Cyrus, always I try to put my soul
into building a guitar,
here on Cuesta de Gomerez,
full of sovereign guitar-makers,
street slanting up to an arch
of the colossal Alhambra.
What I worship is the feeling of the wood
in my hardworking hands,
wood selected and dried
for a three-decade minimum,
so I’m refining Mediterranean
or Canadian cypress,
Macassar ebony, and Lebanese cedar
that my paternal grandfather chose,
Abuelo Leonel who perished
the Satan-hot August
right before I was born
into a dynasty of on-fire
flamenco musicians and dancers.
Imagine, a top notch guitar
means perhaps a hundred hours
of dedicated labor, and, so help me,
I don’t work by the clock—
Sometimes it costs me
most of a day to adjust
the nitty-gritty strings and frets,
to insure the vigorous, brave sound
we’re famous for in Granada:
due to the vega’s dry air,
instruments from the Andalusian school
are (no doubt about it!) lighter,
distinctive—like a palace starling
or a peerless voice
that gently breathes and sings
in a stone basilica on Sunday morning—
acoustic splendor and tone to rival
the able makers in Madrid—
At the fabled Moorish citadel’s hem,
I bring my busy-as-hell hands
to the timeless task of planing
and judge the thickness
of my newly launched guitars
with my tried-and-true fingers.
The tradition, I tell you, is to present
your very first guitar as a gift
to the regal, lullaby-whispering woman
who latched you to this bustling,
Oh what an exhilarating day
when my never-fail mother, Primavera,
carefully inspected my first ever piece,
proclaiming (almost singing it!):
Copyright © 2022 by Cyrus Cassells. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
Ocean, every so often, a kitchen tile or child’s toy
rises from you, years after the hurricane’s passed.
This time, the disaster was somewhere else.
The disaster was always somewhere else, until it wasn’t.
Punctuation of the morning after: comma between red sky
and sailors’ warning; white space where a storm cloud lowers.
Where the bay breaks away, the sentence ends: a waning
crescent of peninsula, barely visible
but for the broken buildings, the ambulance lights.
Ocean, even now, even shaken, you hold the memory
of words, of worlds that failed slowly, then all at once. A
flotilla of gulls falls onto you, mourners draped in slate.
Copyright © 2022 by Liza Katz Duncan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 30, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
“the ones who live in the desert,
if you knew them
you would understand everything.”
coming to the desert for the first time
and the night turns over a millennia before you
just say the name mountain
of mountains—make more
out of bird formations or drainage pipes
deserts build water
so drink the lightning
so you have been here for some time
velvet ants and paper wasps testify
sandstone bones are left long under sage
bones sculpted by sand—sand that collects its legs
in the atmospheric heat to storm and swallow
an entire city—a city that too builds its water
from fly ash—drink from that now
the cactus wren finished the lightning
there are those who come to the desert
because they have always been here
wind coyotes grow thorns
in the inches of light sunsets have
of mountains—do not make a mountain
reach for one and let it turn away from you
Originally published by 92Y. Copyright © 2020 by Jake Skeets. Used with the permission of the poet.
Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
“Remember.” Copyright © 1983 by Joy Harjo from She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
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.
My native tongue doesn’t allow
imperfect tense, so it’s difficult
to say how something might used
to happen but no more. Elizabeth
used to walk among these trees.
She used to walk among these trees
but doesn’t anymore. Elizabeth
is no more though she used to be.
She doesn’t anymore but she used
to walk among these trees because
she used to be happy but only
for a short while before she descended
in despair. Elizabeth we could say
used to walk among these trees
because they made her happy.
Elizabeth used to be but no more.
Copyright © 2022 by Michael Simms. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 20, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
The lights across the water are the waking city.
The water shimmers with imaginary fish.
Not far from here lie the bones of conifers
washed from the sea and piled by wind.
Some mornings I walk upon them,
bone to bone, as far as the lighthouse.
A strange beetle has eaten most of the trees.
It may have come here on the ships playing
music in the harbor, or it was always here, a winged
jewel, but in the past was kept still by the cold
of a winter that no longer comes.
There is an owl living in the firs behind us, but he is white,
meant to be mistaken for snow burdening a bough.
They say he is the only owl remaining. I hear him at night
listening for the last of the mice and asking who of no other owl.
From In the Lateness of the World by Carolyn Forché, published by Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2020 by Carolyn Forché.
I woke to rapid flapping, the air cold
the time unknown. The dog’s paws tapping
on chill hardwood floor. Sudden
commotion. Jumping to corral what was
assumed to be an animal fight, I find
a California Towhee in my dining room.
Frantic, frightened. Brisk movement in her
wings making the room that much more frigid.
I stammer to her. Follow her room to room
as she attempts to fly her way out of walls
until she finally calms, allowing me to cup her
into my hands. We sit together outside
on a frosty concrete step. My bare feet
settling on top of wet fall leaves, gathering
the taste of morning in my mouth, the scent
of rain and dirt. She catches her breath.
My thumb softly wrapped around her chest
feeling her heart rate regulating, her eyes opening,
her fear receding. Leaves rustle, wind and traffic
move along while she and I watch each other
in a place where time moves slower than the rest
of the world. Her eyelids the color of peach
and terracotta. Her body the rusty hue of autumn.
