I am taken with the hot animal
of my skin, grateful to swing my limbs

and have them move as I intend, though
my knee, though my shoulder, though something
is torn or tearing. Today, a dozen squid, dead

on the harbor beach: one mostly buried,
one with skin empty as a shell and hollow

feeling, and, though the tentacles look soft,
I do not touch them. I imagine they
were startled to find themselves in the sun.

I imagine the tide simply went out
without them. I imagine they cannot

feel the black flies charting the raised hills
of their eyes. I write my name in the sand:
Donika Kelly. I watch eighteen seagulls

skim the sandbar and lift low in the sky.
I pick up a pebble that looks like a green egg.

To the ditch lily I say I am in love.
To the Jeep parked haphazardly on the narrow
street I am in love. To the roses, white

petals rimmed brown, to the yellow lined
pavement, to the house trimmed in gold I am

in love. I shout with the rough calculus
of walking. Just let me find my way back,
let me move like a tide come in.

Copyright © 2017 by Donika Kelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

I too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle.
   Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers that there is in
   it after all, a place for the genuine.
      Hands that can grasp, eyes
      that can dilate, hair that can rise
         if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because they are
   useful; when they become so derivative as to become unintelligible, the
   same thing may be said for all of us—that we
      do not admire what
      we cannot understand. The bat,
         holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf under
   a tree, the immovable critic twinkling his skin like a horse that feels a flea, the base—
   ball fan, the statistician—case after case
      could be cited did
      one wish it; nor is it valid
         to discriminate against “business documents and

school-books”; all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction
   however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry,
   nor till the autocrats among us can be
     “literalists of
      the imagination”—above
         insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have
   it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand, in defiance of their opinion—
   the raw material of poetry in
      all its rawness, and
      that which is on the other hand,
         genuine, then you are interested in poetry.

From Others for 1919: An Anthology of the New Verse, edited by Alfred Kreymborg. This poem is in the public domain.

I

Living is no laughing matter:
	you must live with great seriousness
		like a squirrel, for example—
   I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
		I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
	you must take it seriously,
	so much so and to such a degree
   that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
                                            your back to the wall,
   or else in a laboratory
	in your white coat and safety glasses,
	you can die for people—
   even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,
   even though you know living
	is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
   that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees—
   and not for your children, either,
   but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
   because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

II

Let’s say we’re seriously ill, need surgery—
which is to say we might not get up
			from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
			about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see if it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
		for the latest newscast. . . 
Let’s say we’re at the front—
	for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
	we might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
        but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
        about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
                        before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind—
                                I  mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
        we must live as if we will never die.

III

This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
               and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet—
	  I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even 
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
	  in pitch-black space . . . 
You must grieve for this right now
—you have to feel this sorrow now—
for the world must be loved this much
                               if you’re going to say “I lived”. . .

From Poems of Nazim Hikmet, translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk, published by Persea Books. Copyright © 1994 by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk. Used with the permission of Persea Books. All rights reserved.

 

She’s smocked in blue, like peasants by Millet
at work, a crook or pail in hand, or bent,
perhaps, for sewing, nursing, sheaving hay,
their faces worn by pity and consent.

The airport crowds have atomized by now;
the loos are nearly empty. There, alone,
she traces arcs, a model showing how
it’s done—left, right, ahead—as if to hone

her gestures as a dance routine. She sings,
a thread that rises, falls, and floats.
The words are muffled. Might her voice give wings
to home thoughts, in its melancholy notes?

I speak to her in English; no reply,
no recognition. I use Spanish then;
she’s pensive, unaware. So should I try
my Creole French? But no; to speak again

would seem interrogation. Does she see
me, even, leaning as she swirls her mop?
She is the body of the melody,
its mute existence when the song must stop.

From Aerosols, Catharine Savage Brosman, Green Altar / Shotwell Publishing © 2023. Used with the permission of the author.

I’ve crashed a party with an infinity pool and several nude men:
a Fire Island home at the back of a walkway long enough to
outlast a pop song’s bridge and some chorus, flanked by
phragmites on either side, tall and same-faced, so all
but reed bulk hides out from the exterior. Myself
included, close to everyone here has a body of
one approximate build. What would it say if I
stay? Comfort’s not so comfy here, but I stay
and try to have a good time: periodic beach
guest, mainly through favors from men
whose wealth eclipses mine and most
of humankind. I know firsthand why
queers come to this place, obliterate
coherence, take, go, take, till
we’ve consumed enough
to leave.
Someone riding the stiffest
substance cocktail he can muster
GROANS he’s got to pee and can’t,
his functions stalled in the twist and now.
What he can still swing is a smile. Excess
soaks the sundecks and each redwood inch
of the mini villa with a sweet-hot stickiness.
There’s much more to take in, with nowhere to go.

Copyright © 2024 by Kyle Carrero Lopez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 16, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

He piles her boxes in the courtyard under
a tarp, the bookshelves, microwave, spare phone,
and though his friends make clear they wonder
why he would help her move, he says, “It’s fine.
I want to save her money, help her out.”
And he does—helps her move out, feeling weight
tear at his muscles. Now he is without
her things. They are inside the truck, her freight,
then on the freeway, then in her new flat,
then gone. He’s glad to ache in shoulder blades
and arms. It means that though she’s left him flat,
left him behind like old footprints, he’s made 
a choice as well, to move her, remove her,
a choice to move past, not be moved by her.
 

From Sad Jazz: Sonnets (Sheep Meadow Press, 2005) by Tony Barnstone. Copyright © 2005 by Tony Barnstone. Used with the permission of the author. 

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.

From Collected Poems by Philip Larkin. Copyright © 1988, 2003 by the Estate of Philip Larkin. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All rights reserved.