I tap-tap-tap the window, while my mother smiles and mouths,
Tranquila. I tap-tap the glass, my mother a fish I’m trying to summon.

I tap until a border agent says: Stop. Until a border agent
shows me the gun on her belt. My childhood was caught

on video border agents deleted every three months.
I thought myself a movie star blowing kisses at the children

selling chiclets on the bridge. My cruelty from the backseat window
caught on video—proof I am an American. The drug sniffing

dogs snap their teeth at my mother detained for her thick accent,
a warp in her green card. My mother who mouths, Tranquila.

My mother’s fingers dark towers on a screen for the Bioten scan.
Isn’t it fun? says the border agent. The state takes a picture

of my mother’s left ear. Isn’t it fun? I tap-tap-tap the glass
and imagine it shatters into shiny marbles. A marble like the one

I have in my pocket, the one I squeeze so hard I hope to reach
its blue swirls. Blue swirls I wish were water I could bring to my mother

in a glass to be near her. Friends, Americans, countrymen lend me your ears!
But only the border agent replies, Do you know the pledge of allegiance?

She points to a flag pinned on a wall. I do, so I stand and pledge to the country
that says it loves me so much, it loves me so much it wants to take

my mother far away from me. Far away, to the place they keep
all the other mothers to sleep on rubber mats and drink from rubber hoses.

Don’t worry, says the border agent, we will take good care of your mommy.
My mother mouths, Tranquila. Her teeth, two rows of gold I could pawn

for something shiny, something shiny like the border agent’s gun.
Friends, Americans, countrymen lend me your ears, so I can hear

my mother through bulletproof glass, so I can hear her over the roar
of American cars crossing this dead river by the wave of an agent’s pale hand.

Copyright © 2020 by Natalie Scenters-Zapico. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 1, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by Bernard Capinpin

Not as a multitude, but as one. Caught in the rush of an instant only to be contained
In an illusion of light once depicted in a holographic existence
And to give weight to the meaning of lightness. Here, he pointed

To the directions of his imprisonment. How the wings
Have too much dulled and to take wing must orchestrate
The shattering of mirrors: fragile, fine, acicular. The yellowing

Brightness is in the proximity to the light, like how one recognizes beneath
The lightbulb the chick nesting within an egg, as to trace how thick
Illusions go in the labyrinth of plurality. Now, no matter what,

They seem a bouquet of bougainvillea on the palms, dreaming to be set free.

This may be true of desire. One first keeps to heart
The simplest things one loved in childhood: the chase after
A kite broken loose, not minding the prickling thorns,

The mimosa’s curtsey to the sole. That is what freedom simply is.
Not playing patintero with shadows. Not captive to the multiplicity
Of false geometry. Almost brittle but original.

 


BIRDS IN FLIGHT, 1965

Hindi marami, kundi iisa. Dinakip sa bilis ng mga iglap upang mapiit
Sa ilusyon ng liwanag nang maitanghal sa holograpikong pag-iral
At makapagbigay bigat sa kahulugan ng gaan. Dito, ganap niyang

Naituturo ang mga direksyon ng kanyang pagkakakulong. Lubos
Ang pagkakapurol ng mga pakpak at ang pagaspas ay orkestradong
Pagkabasag ng mga salamin: manipis, pino, linyado. Nasa lapit ng ilaw

Ang tingkad ng paninilaw, katulad kung papaano kinikikilala sa ilalim
Ng bombilya ang nanahang sisiw sa itlog, upang mabakas ang kapal
Ng pamamalikmata sa laberinto ng pluralidad. Ngayon, kahit papaano,

Tila pumpon ito ng mga bunggambilya sa palad, nangangarap makaalpas.

Na maaring totoo ito ukol sa pagnanasa. Unang isinilid sa dibdib
Ang mga simpleng bagay na minahal noong kabataan: ang paghabol
Sa napatid na guryon, ang hindi pag-alintana sa kalabit ng mga tinik,

Ang pagyukod ng makahiya sa talampakan. Ganoon lamang ang kalayaan.
Hindi nakikipagpatintero sa mga anino. Hindi nakapiit sa multiplisidad
Ng mga huwad na hubog. Halos babasagin ngunit orihinal.

