Marriage is not
a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert 
                    the unpainted stairs 
at the back where we squat 
outside, eating popcorn

the edge of the receding glacier

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire 

“Habitation” excerpted from Selected Poems 1965–­1975 by Margaret Atwood. Copyright © 1987 by Margaret Atwood. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

Poetry used by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Ralph W. Franklin ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.

                   THE POOL PLAYERS. 
                   SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

From The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks, published by Harpers. © 1960 by Gwendolyn Brooks. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

This poem is in the public domain.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.
    So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

This poem is in the public domain.

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Lucille Clifton, “won’t you celebrate with me” from Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1991 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., boaeditions.org.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

This poem is in the public domain.

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
     flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
     went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
     bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used with permission.

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

From Homage to Clio by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1960 W. H. Auden, renewed by the Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

This poem is in the public domain.

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

This poem is in the public domain.

(War Time)

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

From The Language of Spring, edited by Robert Atwan, published by Beacon Press, 2003.

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

Copyright © 2017 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

The wind was a care-free soul 
    That broke the chains of earth, 
And strode for a moment across the land
    With the wild halloo of his mirth.
He little cared that he ripped up trees, 
    That houses fell at his hand, 
That his step broke calm on the breast of seas, 
    That his feet stirred clouds of sand. 

But when he had had his little joke, 
    Had shouted and laughed and sung, 
When the trees were scarred, their branches broke, 
    And their foliage aching hung, 
He crept to his cave with a stealthy tread, 
    With rain-filled eyes and low-bowed head.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 14, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

For Donald Duff

Locked arm in arm they cross the way,
    The black boy and the white,
The golden splendor of the day,
    The sable pride of night.

From lowered blinds the dark folk stare,
    And here the fair folk talk,
Indignant that these two should dare
    In unison to walk.

Oblivious to look and word
    They pass, and see no wonder
That lightning brilliant as a sword
    Should blaze the path of thunder.

This poem is in the public domain. 

(Remembrance on a hill) (For Yolande)

“As surely as I hold your hand in mine,
As surely as your crinkled hair belies
The enamoured sun pretending that he dies
While still he loiters in its glossy shine,
As surely as I break the slender line
That spider linked us with, in no least wise
Am I uncertain that these alien skies
Do not our whole life measure and confine.
No less, once in a land of scarlet suns
And brooding winds, before the hurricane
Bore down upon us, long before this pain,
We found a place where quiet water runs;
I held your hand this way upon a hill,
And felt my heart forebear, my pulse grow still."

This poem is in the public domain.

A swift, successive chain of things,
That flash, kaleidoscope-like, now in, now out,
Now straight, now eddying in wild rings,
No order, neither law, compels their moves,
But endless, constant, always swiftly roves.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 28, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I couldn’t bring myself
to read through Breonna’s social 
media but some say she believed 2020
would be her year. She even
imagined a baby growing steady
in her belly. I imagine her choosing
the baby’s name with care. Taking
all the months she had to name it
something like Pearl or V or Cheryl
There are a million baby names 
to choose from the good book
but what do you name
the baby that never would be
in the year that should’ve been
yours? Do you name her
Revolution? Do you name her
A World Screaming? Do you
name her Fire? Let her burn
             the house down—

Copyright © 2021 by Yesenia Montilla. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 24, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

the beauty of jazz & blues voices,
syncopation of syllables flowing
free form through improvising sentences
sluicing, embracing, metaphors glowing
eyes in the dark are words imitating
fireflies pulsating bright in a black sky
are gleaming eyes of a prowling black panther
suddenly clicking on bright as flashlight beams
under moon rays probing hidden places
isolated mysterious somewhere
deep in a buzzing alive countryside

Copyright © 2021 by Quincy Troupe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 23, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

The right to make my dreams come true,
    I ask, nay, I demand of life,
Nor shall fate’s deadly contraband
Impede my steps, nor countermand;

Too long my heart against the ground
Has beat the dusty years around,
And now at length I rise! I wake!
And stride into the morning break!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 20, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

The weather is rude today, too full of good
color and cheer, and makes me want to be out
of here, out of the interior time pandemic time
trauma has made me. I would sing as the canary
passes gently thru the break of my vision; I would
listen as the cat’s ear stings patiently at its Lord;
I would gorge deeply on my own fruit’s womb;
I would entomb blind joy in its spell: et benedictus
fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Iesus is us, and he isn’t,
anymore than Byzantine raised halos and bronze
disease is us, and they are—though most I enjoy
these hiccups come also witty with the breast, with
the breath, in the idea disease, ease, and that we
might just be metal too close together that will infect
each other, brother, brother, sister, sister, sister,
brother, comma, comma, trans—with revision then,
reglistening, which is love, becaused.

