Still dark, my baby girl leaps out
the window to greet the rising sun.
I stand below ready to catch her,
but every time she takes off
without fail, her laughter calling
to the orioles, calling
to my shame that had I the choice,
I would have never taught her to fly.
Somewhere there is a man with a gun
who will take pleasure in seeing her
skin against the pure blue sky—
and shooting her down.
My own mother did not flinch
when I first raised my arms
and lifted my feet off the ground,
above her head.
She only said you better hope
bulletproof skin comes with that
gift. Years later I found out it did.
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 3, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.
Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.
I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.
All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.
One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square
Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.
From Ariel, published by Harper & Row, 1966. Copyright © 1966 by Ted Hughes. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
after Encounters at the End of the World by Werner Herzog With booms & chirrs seals speak under the ice of an ocean frozen over. Stationary ocean. Electrified song. Color: snow day with autumn leaves inside it, glassene sheers of cantaloupe & kiwi on lavender, gunmetal, jetwing— When you rode the elephant through the puncture, the first syllable of my name parted the deep with your beautiful hand. Sparrow shuddered in her dustbath, swath of pleasure raked up & out. This is where I sat in the avalanche. In winter, where I was born, you pulled a cord of silk in your beautiful hand. I heard nothing under the ice. Bye bye now, our people would say. Bye bye later. First, song, a detonation— then white everywhere.