This morning I love everyone,
even Jerome, the neighbor I hate,
and the sun. And the sun
has pre-warmed my bucket seat
for the drive up Arsenal Street
with the hot car effect,
a phenomenon climatologists
use to explain global warming
to senators and kids.
I love the limited edition
Swingline gold stapler
in the oil change lounge
which can, like a poem,
affix anything to anything
on paper. One sheet of paper,
for instance, for that cloud of gnats,
one for this lady’s pit mix
wagging his tail so violently
I fear he’ll hurt his hips.
One sheet for glittered lip balm,
for eye contact, Bitcoin extortion
and the imperfect tense.
Sheets for each unfulfilled wish
I left in a penny in a mall fountain.
Sun spills into the lounge
through the window decal
in geometric Tetris wedges.
I have a sheet for Tetris,
its random sequence of pieces
falling toward me in this well
like color coded aspects of the life
I neglected to live, for the pleasure
of making line after line
disappear. The gold stapler
has twenty-sheet capacity
so I straighten my stack
on the reception counter
and staple the day together
with an echoing chunk.
Copyright © 2020 by Ted Mathys. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 31, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
I sit beside two women, kitty-corner
to the stage, as Elvin's sticks blur
the club into a blue fantasia.
I thought my body had forgotten the Deep
South, how I'd cross the street
if a woman like these two walked
towards me, as if a cat traversed
my path beneath the evening star.
Which one is wearing jasmine?
If my grandmothers saw me now
they'd say, Boy, the devil never sleeps.
My mind is lost among November
cotton flowers, a soft rain on my face
as Richard Davis plucks the fat notes
of chance on his upright
leaning into the future.
The blonde, the brunette—
which one is scented with jasmine?
I can hear Duke in the right hand
& Basie in the left
as the young piano player
nudges us into the past.
The trumpet's almost kissed
by enough pain. Give him a few more years,
a few more ghosts to embrace—Clifford's
shadow on the edge of the stage.
The sign says, No Talking.
Elvin's guardian angel lingers
at the top of the stairs,
counting each drop of sweat
paid in tribute. The blonde
has her eyes closed, & the brunette
is looking at me. Our bodies
sway to each riff, the jasmine
rising from a valley somewhere
in Egypt, a white moon
opening countless false mouths
of laughter. The midnight
gatherers are boys & girls
with the headlights of trucks
aimed at their backs, because
their small hands refuse to wound
the knowing scent hidden in each bloom.
From Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems by Yusef Komunyakaa, published by Wesleyan University Press. Copyright © 2001 by Yusef Komunyakaa. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
Copyright © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.
We suffer through blinding equatorial heat,
refusing to unfold the suspended bamboo shade
nested by a pair of hardworking, cheerless sparrows.
We’ve watched them fly in-and-out of their double
entryways, dried grass, twigs clamped in their beaks.
They skip, nestle in their woodsy tunnel punctured
with light, we presume, not total darkness, their eggs
aglow like lunar orbs. What is a home? How easily
it can be destroyed: the untying of traditional ropes,
pull, the scroll-unraveling. For want of a sweltering
living room to be thrown into relief by shadow.
The sunning couple perch open-winged, tube lofty
as in Aristophanes' city of birds, home made sturdy
by creature logic and faith that it will all remain afloat.
Copyright © 2016 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Originally published in Orion Magazine. Used with permission of the author.
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
From The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994) by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the author.
A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration
Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.
All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.
Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.
We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what's on the other side.
I know there's something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,
picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.
Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?
Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.
In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.
Watch Elizabeth Alexander read “Praise Song for the Day” at President Obama's inauguration in 2009:
Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander. All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. A chapbook edition of Praise Song for the Day was published on February 6, 2009.