(This poem’s about looking for the sage and not finding her)

Some say she moved in with her ex-girlfriend in Taiwan
Some say she went to Florida to wrestle alligators

Some say she went to Peach Blossom Spring
To drink tea with Tao Qian

Miho says she’s living in Calexico with three cats
And a gerbil named Max

Some say she’s just a shadow of the Great Society
A parody
Of what might-have-been

Rhea saw her stark raving mad
Between 23rd and the Avenue of the Americas
Wrapped in a flag!

I swear I saw her floating in a motel pool
Topless, on a plastic manatee, palms up

What in hell was she thinking?

What is poetry? What are stars?
Whence comes the end of suffering?

Copyright © 2020 by Marilyn Chin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 13, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

1.

My child wants to know if the mountains really cowered.

“How do you know when a sea or a river is afraid?

How do you know when the sky is thinking yes or no?

 

And why did Adam say yes—Did he know that

all the other creatures refused? Was he arrogant

or just ignorant? Was he God’s last choice?”

 

2.

“Did you really have a party the day the dictator died?

And you had a cake decorated with all the flags?

Did you think his death will fix everything?

 

Why did we spend all that time there?

Why couldn’t we just stay here?

Isn’t this our country too?

 

And all these people fleeing and drowning,

what are they hoping for? Whose fault is it?

How long must we wait for things to improve?”

 

3.

She speaks to me in our language

in front of her friends, to share a secret,

or—cool and beaming—to show off.

 

I wonder how long it will last, this pride,

this intimacy. Sometimes she puts her arm

next to mine and tells me I have the lighter skin.

 

“Why are you doing this,” I ask.

But she doesn’t point to the flag

or say, “It’s the way of the world.”

 

Instead she tells me not to worry, that she is “the most

kid kid in my class, the least mature one, Baba!”

Not all kinds of wisdom console, I tell her.

 

Then I begin to think of words she’ll soon hear

that can make her wish she wasn’t who she is.

Lead me to virtue, O love, through the smoke of despair.

 

4.

“Let’s walk through the woods,” she tells me.

“Let’s walk by the rocky shore at sunrise.”

“Let’s walk through the clover fields at noon.”

 

In the rainforest she is silent, mesmerized.

She’d never prayed—we never taught her—

but she seemed to then, eyes alert with joy.

 

She points to a chameleon the size of a beetle,

teaches me the names of flowers and trees,

insects we can eat if we’re ever lost here.

 

“I’m teaching you how to entrust the world

to me,” she says. “You don’t have to live

forever to shield me from it.”

Originally published in the Boston Review. Copyright © 2019 by Khaled Mattawa. Reprinted with the permission of the poet.

Wind and rain, here
are the keys
to the house—
a missing door,
two broken windows.

Birds, for you a room
with a view—the bedroom,
which once held
the moon and stars
out of sight.

Ants and worms,
such sad witnesses,
the grass uncut,
the yard overgrown
are again yours to inherit.

And you, the leaves whirling
across buckled floors,
please take
my father’s voice
whispering

May you live forever,
may you bury me.

Copyright © 2020 by Hayan Charara. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 25, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

2

Fairies begin their day by coming together a moment and sharing joy.

They love the feeling, which dew on the leaves draws from grass, lilacs and the response of meadow and flowers to the dawn.

Diminutive green sylphs now run in the grass, whose growth seems intimately associated with theirs, a single line of concentration.

They talk to themselves, constantly repeating, with an intensity causing their etheric doubles, grass, to vibrate as they pass, vivifying growth.

To rabbits and young children they’re visible, but I see points of light, tiny clouds of color and gleams of movement.

The lawn is covered with these flashes.

In low alyssums along a border, one exquisite, tiny being plays around stems, passing in and out of each bud.

She’s happy and feels much affection for the plants, which she regards as her own body.

The material of her actual body is loosely knit as steam or a colored gas, bright apple-green or yellow, and is very close to emotion.

Tenderness for plants shows as rose; sympathy for their growth and adaptability as flashes of emerald.

When she feels joy, her body responds all-over with a desire to be somewhere or do something for plants.

Hers is not a world of surfaces--skin, husks, bark with definite edges and identities.

Trees appear as columns of light melting into surroundings where form is discerned, but is glowing, transparent, mingling like breath.

