ridge The Seeking Spirit Cry Life Montana Gray cloud like a sweater pulled over the heart of the moon. Nebraska Windmill. Stretch even the Fingertips against sand-coated hills. You can get there from here, Sir. Nevada Treat your Mommy nice and take her to Las Vegas— she'll think you're swell. New Hampshire The city was brick and stone in the time before glass and steel. In those days the city was streets of women. New York Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye. North Carolina The only clouds forming are crow clouds, the only shade, oaks bound together in a tangle of oak North Dakota Most poets are rooted in the natural world, spokespersons for the inarticulate in nature. Oklahoma under her cool skin the feet dipped in formaldehyde to prevent sweating a river runs. Oregon And you pretty much gotta trust Her, even if that means twiddling your thumbs while she makes Her way through Her medley— Rhode Island The dark barge works the length of braziers humped like monks awaiting sacrifice; South Carolina Seeds of hope are waiting in the sacred soil beneath our feet and in the light and in the shadows, spinning below the hemlocks. Tennessee for eighty some odd years He rose with the rising sun And many mornings got up at dark For so much work was to be done. Texas Her skirt clings to her the way fog clings to a flower. Her legs are curled up, her sleeping face soft like a saint. Driving for hours a man thinks about how things are measured, about how coffee always tastes better in small towns. Utah Neither of us can guess if they'll hurry dusk along, those clouds that have loitered all afternoon over the rooftops. From our window... Vermont When you come back to me it will be crow time and flycatcher time, with rising spirals of gnats between the apple trees. Virginia When the last cloud leaves nothing behind—no history, no trace of error, no basilica to shelter a man— Washington oblivious to the fact that anyone might be watching, that he might be teaching us all how to live West Virginia Then, that recognition would reward me for all I'd undergone, my bravery of thought, my refusal of dishonest love, and my goodwill Wisconsin Although distance does not matter, it's a long way into the flat pine forest Wyoming the work of hunters is another thing: I have come after them and made repair Note: Not every U.S. state has a designated poet laureate
Copyright © 2009 by Robert Fitterman. Used with permission of the author.
In the republic of flowers I studied
the secrets of hanging clothes I didn't
know if it was raining or someone
was frying eggs I held the skulls
of words that mean nothing you left
between the hour of the ox and the hour
of the rat I heard the sound of two
braids I watched it rain through
a mirror am I asking to be spared
or am I asking to be spread your body
smelled like cathedrals and I kept
your photo in a bottle of mezcal
semen-salt wolf’s teeth you should have
touched my eyes until they blistered
kissed the skin of my instep for thousands
of years sealed honey never spoils
won’t crystallize I saw myself snapping
a swan's neck I needed to air out
my eyes the droplets on a spiderweb
and the grace they held who gave me
permission to be this person to drag
my misfortune on this leash made of gold
Copyright © 2017 by Erika L. Sánchez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
We were alone one night on a long road in Montana. This was in winter, a big night, far to the stars. We had hitched, my wife and I, and left our ride at a crossing to go on. Tired and cold—but brave—we trudged along. This, we said, was our life, watched over, allowed to go where we wanted. We said we’d come back some time when we got rich. We’d leave the others and find a night like this, whatever we had to give, and no matter how far, to be so happy again.
From The Way It Is by William Stafford. Copyright © 1982, 1998 by the Estate of William Stafford. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved.
I might as well begin by saying how much I like the title. It gets me right away because I’m in a workshop now so immediately the poem has my attention, like the Ancient Mariner grabbing me by the sleeve. And I like the first couple of stanzas, the way they establish this mode of self-pointing that runs through the whole poem and tells us that words are food thrown down on the ground for other words to eat. I can almost taste the tail of the snake in its own mouth, if you know what I mean. But what I’m not sure about is the voice, which sounds in places very casual, very blue jeans, but other times seems standoffish, professorial in the worst sense of the word like the poem is blowing pipe smoke in my face. But maybe that’s just what it wants to do. What I did find engaging were the middle stanzas, especially the fourth one. I like the image of clouds flying like lozenges which gives me a very clear picture. And I really like how this drawbridge operator just appears out of the blue with his feet up on the iron railing and his fishing pole jigging—I like jigging— a hook in the slow industrial canal below. I love slow industrial canal below. All those l’s. Maybe it’s just me, but the next stanza is where I start to have a problem. I mean how can the evening bump into the stars? And what’s an obbligato of snow? Also, I roam the decaffeinated streets. At that point I’m lost. I need help. The other thing that throws me off, and maybe this is just me, is the way the scene keeps shifting around. First, we’re in this big aerodrome and the speaker is inspecting a row of dirigibles, which makes me think this could be a dream. Then he takes us into his garden, the part with the dahlias and the coiling hose, though that’s nice, the coiling hose, but then I’m not sure where we’re supposed to be. The rain and the mint green light, that makes it feel outdoors, but what about this wallpaper? Or is it a kind of indoor cemetery? There’s something about death going on here. In fact, I start to wonder if what we have here is really two poems, or three, or four, or possibly none. But then there’s that last stanza, my favorite. This is where the poem wins me back, especially the lines spoken in the voice of the mouse. I mean we’ve all seen these images in cartoons before, but I still love the details he uses when he’s describing where he lives. The perfect little arch of an entrance in the baseboard, the bed made out of a curled-back sardine can, the spool of thread for a table. I start thinking about how hard the mouse had to work night after night collecting all these things while the people in the house were fast asleep, and that gives me a very strong feeling, a very powerful sense of something. But I don’t know if anyone else was feeling that. Maybe that was just me. Maybe that’s just the way I read it.
"Workshop" from The Art of Drowning, by Billy Collins, © 1995. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.
It moves my heart to see your awakened faces;
the look of “aha!”
shining, finally, in
wide open eyes.
Yes, we are the 99%
all of us
refusing to forget
no matter, in our hunger, what crumbs
are dropped by
The world we want is on the way; Arundhati
and now we
hearing her breathing.
That world we want is Us; united; already moving
Copyright © 2014 by Alice Walker. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.