Copyright © 2020 by Enrique Villasis and Bernard Capinpin. Published in Poem-a-Day in partnership with Words Without Borders (wordswithoutborders.org) on October 3, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I used to dream of living here. I hike
a trail I know that at the end opens

to glorious views of the city I did
live in once, when men my age kept dying

while I learned how to diagnose AIDS.
Some dreams don’t come true, and some dreams become

nightmares. Across a field that smells of sage,
a few horses loiter. I want to think

that they forgive me, since they’re noble creatures.
They stamp and snort, reminding me they know

nothing of forgiveness. I used to dream
that someday I’d escape to San Francisco,

when I was still in high school and I knew.
Tall and muscled, the horses are like the jocks

on the football team who beat me once, as if pain
teaches truth and they knew I had to learn.

I used to dream I was as white as them,
that I could slam my locker closed and not

think of jail. Some nightmares come true,
like when my uncle got arrested for

cocaine. My family never talked about it,
which made me realize they could also feel shame.

That’s when I started dreaming I could be
a doctor someday, that I could get away,

prescribe myself a new life. Right now, as
the city comes into view, I think of those

animals and hope they got what they deserved.
The city stretches out its arms, its two bridges

to Oakland, to Stockton, to San Rafael,
to Vallejo; places I could have been from

but wasn’t. It looks just as it did
all those years ago. Yet I know it’s changed

because so many of us died, like Rico,
who took me up here for the first time.

We kicked a soccer ball around and smoked
a joint. I think we talked about our dreams,

but who can remember dreams. I look out
and the sun like your hand on my face

is warm, and for a moment I think this is
glorious, this is what forgiveness feels like.

Copyright © 2020 by Rafael Campo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 5, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

For every unexpected illness that required medical insurance,
every second-trimester miscarriage, every chaos unemployment
caused, every looming eviction, every arrest warrant gone
unanswered, the women in my family made promesas to plaster
cast statues worshipped in overcrowded apartments with rum
poured over linoleum, nine-day candles coughing black soot
until the wick surrendered, Florida water perfuming doorways
and the backs of necks.

Promesas: barters/contracts with a God they didn’t vow to
change for but always appeased/ bowls of fruit/ paper bags filled
with coconut candy and caserolas de ajiaco/ left at busy intersections,
an oak tree in High bridge park, the doorway of the 34th precinct,
and when mar pacifico and rompe saraguey refused to grow on
Washington Heights windowsills, the youngest became part of
the trade.

Unsullied and unaware: cousin Mari pissed about having to dress
in green and red for twenty-one days to keep Tío Pablo out of jail/
Luisito scratching at an anklet made of braided corn silk to help
Tía Lorna find a new job/ and my hair not to be cut until Papi’s
tumor was removed.

Gathered in tight buns or sectioned pigtails, falling long past my
waist when asymmetrical bobs were in fashion, unaware my crown
had the necessary coercion to dislodge a mass from a colon, I grabbed
my older brother’s clippers, ran thirsty blades across my right temple
to the back of my ear, massaged the softness that emerged as strands
surrendered on bathroom tiles. My desire to mimic freestyle icons,
whose albums my cousins and I scratched on old record players,
wagered against Papi’s large intestine.

My unsteady hand: a fist
in the face of God.

Copyright © 2020 by Peggy Robles–Alvarado. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 6, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

(after Graciela Iturbide’s 1979 photograph)

My warm morning skin bristles
in the jungle hut’s frigid shower

as shrill chirps trill
off my inner ear’s high-hat.

What tropical bird lurks
outside this screen-less window?

I imagine lime green wings,
a feathered turquoise face,

but when its squeak rattles
into a hiss that creeps

behind me like a shadow, I turn
to stare straight into the onyx

eye of an iguana, iridescent
crown gleaming down

on my miserable wet head, tail
coiling the shower pole, tongue reach-

ing for my splashed shoulder.
I slink back, leave dirt in the bends

of elbows and knees, relinquish
a chance to feel eyes licked

into the back of my head. I am not
la Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas

donning her Zapotec headdress
of protruding limbs about to leap,

folded faces, triple chins. Not
Iturbide’s pebble squint refusing to blink

as it latches onto the queen of Juchitán
so far away, yet so near to where I stand

dripping on this poured concrete floor.