She tends to a plant by maintaining fusion between the plant’s form and life-vitality contained within.

She works as part of nature’s massed intelligence to express the involution of awareness or consciousness into a form.

And she includes vitality, because one element of form is action.

Sprouting, branching, leafing, blossoming, crumbling to humus are all form to a fairy.

Copyright © 2013 by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on September 17, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Your little elbow
nudges the air

as the raindrops
line up and wait

to fall. I forget
who I was before

our windows floated
away revealing

our drawn-over
selves. Your shadow

kites above us
and whatever we say

forever hovers.
A tornado touches

gently down, black
lightning ignites

a butterfly’s skull.
Your fingers grip

the triggers of long
stemmed flowers

beneath the sky’s
television of rain

broadcasting two
smiling clouds.

Are they us? I ask.
They’re just clouds,

you say, then cut
yourself out.

Copyright © 2019 by Matt Rasmussen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 13, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets

As I’m walking on West Cliff Drive, a man runs
toward me pushing one of those jogging strollers
with shock absorbers so the baby can keep sleeping,
which this baby is. I can just get a glimpse
of its almost translucent eyelids. The father is young,
a jungle of indigo and carnelian tattooed
from knuckle to jaw, leafy vines and blossoms,
saints and symbols. Thick wooden plugs pierce
his lobes and his sunglasses testify
to the radiance haloed around him. I’m so jealous.
As I often am. It’s a kind of obsession.
I want him to have been my child’s father.
I want to have married a man who wanted
to be in a body, who wanted to live in it so much
that he marked it up like a book, underlining,
highlighting, writing in the margins, I was here.
Not like my dead ex-husband, who was always
fighting against the flesh, who sat for hours
on his zafu chanting om and then went out
and broke his hand punching the car.
I imagine when this galloping man gets home
he’s going to want to have sex with his wife,
who slept in late, and then he’ll eat
barbecued ribs and let the baby teethe on a bone
while he drinks a cold dark beer. I can’t stop
wishing my daughter had had a father like that.
I can’t stop wishing I’d had that life. Oh, I know
it’s a miracle to have a life. Any life at all.
It took eight years for my parents to conceive me.
First there was the war and then just waiting.
And my mother’s bones so narrow, she had to be slit
and I airlifted. That anyone is born,
each precarious success from sperm and egg
to zygote, embryo, infant, is a wonder.
And here I am, alive.
Almost seventy years and nothing has killed me.
Not the car I totalled running a stop sign
or the spirochete that screwed into my blood.
Not the tree that fell in the forest exactly
where I was standing—my best friend shoving me
backward so I fell on my ass as it crashed.
I’m alive.
And I gave birth to a child.
So she didn’t get a father who’d sling her
onto his shoulder. And so much else she didn’t get.
I’ve cried most of my life over that.
And now there’s everything that we can’t talk about.
We love—but cannot take
too much of each other.
Yet she is the one who, when I asked her to kill me
if I no longer had my mind—
we were on our way into Ross,
shopping for dresses. That’s something
she likes and they all look adorable on her—
she’s the only one
who didn’t hesitate or refuse
or waver or flinch.
As we strode across the parking lot
she said, O.K., but when’s the cutoff?
That’s what I need to know.

Originally published in The New Yorker. Copyright © 2017 by Ellen Bass. Used with the permission of the poet.

Blistered apple,
gold that molts

the eye & boils
animals in their caves.

I touch & touch

          & touch,

branding the hands
of each child.

A circle
of unmoored fury.

I see death all
around you—

          your phantomed self
          charred blue,

          cast against
          asphalt.

The body’s ash already
visible,

          unglittering
          in its cheap velvet.

Bow down
in the brilliance

          of your borrowed light.

Let me ignite
your end.

Copyright © 2017 by Hadara Bar-Nadav. “Sun” was published in The New Nudity (Saturnalia Books, 2017). Used with permission of the author.

 

Lovers in cartoons get into swan boats
before declaring their undying love,
but I’m terrified because have you seen
the wedding footage of the swan eating
the bride’s white dress, chasing her down the pond,
and we live in such a scary world
that the bird poems really aren’t helping,
because what good do they really do?
But what about my father growing up
in Macau, in Hong Kong, across too many
boarding schools in Asia to count,
one day going home to his mother,
a goose arrives at his bedroom window,
like a sign from a higher being.

