You turn the kitchen
tap’s metallic stream
into tropical drink,
extra sugar whirlpooling
to the pitcher-bottom
like gypsum sand.
Purplesaurus Rex, Roarin’
Rock-A-Dile Red, Ice Blue
Island Twist, Sharkleberry Fin;
on our tongues, each version
keeps a section, like tiles
on the elemental table.
In ninth grade, Sandra
employed a jug of Black Cherry
to dye her straightened
When toddlers swallow you,
their top lips mustache in color
as if they’ve kissed paint.
The trendy folks can savor
all that imported mango nectar
and health-market juice.
We need factory-crafted packets,
a logo cute enough to hug,
a drink unnaturally sweet
so that, on the porch,
as summer sun recedes,
Granddad takes out his teeth
to make more mouth to admit you.
Copyright © 2011 by Marcus Jackson. “Ode to Kool-Aid” originally appeared in Neighborhood Register (Cavankerry Press, 2011). Used with permission of the author.
When I have passed away and am forgotten,
And no one living can recall my face,
When under alien sod my bones lie rotten
With not a tree or stone to mark the place;
Perchance a pensive youth, with passion burning,
For olden verse that smacks of love and wine,
The musty pages of old volumes turning,
May light upon a little song of mine,
And he may softly hum the tune and wonder
Who wrote the verses in the long ago;
Or he may sit him down awhile to ponder
Upon the simple words that touch him so.
From Harlem Shadows (New York, Harcourt, Brace and company, 1922) by Claude McKay. This poem is in the public domain.
Twas on a lofty vase's side, Where China's gayest art had dyed The azure flowers that blow; Demurest of the tabby kind, The pensive Selima, reclined, Gazed on the lake below. Her conscious tail her joy declared; The fair round face, the snowy beard, The velvet of her paws, Her coat, that with the tortoise vies, Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes, She saw; and purred applause. Still had she gazed; but 'midst the tide Two angel forms were seen to glide, The genii of the stream: Their scaly armor's Tyrian hue Through richest purple to the view Betrayed a golden gleam. The hapless nymph with wonder saw: A whisker first and then a claw, With many an ardent wish, She stretched in vain to reach the prize. What female heart can gold despise? What cat's averse to fish? Presumptuous maid! with looks intent Again she stretched, again she bent, Nor knew the gulf between. (Malignant Fate sat by and smiled) The slippery verge her feet beguiled, She tumbled headlong in. Eight times emerging from the flood She mewed to every watery god, Some speedy aid to send. No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred; Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard; A favorite has no friend! From hence, ye beauties, undeceived, Know, one false step is ne'er retrieved, And be with caution bold. Not all that tempts your wandering eyes And heedless hearts, is lawful prize; Nor all that glisters, gold.
This poem is in the public domain.
Not every day but most days that summer I went calmly and quietly and climbed to the sixth floor of the library and walked not fast and not slow but with purpose down the last row and reached almost without looking to the same place on the shelf and pulled out the large book and carried it to a chair that looks out toward the ridge, to a mountain that is there, whether it is or it isn’t, the mountain people love, maybe for this, love and die with all their love, trying, and I opened to the page where I left off before, and sometimes the library announced it was closing, sometimes I got hungry, sometimes it looked like rain, and I’d close the book and carry it again, with purpose, back to its exact place on the shelf, and I’d walk down the stairs and out of the building, and it was like I’d left it ticking.
Copyright © 2017 Jill Osier. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2017.
This is what our dying looks like.
You believe in the sun. I believe
I can’t love you. Always be closing,
Said our favorite professor before
He let the gun go off in his mouth.
I turned 29 the way any man turns
In his sleep, unaware of the earth
Moving beneath him, its plates in
Their places, a dated disagreement.
Let’s fight it out, baby. You have
Only so long left—a man turning
In his sleep—so I take a picture.
I won’t look at it, of course. It’s
His bad side, his Mr. Hyde, the hole
In a husband’s head, the O
Of his wife’s mouth. Every night,
I take a pill. Miss one, and I’m gone.
Miss two, and we’re through. Hotels
Bore me, unless I get a mountain view,
A room in which my cell won’t work,
And there’s nothing to do but see
The sun go down into the ground
That cradles us as any coffin can.
Copyright © 2010 by Jericho Brown. Used by permission of the author.
If the water, everywhere, and if she
is. If ghosts, like water, like if all
rivers and oceans and rains are one
ghost, surrounding and throughout.
If she is, like if the lakes and bays
of Seattle define Seattle, if the ices
Of Mars and Massachusetts,
hidden in their deep stones, define
Mars and Massachusetts; if she is.
A thirst unmet, alkaline or saline,
the water not touching that thirst,
if my thirst wants something else
entirely. If she is. Water, if it is in
and is blood. If invisible until
exhale. If science lies and water
doesn’t reflect sky but sky this
water. If she is the sound, if it isn’t
essential until its lack. If she is
the sound of. Waves. If in the body,
the dew in morning, and the moon.
If she is the sound of the water.
If rising, if breaking, if throughout.