Her eyes the same shade as mine, dark as loam.
I flatten my hand. She doesn’t move. We sit
together for what seems like hours. What seems
like fate when safety is reciprocated. Ten minutes
later she flies, stops on a dog-eared picket
and looks back. The dog quietly watches me.
How I love and let go all at once.
Copyright © Georgina Marie Guardado. Used with permission of the author.
But why wouldn’t geometry equal divinity
1000 + 1 + 1 + 1 What is faith
but trust in one & infinity Once
in Granada I studied a wall of polygons
or was it stars or bees or for a second a flash
of gladiolas in a field until I could see
a galaxy planets spinning spokes on a wheel
clocks or buttons vines blooming a tornado
from a future century garden of ellipses
my lover’s cornea alight each morning
God so far away & right in front of me
Copyright © 2022 by Sahar Romani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 27, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
I’m climbing out of this season, fingernails ragged, belly soft. I tuck a stem of dried mint behind my ear to remind myself.
Once, I bared my shoulders. The bottom of my feet roughed up the dirt with their hard calluses. When I harvested arugula, it smelled of green spice—alchemical veins pulsing sun and dirt and water. I do remember this. I pinned summer light up in my hair and made no apologies for the space I took up—barely clothed and sun-bound.
Now, a ball of twine in the grey sky. The sun rolls low on the horizon. Hangs. Then dips back down again, wind howling us into night.
Inside the erratic rhythm of this wavering flame, I conjure the potent sky of the longest day. Seeds with a whole galaxy inside them. Cicadas vibrating in the alders.
But the sensation of joy slips too quickly into simulacra. Song on repeat. I never meant to find myself in such a cold place, my hair thinning against winter.
Once, red clover grew thick where today’s rabbit tracks pattern the snow. Clover said flow, clover said nourish, clover said we’ve got this.
I reel the memory out, let it linger on the horizon, then reel it back in. I play it out and reel it back in. Some kind of fishing, some kind of flying—again and again. I loosen the buckles of my mind. I take up space in the precision of my breath. I call us all back in.
Copyright © 2022 by Tamiko Beyer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 31, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
They’re not like peaches or squash.
Plumpness isn’t for them. They like
being lean, as if for the narrow
path. The beans themselves sit qui-
etly inside their green pods. In-
stinctively one picks with care,
never tearing down the fine vine,
never noticing their crisp bod-
ies, or feeling their willingness for
the pot, for the fire.
I have thought sometimes that
something—I can’t name it—
watches as I walk the rows, accept-
ing the gift of their lives to assist
I know what you think: this is fool-
ishness. They’re only vegetables.
Even the blossoms with which they
begin are small and pale, hardly sig-
nificant Our hands, or minds, our
feet hold more intelligence. With
this I have no quarrel.
But, what about virtue?
“Beans” by Mary Oliver. Reprinted by the permission of The Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency as agent for the author. Copyright © Mary Oliver 2004 with permission of Bill Reichblum
after William Carlos Williams’s “Queen-Anne’s-Lace”
Remote purple lays claim to stem,
beside routine stripes of green and brown.
Dark as a patch of shade
in the marsh across the path
that the neighborhood kids and I,
were forbidden to pass. It is
that hue that overtakes,
the marsh that sucks in boots
and offers up skunk cabbage and cattails.
Nests here and overhead. Who named this plant—
also called bog onion, brown dragon, Indian turnip, wake robin,
and who told me I cannot name. But
his purple—all shadow, all remote and not-remote,
all question marks,
This herbaceous perennial, growing from corm
vertical and swollen as it is underground.
Even in late summer, it is not nothing, William
turning from purple to red before his scattering.
Copyright © 2016 by Kimiko Hahn. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 28, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
I’ve been somewhere. My mind struggles to remember the cornfields and fruit trees blooming like a young woman’s body and the place where my brothers built the shade house for our sister’s marriage beneath the slender moon where my mother wove her last blanket.
I’ve walked this empty road before in the month of the big harvest when The People left the canyon with wagons loaded with peaches and corn to take to relatives and to trade with our neighbors who live on the high windy mesas.
I am returning to the red rocks that once cradled us and from whose arms we were torn when death marched in, surrounded us, and slaughtered everything that we loved.
I am the kidnapped one and survived to escape the enemy who feared our graceful lives because we know that Beauty cannot be captured with words or jails.
I hold nothing in my hands except the lines that tell my fate. I long for the comfort of my mother’s stories, cooking, anything. How she roasted mutton ribs crispy and salty. Her stories of my Amazon grandmothers who claimed and discarded husbands like ashes.
Dust clouds billow beneath my bare feet. The ground feels familiar, and I walk easily on the sand that flows from the mouth of the canyon. A crow glides a new pattern in the wake of grief’s echoes.
Thick black ants watch Earth-Surface child return. “Ahhh,” they say, “leave this one alone; she is returning from that place
Copyright © 2005 by Laura Tohe. This poem originally appeared in Southern Griot. Used with permission of the author