Copyright © 2020 by Brenda Cárdenas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 7, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

“EL Sal-va-doh-RE-AN Salva-doh-RAN, Salva-DOH-RÍ-an,”
los mui-muis, we don’t even know what
to call ourselves. How to eat
a pupusa: ¿fork & knife? or
¿open it up & treat it like a taco? but
then, we’re betraying our nationalistic (read:
anti-black, anti-indigenous) impulse
to not mix with anyone else. ¿& what’s
with jalapeños in the curtido,
cipotes? ¿With using spicy “salsa”
instead of salsa de tomate? There’s too many
“restaurantes,” one side of the menu: Mexican,
the other, platos típicos. Typically
I want to order the ensalada, but then
they bring me an actual salad.
I say: cóman miercoles, they
want to charge me extra for harina de arroz. Extra
por los nueagados. There’s
nowhere I’d rather be most
than in Abuelita’s kitchen, watching her
throw bay leaves, tomatoes, garlic, orégano
into the blender, then chicharrón,
helping her sell to everyone that knows
she made the best pupusas
from 1985 to 2004. By then,
Salvadoreños became “Hermanos Lejanos,”
we traded Colón for Washingtón. By then,
Los Hermanos Flores looked for new singers
every time they returned from Los Yunaited
to San Salvador. Stay, no se vayan,
es-tei, no sean dundos, was all
those Salvadoreños could say.
We didn’t listen & came here
only to be called Mexican or Puerto Rican,
depending on the coast. We had to fight
for our better horchata, not
the lazy whiter one with only rice. & when
we didn’t want to fight
we tried to blend, speak more “Mexican,”
more ira, more popote, more
no pos guao. ¡Nó, majes!
¡No se me hagan dundos,
ponganse trucha vos!
When anyone wants to call you: Mexican.
You can just say: Nó,
actually, andáte a la M—
racista cara de nacionalista.

Copyright © 2020 by Javier Zamora. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 9, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by Esther Allen

     Times of gorge and rush are these:
Voices fly like light: lightning,
like a ship hurled upon dread quicksand,
plunges down the high rod, and in delicate craft
man, as if winged, cleaves the air.
And love, without splendor or mystery,
dies when newly born, of glut.
The city is a cage of dead doves
and avid hunters! If men’s bosoms
were to open and their torn flesh
fall to the earth, inside would be
nothing but a scatter of small, crushed fruit!

     Love happens in the street, standing in the dust
of saloons and public squares: the flower
dies the day it’s born. The trembling
virgin who would rather death
have her than some unknown youth;
the joy of trepidation; that feeling of heart
set free from chest; the ineffable
pleasure of deserving; the sweet alarm
of walking quick and straight
from your love’s home and breaking
into tears like a happy child;—
and that gazing of our love at the fire,
as roses slowly blush a deeper color,—
Bah, it’s all a sham! Who has the time
to be noble? Though like a golden
bowl or sumptuous painting
a genteel lady sits in the magnate’s home!

     But if you’re thirsty, reach out your arm,
and drain some passing cup!
The dirtied cup rolls to the dust, then,
and the expert taster—breast blotted
with invisible blood—goes happily,
crowned with myrtle, on his way!
Bodies are nothing now but trash,
pits and tatters! And souls
are not the tree’s lush fruit
down whose tender skin runs
sweet juice in time of ripeness,—
but fruit of the marketplace, ripened
by the hardened laborer’s brutal blows!

     It is an age of dry lips!
Of undreaming nights! Of life
crushed unripe! What is it that we lack,
without which there is no gladness? Like a startled
hare in the wild thicket of our breast,
fleeing, tremulous, from a gleeful hunter,
the spirit takes cover;
and Desire, on Fever’s arm,
beats the thicket, like the rich hunter.

     The city appals me! Full
of cups to be emptied, and empty cups!
I fear—ah me!—that this wine
may be poison, and sink its teeth,
vengeful imp, in my veins!
I thirst—but for a wine that none on earth
knows how to drink! I have not yet
endured enough to break through the wall
that keeps me, ah grief!, from my vineyard!
Take, oh squalid tasters
of humble human wines, these cups
from which, with no fear or pity,
you swill the lily’s juice!
Take them! I am honorable, and I am afraid!

 


Amor de Cuidad Grande

     De gorja son y rapidez los tiempos.
Corre cual luz la voz; en alta aguja,
Cual nave despeñada en sirte horrenda,
Húndese el rayo, y en ligera barca
El hombre, como alado, el aire hiende.
¡Así el amor, sin pompa ni misterio
Muere, apenas nacido, de saciado!
Jaula es la villa de palomas muertas
Y ávidos cazadores! Si los pechos
Se rompen de los hombres, y las carnes
Rotas por tierra ruedan, ¡no han de verse
Dentro más que frutillas estrujadas!