And when I’m twenty-three, in Singapore,
I’m telling this story to a man
double my age—we’re greeted by pigeons—
and no, I don’t have daddy issues,
I’m just pouring my heart out
because that goose was my dad’s best friend,
because my grandma ended up
cooking that goose, because the man I’m dating
understands these old-school-Chinese-stiff-
upper-lip-we’re-poor-so-I’m-sorry-son
situations of survival,
because this same man wants me to write
about his father, but I don’t have time
to be someone else’s biographer

when I’m thinking of how my father
made sure we always had a family dog,
a Buzzie to keep us warm, take out
for Italian ice and custard trips,
how during the Pennsylvania winters,
my father would bring lost birds inside
the house and feed them milk to keep warm,
how growing up, we’d go to the park
every weekend to feed the ducks,
and back to Singapore, when I look down
at the pigeons interrupting my date,
starting a brawl over scone crumbs
in the middle of the coffee shop,
I can’t help but just look down, laugh at them.

Copyright © 2018 by Dorothy Chan. This poem originally appeared in Split Lip Magazine. Used with permission of the author.

Dad thinks my forehead is too Godzilla, too Tarzan, too Wonder Woman,
tells me not to tie my hair back,
exposing it, like it’s the Frankenstein Monster
from beneath my childhood bed,
or the mollusk that challenged the world,
and Dad, I love you, but you should know
that I’m a nightmare as a woman
who can make the earth stand still,
calling all UFOs from planets beyond
to paint me on canvas just as I am:
a Chinese girl nicknamed Yellow Fever,
chowing down on all the pork buns
and chicken biscuits and shrimp bánh mì,
at the buffet, and of course, all the men

as I star in my own B-movie, give it an XXX,
every girl’s dream of playing opposite
King Kong, and you know I’m not some Fay Wray type
who screams at the sight of a hand,
and Dad, I think about all the ape toys
you bought me when I was a child,
because you never wanted me to be alone,
never wanted me to go a day without
laughing or plotting, and did I mention
that you were born on Halloween
which makes me half evil—I’m joking,
but Dad, you’ve got to let me keep my forehead,
despite your old school Chinese beliefs
of girls hiding their warrior brains,
and I know you’re just looking out for me,

but my forehead has its own life,
like an invisible screen—one-way glass
where the ad men are watching the women
try on lipstick, but in my forehead
it’s the other way around, because let’s let
the boys play, and the girls watch for once,
because every lip could use a bit more
rouge, purple, crimson, burnt orange, hot pink,
how at once, I want to dress up
as a flight attendant, an accountant,
someone at the front of the class holding a ruler
and yes, if I fill out a survey
from a sex magazine, I’m checking off
forehead as my favorite body part.

© Copyright 2018 by Dorothy Chan. Used with the permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Quarterly West Issue 93.

Late afternoon, autumn equinox,
and my daughter and I
are at the table silently
eating fried eggs and muffins,
sharp cheese, and yesterday’s
rice warmed over. We put
our paper plates in the woodstove
and go outside:
                                 sunlight
fills the alders with
the geometries of long
blonde hair, and twin ravens
ride the rollercoasters
of warm September air
out, toward Protection Island.

Together, we enter the roughed-in
room beside our cabin
and begin our toil together:
she, cutting and stapling
insulation; I, cutting
and nailing the tight rows
of cedar. We work in a silence
broken only by occasional banter.
I wipe the cobwebs
from nooks and sills, working
on my knees as though this prayer
of labor could save me, as though
the itch of fiberglass
and sawdust were an answer
to some old incessant question
I never dare to remember.

And when the evening comes on
at last, cooling our arms
and faces, we stop
and stand back to assess
our work together.
                                 And I
remember the face
of my father climbing down
from a long wooden ladder
thirty years before. He
was a tall strong sapling
smelling of tar and leather,
his pate bald and burned
to umber by a sun
that blistered the Utah desert.
He strode the rows of coops
with a red cocker spaniel
and tousled boy-child
at his heel.
                         I turn to look
at my daughter: her mop
of blonde curls catches
the last trembling light
of the day, her lean body
sways with weariness. I try,
but cannot remember
the wisdom of fourteen years,
the pleasures of that
discovery. Eron smiles.

