To everything, there is a season of parrots. Instead of feathers, we searched the sky for meteors on our last night.  Salamanders use the stars to find their way home. Who knew they could see that far, fix the tiny beads of their eyes on distant arrangements of lights so as to return to wet and wild nests? Our heads tilt up and up and we are careful to never look at each other. You were born on a day of peaches splitting from so much rain and the slick smell of fresh tar and asphalt pushed over a cracked parking lot. You were strong enough—even as a baby—to clutch a fistful of thistle and the sun himself was proud to light up your teeth when they first swelled and pushed up from your gums. And this is how I will always remember you when we are covered up again: by the pale mica flecks on your shoulders. Some thrown there from your own smile. Some from my own teeth. There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night. I want to spread those little meteors on a hunk of still-warm bread this winter. Any trace left on the knife will make a kitchen sink like that evening air

the cool night before
star showers: so sticky so
warm so full of light
 

Copyright © 2017 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 7, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Mountains, a moment’s earth-waves rising and hollowing; the earth too’s an ephemerid; the stars—
Short-lived as grass the stars quicken in the nebula and dry in their summer, they spiral
Blind up space, scattered black seeds of a future; nothing lives long, the whole sky’s
Recurrences tick the seconds of the hours of the ages of the gulf before birth, and the gulf
After death is like dated: to labor eighty years in a notch of eternity is nothing too tiresome,
Enormous repose after, enormous repose before, the flash of activity.
Surely you never have dreamed the incredible depths were prologue and epilogue merely
To the surface play in the sun, the instant of life, what is called life? I fancy
That silence is the thing, this noise a found word for it; interjection, a jump of the breath at that silence;
Stars burn, grass grows, men breathe: as a man finding treasure says ‘Ah!’ but the treasure’s the essence;
Before the man spoke it was there, and after he has spoken he gathers it, inexhaustible treasure.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

(at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

From Quilting: Poems 1987–1990 by Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 2001 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with permission of BOA Editions Ltd. All rights reserved.

Now that we have come out of hiding,
Why would we live again in the tombs we’d made out of our     souls?

And the sundered bodies that we’ve reassembled
With prayers and consolations,
What would their torn parts be, other than flesh?

Now that we have tasted hope
And dressed each other’s wounds with the legends of our
     oneness
Would we not prefer to close our mouths forever shut
On the wine that swilled inside them?

Having dreamed the same dream,
Having found the water behind a thousand mirages,
Why would we hide from the sun again
Or fear the night sky after we’ve reached the ends of
     darkness,
Live in death again after all the life our dead have given         us?

Listen to me Zow’ya, Beida, Ajdabya, Tobruk, Nalut,
Listen to me Derna, Musrata, Benghazi, Zintan,
Listen to me houses, alleys, courtyards, and streets that
     throng my veins,
Some day soon, in your freed light, in the shade of your
     proud trees,
Your excavated heroes will return to their thrones in your
     martyrs’ squares,
Lovers will hold each other’s hands.

I need not look far to imagine the nerves dying,
Rejecting the life that blood sends them.
I need not look deep into my past to seek a thousand         hopeless vistas.
But now that I have tasted hope
I have fallen into the embrace of my own rugged          innocence.

How long were my ancient days?
I no longer care to count.
I no longer care to measure.
How bitter was the bread of bitterness?
I no longer care to recall.

Now that we have tasted hope, this hard-earned crust,
We would sooner die than seek any other taste to life,
Any other way of being human.

Copyright © 2012 by Khaled Mattawa. From Beloit Poetry Journal, Split This Rock Edition. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

                                  it  used  to  be  that  i  would  write  to  enact  a
                                  desire  for  isolation.  it  was  a  way  to  say.   i
                                  want  to  be  left  alone.  to  my  thoughts.  with
                                  my words.  i  want you to leave me alone.  cant
                                  you see  that im trying.  im trying  to write.  im
                                  thirsty. im  writing  these  words to quench my
                                  thirst.  i  write alone in the hopes  that i  would
                                  write  myself into exhaustion.  into sleep.  i did
                                  just that. and that  was  when  you came to me.
                                  carrying   water   in   your  mouth.  you  leaned
                                  into.   you  passed  it   along   from   mouth   to
                                  mouth.  our  lips  did not touch. this was not  a
                                  kiss.  a kiss would not  have led me  here.  you
                                  woke  me  from  sleep by  quenching my  thirst.
                                  this  lasted  but  a  minute.  i  am  thirsty  again.
                                  today  im  writing.  its  usually to someone.  im
                                  writing  something. i  want  to hear it read  out
                                  loud.   i  want to see it on a page,   in a book.   i
                                  want to see you inside  these words.  where are
                                  you. i am thirsty. how are you.