     Se ama de pie, en las calles, entre el polvo
De los salones y las plazas; muere
La flor que nace. Aquella virgen
Trémula que antes a la muerte daba
La mano pura que a ignorado mozo;
El goce de temer; aquel salirse
Del pecho el corazón; el inefable
Placer de merecer; el grato susto
De caminar de prisa en derechura
Del hogar de la amada, y a sus puertas
Como un niño feliz romper en llanto;—
Y aquel mirar, de nuestro amor al fuego,
Irse tiñendo de color las rosas,—
Ea, que son patrañas! Pues ¿quién tiene
tiempo de ser hidalgo? Bien que sienta,
Cual áureo vaso o lienzo suntuoso,
Dama gentil en casa de magnate!

     O si se tiene sed, se alarga el brazo
Y a la copa que pasa se la apura!
Luego, la copa turbia al polvo rueda,
Y el hábil catador—manchado el pecho
De una sangre invisible—sigue alegre
Coronado de mirtos, su camino!
No son los cuerpos ya sino desechos,
Y fosas, y jirones! Y las almas
No son como en el árbol fruta rica
En cuya blanda piel la almíbar dulce
En su sazón de madurez rebosa,—
Sino fruta de plaza que a brutales
Golpes el rudo labrador madura!

     ¡La edad es ésta de los labios secos!
De las noches sin sueño! ¡De la vida
Estrujada en agraz! Qué es lo que falta
Que la ventura falta? Como liebre
Azorada, el espíritu se esconde,
Trémulo huyendo al cazador que ríe,
Cual en soto selvoso, en nuestro pecho;
Y el deseo, de brazo de la fiebre,
Cual rico cazador recorre el soto.

     ¡Me espanta la ciudad! ¡Toda está llena
De copas por vaciar, o huecas copas!
¡Tengo miedo ¡ay de mí! de que este vino
Tósigo sea, y en mis venas luego
Cual duende vengador los dientes clave!
¡Tengo sed,—mas de un vino que en la tierra
No se sabe beber! ¡No he padecido
Bastante aún, para romper el muro
Que me aparta ¡oh dolor! de mi viñedo!
¡Tomad vosotros, catadores ruines
De vinillos humanos, esos vasos
Donde el jugo de lirio a grandes sorbos
Sin compasión y sin temor se bebe!
Tomad! Yo soy honrado, y tengo miedo!

From Selected Writings by José Martí, published by Penguin Classics, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Translation copyright and selection © 2002 by Esther Allen. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on October 11, 2020. 

after Gala Mukomolova’s “On the Brighton Beach Boardwalk”

Families roll on toward summer, its feral freedom, ocean waves 
beckon every sibling like schools of skipjack leaping together to  
catch the sun on their silver scales. Bundles of beach umbrellas  
waiting to be raised high & planted for their temporary kingdoms.  
Trucks bobbing with oranges, station wagons bouncing with  
babies in the back. Lovers fight in the red gleam of a rover or  
swerve in the sweat of a frolick behind the wheel. A highway  
stretch of to & fro, bodies raucous & guzzling. So many dreams  
leaking from gas tanks, the oil drip of wasted want. A congested  
uproar of miles in waiting. So many exits missed.  What-could-
have-beens, just beyond the turnpike. Dead ends. Concrete &
unmoving.  

My aunt, a tree cutting herself down & me with, turns to me from  
the front seat, says, some of us didn’t get the looks in the family, right?
You know how it is. My silence hits the lane markers, all we hear is  
bumpbumpbump. All I hear is my tías telling each other, you are  
beautiful, mija, but wear a hat so you don’t get too dark. All I hear is a  
world saying brownbrownbrown a little too much & I am furiously  
stuffing my mouth with plantain chips crunching centuries  
between my teeth, my lungs a bouquet catching a windfall of  
particles unseen. So much ugly 

I tug on my seatbelt to breathe a little easier, flicking all the dead  
ends off me. A cement barrier, the road of my throat. No one says  
anything, the words filling the car like murky green lake water after  
a tumble off the road. I imagine the doors stuck in the pressure of  
the plunge, my drowned body floating to the surface not pretty  
enough to salvage & burn. I spread to the shoals, a seasoned meal  
in undertow, delicious, at least, to the fish. I am the fish, feral &  
flying.  

But I am flopped against the window, a pane dusty with estival  
judgment. I roll it down, gills gasping for air, my face a drum of  
highway breath, the 65 mph hot wind on my cheek reminding me  
I am a body on an irreplaceable planet. Don’t take everything so  
seriously, I hear. Roll the window up, dear, it really is too loud. 