At the stove, we wash up
as the sun dies in a candle-flame.
A light breeze tears
the first leaves of autumn
from boughs that slowly darken.
A squirrel, enraged,
castigates the dog
for some inscrutable intrusion,
and Eron climbs the ladder
to her loft.
                         Suddenly
I am utterly alone,
I am a child
gazing up at a father, a father
looking down at his daughter.
A strange shudder
comes over me like a chill.
Is this what there is
to remember – the long days
roofing coops, the building
of rooms on a cabin, the in
significant meal? The shadows
of moments mean everything
and nothing, the dying
landscapes of remembered
human faces freeze
into a moment.
                         My room
was in the basement, was
knotty pine, back there,
in diamondback country.
The night swings over
the cold Pacific. I pour
a cup of coffee, heavy
in my bones. Soon, this fine
young woman will stare into
the face of her own son
or daughter, the years
gone suddenly behind her.
Will she remember only
the ache, the immense satisfaction
of that longing?
                         May she
be happy, filled
with the essential,
working in the twilight,
on her knees, at autumn equinox,
gathering the stories
of silence together,
preparing to meet the winter.

From Animae (Copper Canyon Press, 1981). Copyright © 1981 by Sam Hamill. Used with the permission of Eron Hamill.

Picture him amid the rust—hand tools, jars of screws,
bolts, half-useful wrenches—assembling miniature farm
wagons, windmills, trains, as if one day he would return.

And return he does—in the various and sundry nails,
boxes of brads, wood scraps, lengths of wire thick
with dust—as the waste not want not farmer.

Which fills you with regret: not spending more time,
not listening, not facing what you could not save.

Now, you empty the pegboard of worn saw blades,
the calendar with pig photos and corny quotes, toss
handles, staples, hinges, caulk, tape, string, metal, and

weep, knowing this is as close as you will ever be to him,
his world reduced to tinkering alone down in this city cave,
touching what his rough hands touched, his curiosities,

your father under a bare bulb sawing pieces of his last
unfinished project, a sea-faring ship, its instructions and
pattern carefully numbered and folded—the glued, carved,

and sanded basswood—as if he sensed this full-blown
final creation might help him sail across that ancient sea.

 From Rock * Tree * Bird (The Backwaters Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Twyla Hansen. Used with the permission of the author.

MEET KIRSTEN. Wears milkmaid braids to conserve her swedish past. Relinquished herself to assimilation at 8 after saying bye to her bff Singing Bird, whose tribe was forced off their land. “1854 was a wild year for me, guys. Cancel culture is real, but how could I disown my family for the racist things they say? How could I even point out that the things they say are racist? Like, how could I even say ‘Can you consider the words coming out of your mouth & never say them again?’” 

MEET MOLLY. Buys baguettes on mondays and wears a beret literally everywhere. Obsessed with hollywood films and harsh realities. Surprisingly patriotic despite her love of all things british, especially plaid. An expert on taking up space. When the trainer asks if anyone can define discrimination, she pulls out a legal pad “I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been discriminated against because I’m a woman. I write literally every instance down as proof. Exactly how many hours do we have?”

MEET SAMANTHA. 25-year-old well-meaning rule lover who enjoys progress and satin. Would like to be a painter or possibly the president of the united states of america. Out of the two AMA questions received before the training, both came from her. One for each black person she’s ever talked to in her life. “1) This is more of a comment than anything, but I don’t understand why I can’t be curious about Addy’s hair 2) Remind me again, what’s the difference between equality and equity?”

MEET FELICITY. Wears wide brim hats for horse races and can stitch the shit out of anything. Makes a mean southern sweet tea just like her mommy used to in the old virginia colony. When the diversity trainer asks if anyone can recall a time in their lives when they’ve been racist, she has a hard time pinning down just one time. “Sure I could, but I’d rather focus on rescuing horses from alopecia than spend a few hours at this dumb-ass training. Honestly, who has the time for any of this?”

