teach your daughters
to sing the song backwards
wind in their mouths

teach them early
to breathe in the dust 
swirl it into their lungs

teach your children 
that the opposite of a secret
is a drink

teach them 
by example
to drink air


send your daughters
where the earth is soft

they’ll come back
and tell you life is hard

send your daughters
off the planet now

show them how
to do their dirt
in space

send your daughters
to the sky 
for clay

practiced as they are
at leaving earth

teach your daughters
that the only world they’ll have
will be the one they shape
by hand
and foot


train your daughters
how to dance in mud

cleanse them 
of the myth 
of solid ground

show them that
the mark they make
is evidence of body
not of word

is evidence of soil
and not of breath

teach your daughters
how to outrun death

Copyright © 2024 by Alexis Pauline Gumbs. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 22, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.

They are like those crazy women 
   who tore Orpheus
      when he refused to sing,

these men grinding
   in the strobe & black lights
      of Pegasus. All shadow & sound.

"I'm just here for the music," 
   I tell the man who asks me
      to the floor. But I have held

a boy on my back before.
   Curtis & I used to leap
      barefoot into the creek; dance

among maggots & piss,
   beer bottles & tadpoles
      slippery as sperm;

we used to pull off our shirts, 
   & slap music into our skin.
      He wouldn't know me now
at the edge of these lovers' gyre, 
   glitter & steam, fire,
      bodies blurred sexless

by the music's spinning light.
   A young man slips his thumb
      into the mouth of an old one,

& I am not that far away.
   The whole scene raw & delicate 
      as Curtis's foot gashed

on a sunken bottle shard. 
   They press hip to hip,
      each breathless as a boy

carrying a friend on his back. 
   The foot swelling green
      as the sewage in that creek.

We never went back.
   But I remember his weight 
      better than I remember

my first kiss.
   These men know something
      I used to know.

How could I not find them
   beautiful, the way they dive & spill 
      into each other,

the way the dance floor
   takes them,
      wet & holy in its mouth.

From Muscular Music by Terrance Hayes, published by Tia Chucha Press. Copyright © 1999 by Terrance Hayes. Reprinted by permission of Terrance Hayes. All rights reserved.