How again today our patron star
whose ancient vista is the long view
turns its wide brightness now and here:
Below, we loll outdoors, sing & make fire.
We build no henge
but after our swim, linger
by the pond. Dapples flicker
pine trunks by the water.
Buzz & hum & wing & song combine.
Light builds a monument to its passing.
Frogs content themselves in bullish chirps,
on thimbleberries fall, peeper toads
Apex. The throaty world sings ripen.
Our grove slips past the sun’s long kiss.
We head home in other starlight.
Our earthly time is sweetening from this.
Copyright © 2015 by Tess Taylor. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 19, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
The squall sweeps gray-winged across the obliterated hills,
And the startled lake seems to run before it;
From the wood comes a clamor of leaves,
Tugging at the twigs,
Pouring from the branches,
And suddenly the birds are still.
Thunder crumples the sky,
Lightning tears at it.
And now the rain!
The wind, reveling in the confusion of great pines!
And a silver sifting of light,
A sense of summer anger passing,
Of summer gentleness creeping nearer—
This poem is in the public domain.
(Poem on the Occasion of the Centenary of the National Park Service)
The pendulous branches of the Norway spruce slowly move
as though approving our gentle walk in Woodstock,
and the oak leaves yellowing this early morning
fall in the parking lot of Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller.
We hear beneath our feet their susurrus
as the churning of wonder, found, too, in the eyes of a child
who has just sprinted toward a paddock of Jersey cows.
The fate of the land is the fate of man.
Some have never fallen in love with a river of grass
or rested in the dignity of the Great Blue Heron
standing alone, saint-like, in a marshland nor envied
the painted turtle sunning on a log, nor thanked as I have,
the bobcat for modeling how to navigate dynasties of snow,
for he survives in both forests and imaginations
away from the dark hands of developers and myths of profits.
The fate of the land is the fate of man.
Some are called to praise as holy, hillocks, ponds, and brooks,
to renew the sacred contract of live things everywhere,
the cold pensive roamings of clouds above Mount Tom,
to extol silkworm and barn owls, gorges and vales,
the killdeer, egret, tern, and loon; some must rest
at the sandbanks, in deep wilderness, by a lagoon,
estuaries or floodplain, standing in the way of the human storm:
the fate of the land is the fate of man.
Copyright © 2016 by Major Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 15, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.
O day—if I could cup my hands and drink of you,
And make this shining wonder be
A part of me!
O day! O day!
You lift and sway your colors on the sky
Till I am crushed with beauty. Why is there
More of reeling sunlit air
Than I can breathe? Why is there sound
In silence? Why is a singing wound
About each hour?
And perfume when there is no flower?
O day! O Day! How may I press
Nearer to loveliness?
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 22, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
for Tarfia and Fita
The rabbit has a funny set of tools. He jumps.
or kicks. muffled and punching up. In pose
the rabbit knows, each side of his face to whom.
he should belong. He hobbles and eyes. This
is the dumb bun allegiance. This bunny, even dry and fluff
is aware, be vicious. will bite down your finger stalk.
will nick you good in the cheery web of your palm.
Those claws are good for traction. and defense.
This bunny, forgive him. There is no ease. His lack
of neck is all the senses about a stillness.
stuck in a calm. until household numbers upend
his floor. until the family upsets the nest
and traipses off. Then stuck in a bunny panic.
We each stab at gratitude. In our nubbing, none
of us do well. We jump. We kangaroo. We soft seeming,
scatter and gnaw. Maybe the only way forward
is to sleep all day. one eye open. under the sink.
Like the rabbit, we could sit in our shit.
Chew at the leaf of others’ dinner. Make
of each tile on the floor a good spot to piss. No,
it doesn’t get much better. And like the rabbit
we do not jump well from heights. We linger the dark
until it is safe to come out. To offer a nose.
a cheek for touch. the top of a crown. Nothing
makes us happier than another rabbit.
Copyright © 2020 by francine j. harris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 26, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Between me and the noise of strife
Are walls of mountains set with pine;
The dusty, care-strewn paths of life
Lead not to this retreat of mine.
I hear the morning wind awake
Beyond the purple height,
And, in the growing light,
The lap of lilies on the lake.
I live with Echo and with Song,
And Beauty leads me forth to see
Her temple’s colonnades, and long
Together do we love to be.
The mountains wall me in, complete,
And leave me but a bit blue
Above. All year, the days are sweet—
How sweet! And all the long nights thro’
I hear the river flowing by
Along its sandy bars;
Behold, far in the midnight sky,
An infinite of stars!
‘Tis sweet, when all is still,
When darkness gathers round,
To hear, from hill to hill,
The far, the wandering sound.
The cedar and the pine
Have pitched their tents with me.
What freedom vast is mine!
What room! What mystery!
Upon the dreamy southern breeze,
That steals in like a laden bee
And sighs for rest among the trees,
Are far-blown bits of melody.
What afterglows the twilight hold,
The darkening skies along!
And O, what rose-like dawns unfold,
That smite the hills to song!
High in the solitude of air,
The gray hawk circles on and on,
Till, like a spirit soaring there,
His image pales and he is gone!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 26, 2020.
after Matthew Olzmann
Oh button, don’t go thinking we loved pianos
more than elephants, air conditioning more than air.
We loved honey, just loved it, and went into stores
to smell the sweet perfume of unworn leather shoes.