MEET ADDY. Just look at all these dolls crying, complaining and getting paid for it all. Meanwhile hot girl summer came and left and I’m still stuck here performing history. Imma just slap the next bitch who tries to buy me. The scholars who brought me to life built the best american story but forgot two key facts. 1) I’m tired of being sold  2) less than half the people who buy me actually listen. But if I raised my hand right now & asked “Do I really need to be here?” you think my boss would just let me leave? 

Copyright © 2020 by Kortney Morrow. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 10, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The black Mercedes
with the Ayn Rand 
vanity plate
crashed through 
the glass bus stop
and came to rest 
among a bakery’s 
upturned tables.
In the stunned silence,  
fat pigeons descended 
to the wreckage
and pecked at 
the scattered
bread and cake.
The driver slept,
head to the wheel.
The pigeons grew
rich with crumbs.
The broken glass winked.
God grinned.

Copyright @ 2014 by Kevin Prufer. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on May 5, 2014.

                    For the Poet David Henderson

Hi there. My name is George
Washington
Carver.
If you bear with me
for a few minutes I
will share with you
a few
of the 30,117 uses to which
the lowly peanut has been put
by me
since yesterday afternoon.
If you will look at my feet you will notice
my sensible shoelaces made from unadulterated
peanut leaf composition that is biodegradable
in the extreme.
To your left you can observe the lovely Renoir
masterpiece reproduction that I have cleverly
pieced together from several million peanut
shell chips painted painstakingly so as to
accurately represent the colors of the original!
Overhead you will spot a squadron of Peanut B-52
Bombers flying due west.
I would extend my hands to greet you
at this time
except for the fact that I am holding a reserve
supply of high energy dry roasted peanuts
guaranteed to accelerate protein assimilation
precisely documented by my pocket peanut calculator;

May I ask when did you last contemplate the relationship
between the expanding peanut products industry
and the development of post-Marxian economic theory
which (Let me emphasize) need not exclude moral attrition
of prepuberty
polymorphic
prehensile skills within the population age sectors
of 8 to 15?
I hope you will excuse me if I appear to be staring at you
through these functional yet high fashion and prescriptive
peanut contact lenses providing for the most
minute observation of your physical response to all of this
ultimately nutritional information.
Peanut butter peanut soap peanut margarine peanut
brick houses and house and field peanut per se well
illustrate the diversified
potential of this lowly leguminous plant
to which you may correctly refer
also
as the goober the pindar the groundnut
and the ground pea/let me
interrupt to take your name down on my
pocket peanut writing pad complete with matching
peanut pencil that only 3 or 4
chewing motions of the jaws will sharpen
into pyrotechnical utility
and no sweat.
Please:
Speak right into the peanut!

Your name?

Copyright © 2017 by the June M. Jordan Literary Estate. Used with the permission of the June M. Jordan Literary Estate, www.junejordan.com.

Napoleon's hat is an obvious choice I guess to list as a famous hat, but that's not the hat I have in mind. That was his hat for show. I am thinking of his private bathing cap, which in all honesty wasn't much different than the one any jerk might buy at a corner drugstore now, except for two minor eccentricities. The first one isn't even funny: Simply it was a white rubber bathing cap, but too small. Napoleon led such a hectic life ever since his childhood, even farther back than that, that he never had a chance to buy a new bathing cap and still as a grown-up--well, he didn't really grow that much, but his head did: He was a pinhead at birth, and he used, until his death really, the same little tiny bathing cap that he was born in, and this meant that later it was very painful to him and gave him many headaches, as if he needed more. So, he had to vaseline his skull like crazy to even get the thing on. The second eccentricity was that it was a tricorn bathing cap. Scholars like to make a lot out of this, and it would be easy to do. My theory is simple-minded to be sure: that beneath his public head there was another head and it was a pyramid or something.

From Reckoner, published by Wesleyan University Press, 1986. Copyright © 1986 by James Tate. Reprinted with permission.

