The bride tree puts down its roots
below the phyla. It is there
when we die & when we are born,
middle & upper branches reaching
the planet heart by the billions
during a revolution we don’t see.

Quarks & leptons are cooling
on their infant stems, spinning the spinning
brain of matter, fled to electrical dark
water, species with names the tree
can hold in the shale shade brought
by the ambulance of art;

no one but you knows what occurred
in the dress you wore in the dream
of atonement, the displaced tree in
the dream you wore, a suffering endurable
only once, edges that sought release
from envy to a more endurable loss,

a form to be walked past, that has
outworn the shame of time,
its colors sprung through description
above a blaze of rhizomes spreading
in an arable mat that mostly
isn’t simple but is calm & free—

Copyright © 2013 by Brenda Hillman. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on October 28, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Give me the common or the rare, as they roll

We are mistaken in what we survive,
in what we must eliminate.

The ladies at the plate glass persist,
reviving their brutal martyrdoms,
worn thin by the abuse of soap,
the contour of teacups in unison

against smallpox, cosmetic agriculture,
and wartime rape. And a woman

they believe unrecognizable
as such.

She is given to volatility around faith.
Faith in where the unlivable gathers

like thistle,
like wild yeast's affinity for chance

where sexual impatience bursts from the sudden rise
like malady. And it is knee-deep

in mustard, in scattered hybrids
of deliberate imperfection.

Slice through against chronicle. Slip your thumb
under the seam where the signal tugs
forward. Pain,

where you grasp it,
is not what you don't want
any more

than an uncontaminated vat remains sterile,
and cannot

Be treated better,
Or promoted across palate.

Be perverse in your indifference to recommend
a local history. Keep the virus for study,
keep this loss of mime. I know

so little,

my arts are often mistaken
in their assemblies, their lambic filiations
among grain and tool. But

it is such hands
as mutate all along the breed,

And travelling against,
And loud.

From Ballast by Karen Houle. Copyright © 2000 by Karen Houle. Reprinted by permission of House of Anansi Press. All rights reserved.

Like love: first you pick up; then you lay down; then discard; then discard; then discard. That’s love. Right? Did somebody say Dominoes? The problem of a street game is you. You’re already doing it wrong. Doing it wrong before you wake up. Before you walk up the street. Cross the crowded corner. Case in point: When you reach the bones table, you stop. Stare. Consider. Count. Think: This is a lovely afternoon for a friendly game of dominoes! Call next. Figure they don’t hear. Call next again. You call louder. You call in Spanish. Then you walk (again, with the walking) into the bodega. Come out with four 40oz bottles. Suddenly somebody hears. Suddenly the smell of holes burning pockets. Suddenly, the game you watch ends. Like love. Right? Somebody?

Copyright © 2018 by Samiya Bashir. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.