Did you know, on the coast of Africa, the Sea Rose
and Carpenter Bee used to depend on each other?
The petals only opened for the Middle C their wings
beat, so in the end, we protested with tuning forks.
You must think we hated the stars, the empty ladles,
because they conjured thirst. We didn’t. We thanked
them and called them lucky, we even bought the rights
to name them for our sweethearts. Believe it or not,
most people kept plants like pets and hired kids
like you to water them, whenever they went away.
And ice! Can you imagine? We put it in our coffee
and dumped it out at traffic lights, when it plugged up
our drinking straws. I had a dog once, a real dog,
who ate venison and golden yams from a plastic dish.
He was stubborn, but I taught him to dance and play
dead with a bucket full of chicken livers. And we danced
too, you know, at weddings and wakes, in basements
and churches, even when the war was on. Our cars
we mostly named for animals, and sometimes we drove
just to drive, to clear our heads of everything but wind.
Copyright © 2020 J.P. Grasser. Originally published in American Poets vol. 58. Distributed by the Academy of American Poets.
The birds were louder this morning,
raucous, oblivious, tweeting their teensy bird-brains out.
It scared me, until I remembered it’s Spring.
How do they know it? A stupid question.
Thank you, birdies. I had forgotten how promise feels.
Copyright © 2015 by Michael Ryan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 4, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
Most likely, you think we hated the elephant,
the golden toad, the thylacine and all variations
of whale harpooned or hacked into extinction.
It must seem like we sought to leave you nothing
but benzene, mercury, the stomachs
of seagulls rippled with jet fuel and plastic.
You probably doubt that we were capable of joy,
but I assure you we were.
We still had the night sky back then,
and like our ancestors, we admired
its illuminated doodles
of scorpion outlines and upside-down ladles.
Absolutely, there were some forests left!
Absolutely, we still had some lakes!
I’m saying, it wasn’t all lead paint and sulfur dioxide.
There were bees back then, and they pollinated
a euphoria of flowers so we might
contemplate the great mysteries and finally ask,
“Hey guys, what’s transcendence?”
And then all the bees were dead.
Copyright © 2017 by Matthew Olzmann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Beneath heaven’s vault
remember always walking
through halls of cloud
down aisles of sunlight
or through high hedges
of the green rain
walk in the world
highheeled with swirl of cape
hand at the swordhilt
of your pride
Keep a tall throat
Remain aghast at life
Enter each day
as upon a stage
lighted and waiting
for your step
Crave upward as flame
have keenness in the nostril
Give your eyes
to agony or rapture
Train your hands
as birds to be
brooding or nimble
Move your body
as the horses
sweeping on slender hooves
over crag and prairie
with fleeing manes
and aloofness of their limbs
Take earth for your own large room
and the floor of the earth
carpeted with sunlight
and hung round with silver wind
for your dancing place
Lark of my house,
this little lark says hi
to the rain—she calls
river as she slaps
the air with both wings—
she doesn’t know pine
from ash or cedar
from linden—she greets
drizzle & downpour
know iceberg from melt—
can’t say sea level
doesn’t know wildfire—
tax or emission—
does not legislate
a fear she can’t yet
feel—only knows cats
& birds & small dogs
& the sway of some
tall trees make her squeal
with delight—it shakes
her tiny body—
this thrill of the live
the taste of wild blue-
berries on her tongue—
the ache of thorn-prick
from blackberry bush—
oh dear girl—look here—
there’s so much to save—
horizon’s pink hue—
we gather lifetimes
on one small petal—
the river’s our friend—
the world: an atom—
name for: hope—rain—change
begins when you hail
the sky sun & wind
the verdure inside
your heart’s four chambers
even garter snakes
and unnamed insects
in the underbrush
as you would a love
that rivers: hi—hi
Copyright © 2020 by Dante Di Stefano. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 9, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
A rabbit has stopped on the gravel driveway:
imbibing the silence,
you stare at spruce needles:
there’s no sound of a leaf blower,
no sign of a black bear;
a few weeks ago, a buck scraped his rack
against an aspen trunk;
a carpenter scribed a plank along a curved stone wall.
You only spot the rabbit’s ears and tail:
when it moves, you locate it against speckled gravel,
but when it stops, it blends in again;
the world of being is like this gravel:
you think you own a car, a house,
this blue-zigzagged shirt, but you just borrow these things.
Yesterday, you constructed an aqueduct of dreams
and stood at Gibraltar,
but you possess nothing.
Snow melts into a pool of clear water;
and, in this stillness,
starlight behind daylight wherever you gaze.
Copyright © 2016 by Arthur Sze. Used with permission of the author.
I thought it was the neighbor’s cat back
to clean the clock of the fledgling robins low
in their nest stuck in the dense hedge by the house
but what came was much stranger, a liquidity
moving all muscle and bristle. A groundhog
slippery and waddle thieving my tomatoes still
green in the morning’s shade. I watched her
munch and stand on her haunches taking such
pleasure in the watery bites. Why am I not allowed
delight? A stranger writes to request my thoughts
on suffering. Barbed wire pulled out of the mouth,
as if demanding that I kneel to the trap of coiled
spikes used in warfare and fencing. Instead,
I watch the groundhog closer and a sound escapes
me, a small spasm of joy I did not imagine
when I woke. She is a funny creature and earnest,
and she is doing what she can to survive.
Copyright © 2020 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.