for Richard Pacholski

Avoid storms. And retirement parties.
You can’t trust the sweetnesses your friends will
offer, when they really want your office,
which they’ll redecorate. Beware the still
untested pension plan. Keep your keys. Ask
for more troops than you think you’ll need. Listen
more to fools and less to colleagues. Love your
youngest child the most, regardless. Back to
storms: dress warm, take a friend, don’t eat the grass,
don’t stand near tall trees, and keep the yelling
down—the winds won’t listen, and no one will
see you in the dark. It’s too hard to hear
you over all the thunder. But you’re not
Lear, except that we can’t stop you from what
you’ve planned to do. In the end, no one leaves
the stage in character—we never see
the feather, the mirror held to our lips.
So don’t wait for skies to crack with sun. Feel
the storm’s sweet sting invade you to the skin,
the strange, sore comforts of the wind. Embrace
your children’s ragged praise and that of friends.
Go ahead, take it off, take it all off.
Run naked into tempests. Weave flowers
into your hair. Bellow at cataracts.
If you dare, scream at the gods. Babble as
if you thought words could save. Drink rain like cold
beer. So much better than making theories.
We’d all come with you, laughing, if we could.

Reprinted from In a Fine Frenzy, published by the University of Iowa Press, 2005.

"There's machinery in the
           butterfly;
      There's a mainspring to the
           bee;
There's hydraulics to a daisy,
      And contraptions to a tree."

"If we could see the birdie
           That makes the chirping sound
With x-ray, scientific eyes,
      We could see the wheels go
      round."

And I hope all men
Who think like this
Will soon lie
Underground.

This poem is in the public domain.

What if the submarine
is praying for a way
it can poison the air,
in which some of them have
leaped for a few seconds,
felt its suffocating
rejected buoyancy.
Something floats above their
known world leading a wake
of uncountable death.
What if they organized
into a rebellion?

Now scientists have found
a group of octopuses
who seem to have a sense
of community, who
live in dwellings made of
gathered pebbles and shells,
who cooperate, who
defend an apparent
border. Perhaps they’ll have
a plan for the planet
in a millennium
or two. After we’re gone.

Copyright © 2019 by Marilyn Nelson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Lark of my house,
keep laughing.
Miguel Hernández

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
alike—she doesn’t
know iceberg from melt—
can’t say sea level
rise—glacial retreat—
doesn’t know wildfire—
greenhouse gas—carbon
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
electric sudden—
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—
moments—lady bugs—
laughter—trillium—
blue jays—arias—
horizon’s pink hue—
we gather lifetimes
on one small petal—
the river’s our friend—
the world: an atom—
daughter: another
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.

The figs we ate wrapped in bacon.
The gelato we consumed greedily:
coconut milk, clove, fresh pear.
How we’d dump hot espresso on it
just to watch it melt, licking our spoons
clean. The potatoes fried in duck fat,
the salt we’d suck off our fingers,
the eggs we’d watch get beaten
’til they were a dizzying bright yellow,
how their edges crisped in the pan.
The pink salt blossom of prosciutto
we pulled apart with our hands, melted
on our eager tongues. The green herbs
with goat cheese, the aged brie paired
with a small pot of strawberry jam,
the final sour cherry we kept politely
pushing onto each other’s plate, saying,
No, you. But it’s so good. No, it’s yours.
How I finally put an end to it, plucked it
from the plate, and stuck it in my mouth.
How good it tasted: so sweet and so tart.
How good it felt: to want something and
pretend you don’t, and to get it anyway.

Copyright © 2013 by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. “July” originally appeared in The Year of No Mistakes (Write Bloody Publishing, 2013). Used with permission of the author.

The figs we ate wrapped in bacon.
The gelato we consumed greedily:
coconut milk, clove, fresh pear.
How we’d dump hot espresso on it
just to watch it melt, licking our spoons
clean. The potatoes fried in duck fat,
the salt we’d suck off our fingers,
the eggs we’d watch get beaten
’til they were a dizzying bright yellow,
how their edges crisped in the pan.
The pink salt blossom of prosciutto
we pulled apart with our hands, melted
on our eager tongues. The green herbs
with goat cheese, the aged brie paired
with a small pot of strawberry jam,
the final sour cherry we kept politely
pushing onto each other’s plate, saying,
No, you. But it’s so good. No, it’s yours.
How I finally put an end to it, plucked it
from the plate, and stuck it in my mouth.
How good it tasted: so sweet and so tart.
How good it felt: to want something and
pretend you don’t, and to get it anyway.

Copyright © 2013 by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. “July” originally appeared in The Year of No Mistakes (Write Bloody Publishing, 2013). Used with permission of the author.

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
are you.
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.

“Remember.” Copyright © 1983 by Joy Harjo from She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.