Copyright © 2020 by heidi andrea restrepo rhodes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 12, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The whirring internal machine, its gears
grinding not to a halt but to a pace that emits
a low hum, a steady and almost imperceptible
hum: the Greeks would not have seen it this way.

Simply put, it was a result of black bile,
the small fruit of the gall bladder perched
under the liver somehow over-ripened
and then becoming fetid. So the ancients

would have us believe. But the overly-emotional
and contrarian Romans saw it as a kind of mourning
for one’s self. I trust the ancients but I have never 
given any of this credence because I cannot understand

how one does this, mourn one’s self.
Down by the shoreline—the Pacific 
wrestling with far more important 
philosophical issues—I recall the English notion

of it being a wistfulness, something John Donne
wore successfully as a fashion statement.
But how does one wear wistfulness well
unless one is a true believer? 

The humors within me are unbalanced, 
and I doubt they were ever really in balance
to begin with, ever in that rare but beautiful
thing the scientists call equilibrium.

My gall bladder squeezes and wrenches, 
or so I imagine. I am wistful and morose
and I am certain black bile is streaming 
through my body as I walk beside this seashore.

The small birds scrambling away from the advancing 
surf; the sun climbing overhead shortening shadows; 
the sound of the waves hushing the cries of gulls: 
I have no idea where any of this ends up.

To be balanced, to be without either
peaks or troughs: do tell me what that is like…
This contemplating, this mulling over, often leads 
to a moment a few weeks from now,

the one in which everything suddenly shines
with clarity, where my fingers race to put down 
the words, my fingers so quick on the keyboard 
it will seem like a god-damned miracle.

Copyright © 2020 by C. Dale Young. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 13, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Returning to the US, he asks
my occupation. Teacher.

What do you teach?
Poetry.

I hate poetry, the officer says,
I only like writing
where you can make an argument.

Anything he asks, I must answer.
This he likes, too.

I don’t tell him
he will be in a poem
where the argument will be

anti-American.

I place him here, puffy,
pink, ringed in plexi, pleased

with his own wit
and spittle. Saving the argument
I am let in

I am let in until

Copyright © 2020 by Solmaz Sharif. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

^
By the end of the year, I was used to
things I hadn’t seen before, 
like a series of street brawls between fa and antifa 
that often absurdly tumbled 
into the Berkeley all organic full-of-strollers farmer’s market.
Used to hearing about friends’ emails caught up in various FOIAs.
Used to the social media posts about how someone somewhere 
was getting a gun and planned to show up where we worked. 
I should add that the DMs and the @s were rarely realized. 
The gun never arrived.
And if the threat was made good on it was just that moment when 
someone called up my boss and she hung up on them, confused.
If there was anything new about this moment
it was that there was no making sense of what was left and 
right in the way I had previously understood it,
which was as a convention.
The DMs came in from all different directions. 
One day an anonymous white nationalist, 
the next a well-known comrade angry in love 
and wanting to take it out on someone proximate, 
and then perhaps a blog post from someone 
who had been perfectly nice when last seen at a poetry reading
but now was very upset about something I had implied.
It was hard to decipher who was hating what on what day.
By the time the state was burning from both ends
and one end was called Paradise, 
we didn’t bother with the metaphor. 
Instead we just looked out the window, noticed the smoke, 
shut the window, stayed indoors, and kept on typing.
Later we joked,
now we know what we will be doing when the world burns.
We will be shutting the windows and catching up on email
finally.

^
I’m concerned about these other things. 
Or that is what I thought when they said 
they were worried I was losing my relationship to poetry.
It was still summer.
Still mid-afternoon.
There was a nice breeze.
We had half a day of this beauty before us and we knew it. 
Unhurried. Pleasure. 
We drank a beer that was fresh on the tongue 
in a new way. Light. Almost carbonated.
They said they were concerned
about me and my relationship to poetry.
In the afternoon sun, as the breeze blew softly,
I first protested to them not about poetry, 
but about poets. Their nationalism, their acquiescence 
but also their facebook and twitter accounts.
Their brags and their minor attacks, their politics.
Their prizes and their publications.
Their democratic party affiliations.
So I said to them I’m not concerned 
about my relationship to poetry
which regularly felt to me like that moment 
when you open your app and there are a bunch
of mentions and you haven’t posted anything a while
and all you can do is say today is so FML and start to work through them.
This is not the same as the oh no way of the Berkeley farmer’s market brawl,
not the state burning and burning again,
but still, how to write an epiphanic possibility in this sociality?
I had written for so long about being together, 
about how we were together like it or not.
I had used a metaphor of breath and of space.
I had embraced the epiphanic 
not just at the end of the poem, as was the lyric convention,
but sometimes I even made the whole poem epiphanic.
And that I couldn’t do anymore.
Lately there wasn’t any singing that I could hear. 
Just attempts. Dark times. 
Nothing about this terrible moment was new though.
It has always been a terrible moment.
And there have always been poets too.
And always poets writing the terrible nation into existence.
This is one reason I will never get a tramp stamp that says
poetry is my boyfriend.

