I make paintings and watercolors of Tamalpais. Again and again. Why do I insist? Am I trying to hold some image, to capture some meaning, to assert its presence, to measure myself to its timelessness, to fight, or to accept? —Etel Adnan, Journey to Mount Tamalpais

I understand, I tell her, the desire to not only return but to be consumed. I have had obsessions, I have been made small by those obsessions, I wonder if you would agree it is possible for something to be absolute but still unseen. I was Cassandra, once. I wanted dearly to go to the mountain. Instead of cliches, I design my pulse to loneliness anew. It’s different than ten years ago—I go outside, now, take its contradiction with me. Oh the most painful love-story of them all! These gaps between comprehension! I could never forget, no matter how many times they beg me to. The mountain was there before us and it will be there after. Yes, a return; each journey wrought another history, each day I try to capture its form; why do I insist? In lieu of a paintbrush, I sew my voice in its throat. In the Beginning, there was Blood, Horror, Myth, Obsession; and then there was Love, there was, I swear, when the static spilled! again and again, our eyes stained with its evidence, We find new proof uncovered on every return. We were all Cassandra, once, young and hysterical, oh, I hope you’ll understand I take it so seriously when I say the violence shifted subjects. Oh, we screamed! we screamed! We swore our eyes were true! Audience becomes the blood, the horror, the myth, the static, Again, and again, you said, again, and again, I say, again, again

Copyright © 2024 by Summer Farah. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

you haven’t had a salient thought since seeing the film, which still plays inside you on a loop. a valley splits open revealing mirroring paths. a lake like glass. there’s no need to name it. you are terrified that the men will hurt you and you are terrified they won’t be bothered. Jack is bathing in the river with his back to you because you love watching him turn to face you. the smile he holds out to you is the same one you attempt to bridle. when you are you, some things will align. denim hangs off your body with a certain correctness. those who don’t know you may see you as more adjacent to violence. the slurs that apply to you aggregate and split. the scene where the man wearing plaid strikes the man in a denim shirt, drawing blood before they embrace bore no distinction in your mind at sixteen when you got snowed into your car with your crush, who you asked to hit you as hard as he could. he refused your request, so you never asked for a kiss. sequence is crucial. no one will touch you like a man if you aren’t one. despite whatever work you’ve done on yourself since, the mountain air tastes like an ocean of river stones, gossamer, some frivolous instinct shifting into weather. it’s too much to ask to become what you have seen.

Copyright © 2024 by Xan Forest Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 9, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

We cannot help but be students 
of our fathers’ disciplines, 

                       mine an avid disciple 
                       of scripture and royalty. 

What else can I confess? 
That I was a child? I carved myself 

                       into the civil shape of a knife. 
                       Pared until only the edge remained. 

I killed things because I could. 
Magnifying glass and the sun 

                       and the silent crawling things that 
                       could not fight back. 

That had no choice but to only 
hope for mercy. Unable themselves 

                       to beg. I confess. I was desperate 
                       to know that I was not alone. Every day 

we are made once more in the image of God. 
Every day God asks, Cruelty again? 

                       And every day we say, Oh Lord of Heaven, 
                       please, yes, yes. Cruelty again. 

Copyright © 2024 by Nora Hikari. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 8, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Praise the Ocean for teaching me that home is not location as much as it is
belonging where I am wanted 

Praise the Ocean for always wanting me 
for washing my body in and naming it child 

Praise the way the water bites at my ankles 
but never breaks the skin 

Praise the skin on my ankle that had to break for the gun for the tatau drawn by
the gun’s mouth in the hands 

of a tufuga during my first tatau appointment 
on island when I was 17 years old 

Praise his cigarette break  
so I could complete my sobbing in peace. 

Praise the umu, the underground oven of hot rocks and fire cooking the sweet coconut milk in the center of salted leaves for palusami 

for the thick talo and soft fattiness of octopus tentacles 
Praise the crinkled crack of metal on the edge of every can of tuna 

greasy from oiled chunks of fish, peppered over a bowl of hot rice Praise the ground as dining room table 

as only place to eat 
at eating at the feet of our elders as the talking chief blessed us in prayer 

Praise the mother mosquito and her obsession with the back of my legs Praise the stench of repellant that stuck to my skin like boobie trap 

like tourist trick 
like 2nd generation 

like “not quite from here” 
Praise the heavenly scorch of heat behind my ears 

Praise the lowered heads and crossed legs atop each woven fala mat Praise the village of women who wove them 

the mulberry bark that was beaten enough to braid 
Praise the broken flip flops running alongside flattened frogs

on the road headed towards the church house
Praise the choir of children 

who sing with one tongue. 
Praise the way we lay our dead to rest in front of each house 

how there is no need for cemeteries 
if our kin never really die 

Praise the way they return home to us 
Praise home 

Praise us.

Copyright © 2024 by Terisa Siagatonu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 30, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.