Copyright © 2021 by Rickey Laurentiis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 16, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved;
       Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof
       Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest
       Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.

Then at the inn I had food, fire, and rest,
       Knowing how hungry, cold, and tired was I.
       All of the night was quite barred out except
       An owl’s cry, a most melancholy cry

Shaken out long and clear upon the hill,
       No merry note, nor cause of merriment,
       But one telling me plain what I escaped
       And others could not, that night, as in I went.

And salted was my food, and my repose,
       Salted and sobered, too, by the bird’s voice
       Speaking for all who lay under the stars,
       Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.

This poem is in the public domain.

Can a simple dress become a coping mechanism?
            —NPR August 18, 2020

So many years of misguided self-reflection,
examining every curve in the mirror! Alone,
locked down, I buy online three ice blue
nightgowns I discover I can live in. I glide
through living room, dining room, hall, off the floor
slightly; like the great opera stars of the 20th century,
I’m dressed for singing! My kitchen becomes the stage
of the Met. Cutting the garlic, my hand floats, my
large self floats; I breathe in & out, completely;
the blue nightgown floating around my ankles.

Copyright © 2021 by Toi Derricotte. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 11, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Some days I am happy to be no one
The shifting grasses

In the May winds are miraculous enough
As they ripple through the meadow of lupine

The field as iridescent as a Renaissance heaven
& do you see that boy with his arms raised

Like one of Raphael’s angels held within
This hush & this pause & the sky’s lapis expanse?

That boy is my son & I am his only father
Even when I am no one

Copyright © David St. John. Used with permission of the author.

You ask me for a poem about love 
in place of a wedding present, trying to save me 
money.  For three nights I’ve lain 
under glow-in-the-dark stars I’ve stuck to the ceiling 
over my bed.  I’ve listened to the songs 
of the galaxy.  Well, Carmen, I would rather 
give you your third set of steak knives 
than tell you what I know.  Let me find you 
some other, store-bought present.  Don’t  
make me warn you of stars, how they see us 
from that distance as miniature and breakable 
from the bride who tops the wedding cake 
to the Mary on Pinto dashboards 
holding her ripe, red heart in her hands.     

Copyright © Beth Ann Fennelly. Used with permission of the author.

for Maya

We meet at a coffee shop. So much time has passed and who is time? Who is waiting by the windowsill? We make plans to go to a museum but we go to a bookshop instead. We’re leaning in, learning how to talk to each other again. I say, I’m obsessed with my grief and she says, I’m always in mourning. She laughs and it’s an extension of her body. She laughs and it moves the whole room. I say, My home is an extension of my body and she says, Most days are better with a long walk. The world moves without us—so we tend to a garden, a graveyard, a pot on the windowsill. Death is a comfort because it says, Transform but don’t hurry. There is a tenderness to growing older and we are listening for it. Steadier ways to move through the world and we are learning them. A way to touch your own body. A touch that says, Dig deeper. There, in the ground, there is our memory. I am near enough my roots. Time is my friend. Tomorrow is a place we are together.

Copyright © 2021 by Sanna Wani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

In winter traffic, fog of midday
shoves toward our machines—snow eclipses
the mountainscapes

I drive toward, keeping time against
the urge to quit moving. I refuse to not
know how not to, wrestling

out loud to music, as hovering me—automatic
engine, watching miles of sky on the fall—loves such
undoing, secretly, adding fuel to

what undoes the ozone, the endless nothing
manifested as sinkholes under permafrost.
Refusal, indecision—an arctic

undoing of us, interrupting cascades—
icy existences. I cannot drive through.

Copyright © 2020 by Khadijah Queen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 11, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Silence with you is like the faint delicious
Smile of a child asleep, in dreams unguessed:
Only the hinted wonder of its dreaming, 
The soft, slow-breathing miracle of rest. 
Silence with you is like a kind departure
From iron clangor and the engulfing crowd
Into a wide and greenly barren meadow, 
Under the bloom of some blue-bosomed cloud;
Or like one held upon the sands at evening, 
When the drawn tide rolls out, and the mixed light 
Of sea and sky enshrouds the far, wind-bellowed
Sails that move darkly on the edge of night.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 10, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

My family never stopped migrating. We fight
so hard. With each other and ourselves. Don’t
talk about that. Not now. There is never
a good time and I learn that songs are the only
moments that last forever. But my mother
always brings me the instant coffee my
dede drank before he died. She wraps it
so carefully in a plastic bag from the market
that we go to when Caddebostan feels unreachable.
We don’t talk about that. Or the grief.
Or my short hair. I want to know what
dede would have said. I want to know that he
can feel the warm wind too if he tried.
We fight so hard. We open the tops of
each other’s heads and watch the birds
fly out. We still don’t talk about my dede.

Copyright © 2021 by beyza ozer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 6, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.