^
I thought for a while there were two sorts of poets.
Poets who write the terrible nation into existence
and poets screwing around doing something else.
For years I was on team poets screwing around doing something else.
For years I had used poetry to slip away, 
elude the hold of the family, the coupleform, the policing of tradition, 
to pry open time into an endless stretch of possibility.
In that room where we try to pry open possibility.
When I first heard the avant garde 
I heard it as an opening. A door. A window,
Maybe a garage door.
A hole in the wall I could shimmy through.
I heard it as an opening. All sorts of openings.
I could make the hole. 
Or my pink crowbar could.
I would be writing and I would fall into the singing,
That whoosh. The singing whoosh.
And because at first I saw myself as someone who wanted
an opening in the tradition,
I split this whoosh up all the time. 
I fragmented it into words or took away its deictics.
Another friend, a poet, who no longer talks to me 
once gave me the image of the pink crowbar 
as a way of thinking about writing. 
Losing her was a loss all around. 
But to compensate for that loss 
I think often about pulling something open.
Although I’m fairly convinced she would grab 
the pink crowbar out of my hand if she saw me wielding it.
For years, there was that perfect moment after the reading
where we had to leave the bar because 
the couples were coming to buy their cocktails 
and we couldn’t figure out where to go.
Maybe it was Friday or Saturday night and all the bars
were full of people who were not talking about poetry
so we kept walking, looking in each bar and each one wrong.
Eventually the streets opened up and we were at the bridge
and there was a river and we walked across the open space to it
and climbed down its sides and sat there. 
We had bought some beers and a small glass flask of whiskey from a bodega.
We carried the cans and the flask in brown bags as a convention.
But we did not need this convention. 
If there was law, the law drove by, didn’t stop. 
Other things were. Night. Maybe moon. Water. Rats.
Sometimes drugs were involved.
We walked through Wall Street at 3 am and 
we rattled the locked doors of all the buildings, laughing
at their absurdity because we knew where it was at
and at was rattling the doors. 

^
During these days,
I would wake up and my head would hurt 
and then I would realize that in my dream 
I had said to myself that I should write some poetry.
But my dreams never explained to me why. 
Or how.
How to sing in these dark times?
It is true that I have been with poetry for a long time. 
Since I was a teenager.
Those loves of many years and our bodies changing together.
And yet also the deepening of this love. Despite.
That day with the breeze in the bar
And we said together, there needs to be some pleasure in the world. 
And next, poetry is the what is left of life.
And we pledged, more singing.
And we referenced by saying,
In the dark times. Will there also be singing? 
Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times.

^
At night I thought if I just read all of Brecht, 
I would maybe find the singing.
So I began to read Brecht that night, 
in bed with my son while he too read before he went to sleep.
There was a new edition. 
It was hard to hold because it was so big.
I rested it on a pillow and I rested my head on a pillow
and I turned the pages looking for the singing.
I couldn’t find the singing.
After I started reading Brecht, 
I began sorting through my books. I had too many. 
As I pulled them off the shelves, blew off the dust,
I asked myself would I need it if there was a revolution.
It turned out that I thought I would for sure need
five translations of the Odyssey
and all the books of Susan Howe.
I kept all the plant books too.
The comfort of the Jespen Manual of Vascular Plants of California.
It’s an open question if the revolution will still need poetry,
its tradition and its resistance to that tradition.
But it will for sure need the Vascular Plants of California.