Copyright © 2022 by Truong Tran. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 4, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

For Stella

I dreamt we were already there.
Some things were right
and some were not.

And somehow Tuesday
was Wednesday
was Monday again.

I slept then woke
and then fell asleep again
and when I slept again

I dreamt we were already there.
Things were right some
and were some not.

My father died yesterday, she said.
Yesterday, some things were and.
Today some are not.

Copyright © 2018 Lynley Edmeades. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Summer 2018. Used with permission of the author.

begins on edges of highways

where the sun raises its swollen belly,
grasses outgrow themselves,
vineyards wither their nerves.

The sun cracks the dashboard,
slithers between rows of eucalyptus, juniper,
rolls along the wheels of trucks.

Past crows that caw, pod atop railroad crossings,
the engine cranks its monotonous pulse, distracts me
from posted signs, the yellow snake that guides me along.

This is where I find reasons to question the living,

my father’s face held
in his hands, his brows etched
in the stained glass of the missions,

my mother’s sacrifice dwelling
in deserted turnpikes, her eyes
gazing from overgrown orchards.

Trees disappear. Dried brush crumbles
into camel’s fur. In the distance, no horizon,
but tumbleweed large as sheep.

This is where I am when the world has closed its ears,

alongside rusted tractors, abandoned fruit stands,
roaming for hours, nothing but barbed-wire fences,
nothing but the smells of harvest and gasoline.

The road matters more than the earth,
more than those on the road, it turns
into a spine, ladder of teeth and bone.

In the passenger seat, my grandmother’s ghost
holds a palm full of seeds, scatters them
skyward for the crows to eat.

All of it behind us now. She tells me
not to tangle my nerves, not to stop
the creed of the open road—

nothing that runs can stay the same.

Copyright © 2011 Lory Bedikian. This poem originally appeared in The Book of Lamenting (Anhinga Press, 2011). Used with permission of the author.

 

begins on edges of highways

where the sun raises its swollen belly,
grasses outgrow themselves,
vineyards wither their nerves.

The sun cracks the dashboard,
slithers between rows of eucalyptus, juniper,
rolls along the wheels of trucks.

Past crows that caw, pod atop railroad crossings,
the engine cranks its monotonous pulse, distracts me
from posted signs, the yellow snake that guides me along.

This is where I find reasons to question the living,

my father’s face held
in his hands, his brows etched
in the stained glass of the missions,

my mother’s sacrifice dwelling
in deserted turnpikes, her eyes
gazing from overgrown orchards.

Trees disappear. Dried brush crumbles
into camel’s fur. In the distance, no horizon,
but tumbleweed large as sheep.

This is where I am when the world has closed its ears,

alongside rusted tractors, abandoned fruit stands,
roaming for hours, nothing but barbed-wire fences,
nothing but the smells of harvest and gasoline.

The road matters more than the earth,
more than those on the road, it turns
into a spine, ladder of teeth and bone.

In the passenger seat, my grandmother’s ghost
holds a palm full of seeds, scatters them
skyward for the crows to eat.

All of it behind us now. She tells me
not to tangle my nerves, not to stop
the creed of the open road—

nothing that runs can stay the same.

Copyright © 2011 Lory Bedikian. This poem originally appeared in The Book of Lamenting (Anhinga Press, 2011). Used with permission of the author.

 

Because the smallness of our being
is our only greatness.

Because one night I was in a room
listening until only one heart beat.

Because in these last years I’ve
worn and worn and nearly worn out
my black funeral shoes.

Because the gesture of after words
means the same thing no matter
who speaks them.
Because faith belief forever
are only words, no matter.
Because matter disappears
always and eventually.
Because action is not matter
but energy
that spent, changes being.

And if death, too, is a change of being
perhaps action counts.
And if death is a land of unknowing,
perhaps we do well to live with uncertainty.
And if death is a forested land,
it would be good to learn trees.
And if death is a kingdom,
it would be good to practice service.
And if death is a foreign state
we should loosen allegiance to this one.
And if the soul leaves our body
then we must rehearse goodbye.

Originally published in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Issue 54. Copyright © 2014 by Kimberly Blaeser. Used with the permission of the author.

I’m here, on the dark porch, restyled in my mother’s chair.
10:45 and no moon.
Below the house, car lights
Swing down, on the canyon floor, to the sea.

In this they resemble us,
Dropping like match flames through the great void
Under our feet.
In this they resemble her, burning and disappearing.

Everyone’s gone
And I’m here, sizing the dark, saving my mother’s seat.

From China Trace. Copyright © 1977 by Charles Wright. Courtesy of Charles Wright and Wesleyan University Press.

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light. 
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves, 
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows, 
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine 
and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.

Excerpted from The Late Hour by Mark Strand. Copyright © 2002 by Mark Strand. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.