^
It’s always been a terrible moment.
But now I understand it as even more terrible.
The nation is for sure not my boyfriend.
But the land it claims,
though I don’t claim it,
I hold my love for this land on my underside, 
in a small pocket that eventually bursts to release my love spores.
I mean it is not a casual love. 
It is though a difficult one. Threatened. Invaded.
A friend is dying
as the scotch broom is putting out its nitrogen fixing roots
but our friendship died years before 
the seed pods open explosively
another friend has cancer
and last for eighty years
and yet another friend now in the world in some new way
but they are hard and survive rough transport through water
and mainly it was all the information 
fleshy and full of proteins in a way that interests ants 
we suddenly knew about everything
as the ants carry the seeds back to their nests creating dense infestations. 
A mixture of hell. A metaphor of resilience.
The scotch broom has so many tricks.
Grows in patches and as scattered individuals
with a total cover of about 15 percent and 35 percent, respectively.
As does the Tree of Heaven.
There is no space too polluted for it. 
It absorbs sulfur dioxide in its leaves.
It can withstand cement dust and fumes from coal tar operations, 
as well as resist ozone exposure relatively well. 
Even mercury. 
It grows fast, and even faster in California.
And once it starts, it shows up everywhere,
impossible to destroy.
Loves the fires.
Everything. Never ending.
Everything. Yet to come.
And yet the world and the leaves continue to exist. 
Yellow veins. Flowers.
Large, compound leaves. 
Arranged. Alternately on the stem.
11-33 leaflets. Occasionally up to 41.
One to three teeth on each side. Close to the base. 
Everything. Small.
Yellow-green to reddish. Flowers.
Everything. Panicles up to 30 cm long.
Everything.

Copyright © 2020 by Juliana Spahr. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 17, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

                                in my own body ← here i am a siege
                                overthrowing a home where no one lives
                                but me. i’m too big for my too big head
                                too barely anything for want, my love
                                built me from a nail in the wall galloped
                                to meet the socks on the floor → now a hole
                                in the wall i would peek thru & run some
                                cable thru so we all could watch cable.
                   now, there’s a good amount of good reasons
                   why no one lives here, no one lives with me.
                   my cat even tries to leave. he jumps out
                   the window, off the roof, & waits for me
                   to catch him with the neighbors. & i too
                   trynna be beautiful & loved this way.

i  ←  suppose: perching for life to begin
is this flatline moving me, failed, forward,
feathered closer to grace each time; going
mother after mother i wake up as
a dove picking lilies from her black i
suppose i love so i know i ain’t know
                brevity without withholding a breath  ←
                loved those flying ants,  infiltrating  thru  all  fronts’
                doors til i (w)as a room entered watching
                for  bites tender thicker  than all-time’s
                to consume ← consistency dragged → this long
                makes me  wanna bite bird feet  ← too   baby
                cat  i love you too,...   ache in my bones you
                remind me of  what is it(?) to be  picked ←

Copyright © 2020 by Trace Howard DePass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 19, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The corpses weigh nothing, nearly nothing, even your breath
is breeze enough to scatter them

We steamed them in tupperware with a damp sponge
then we tweezed the stiff wings open

The wing colors would brush off if you touched them

3,000 butterflies raised and gassed
and shipped to Evolution, the store in New York
rented by an artist hired to design a restaurant

He wanted to paper the walls with butterflies

Each came folded in its own translucent envelope

We tweezed them open, pinned them into rows
on styrofoam flats we stacked in towers in the narrow
hallway leading to the bathroom

Evolution called itself a natural history store

It sold preserved birds, lizards, scorpions in lucite, bobcat
with the eyes dug out and glass ones fitted, head turned

Also more affordable bits like teeth
and peacock feathers, by the register
a dish of raccoon penis bones

This was on Spring

The sidewalks swarmed with bare-armed people
there to see the city

You could buy your own name in calligraphy
or written on a grain of rice
by someone at a folding table

Souvenir portraits of taxis and the Brooklyn Bridge
lined up on blankets laid over the pavement

The artist we were pinning for had gotten famous
being first to put a dead shark in a gallery

For several million dollars each he sold what he described 
as happy pictures which were rainbow dots assistants painted 
on white canvases

I remember actually thinking his art confronted death,
that’s how young I was

We were paid per butterfly

The way we sat, I saw the backs
of the other pinners’ heads more than their faces

One’s braids the color of wine, one’s puffy headphones, feather cut
and slim neck rising from a scissored collar, that one
bought a raccoon penis bone on lunch break

Mostly we didn’t speak

Another life glimpsed in a detail mentioned, leaving or arriving 

She lived with a carpenter who fixed her lunches

Come fall I’d be in college

I smelled the corpses on my fingers when I took my smoke break
leaning against a warm brick wall facing the smooth white headless
mannequins in thousand-dollar shift dresses

The deli next door advertised organic toast and raisins on the vine

Mornings, I tried to learn from eyeliner
and shimmer on faces near mine on the train

Warm fogged imprint on a metal pole
where someone’s grip evaporated

Everyone looking down when someone walked through 
asking for help

At Evolution, talk radio played all day

A cool voice giving hourly updates
on the bombing of another city which it called
the conflict

The pinner in headphones sometimes hummed
or started a breathy lyric

“Selfish girl—”

I watched my tweezers guide the poisonous exquisite
blue of morpho wings

Their legs like jointed eyelashes

False eyes on the grayling wingtips
to protect the true face

The monarch’s wings like fire
pouring through a lattice

Copyright © 2020 by Margaret Ross. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 22, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

There is no country to claim you when you die inside the word 

There is no language to claim you when die inside the cage  

The exiled cage breathes death at us 

The cage of exile heaves private air at us

Look 

Don’t speak now 

Just look 

Breathe into the mouth of the wound 

Dream into the foreclosure of your death 

Look into the vulture of your wound 

Look into the spider of your wound 

Look closely into the algorithm that determines the depth of your wound 

Whisper into the cage of exile 

You have nothing to lose but this breath 

Look

Into the breath in your breath 

Look     into the absent body in your breath 

Look     into the absent I in your body 

Look     into the absent you in your body 

No dust on your body no wound on your body no breath on your body no word on your body no fat on your body no arm on your body no tongue no shadow no rupture no breath no thought no cage no exile no word no code no silence 

Look

At the broken shadow in your broken shadow 

Look 

At the flooded street in your flooded street 

Look      into the economy of your absence and whisper into the code you cannot speak 

Look      into the silence of the code

Do not speak directly of the breath 

Do not speak directly of the suicide

Do not speak directly of the kids who tossed themselves into the river

Do not speak directly of the state that paid the kids to toss themselves into the river 

Breathe the privatized wind     breathe through the foreclosure of your mouth  

Breathe the broken shadow into the broken shadow 

Don’t take the money into the cage or they will kill you before it is time to kill you 

Pray gently into the privatization of your absence 

Die gently into the privatization of your absence

Pray gently into the accumulation of your absence

Die gently into the cage where the babies cry in your absence

Pray gently into the puffed-up corpses who grow and grow in your absence

The only breath in this cage is death 

Copyright © 2020 by Daniel Borzutzky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 23, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Free, the price tags shiny with white-out, it’s free, 
I go shopping with Dodie, the red shiny bag at Kate Spade
on Grant, let’s go into Agnes B and see how much the 
shirt cost that Chris and Brian bought me

Save, long time ago I thought you could save me
I pictured a dreamy house like Elizabeth 
Robinson’s, with a sunken tub, but instead I settle
for Squalid Manor, Frank O’Hara’s dull apartment

“Build three more stately mansions, O my soul,”
I hear a voice that rings, it might be Kylie Minogue
the sexiest tomboy beanpole on the planet, 
that which I walked in size eight shoes, for to

Buy the ones we saw in the window, May sun
splattering them with pixels, we saw ourselves
the two of us, and I said, Ah, what’s the matter with me, 
I have nothing to look forward to

Ship of pearl, which poets feign, 
Sail the unshadowed main—
The venturous bark that flings, and suddenly
the pavement tears itself apart, a lift appears

Man comes up through the sidewalk
in front of Stella McCartney store in New York
a little bit down from Joe and Charlie’s
To have seen so much, to have missed so much!

Why, next time we will do better, till our
bleeding feet spurt compassion in our hearts—
in our next life when, perhaps, we will return
as a shell on the beach and a little pink kitten, 

Lucy.

From Action Kylie (In Girum Imus Nocte et Consumimur Igni, 2008). Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Killian. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 25, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets. 

The words “economic,” “family,” and “asylum” remain unspoken as I sit in the back of the courtroom scribbling on a legal pad, trying to structure a context and trace my relation to the seven men who stand before the judge shackled at the wrists, waists, and ankles.

Reader, can you improvise your relation to the phrase “illegal entry,” to the large seal of US District Court, District of Arizona, that hangs above the judge, eagle suspended with talons and arrows pointing?

Perhaps your relation stretches like a wall, bends like footprints towards a road, perhaps your relation spindles and barbs, chollas or ocotillos, twists like a razor wire on top of a fence.

Perhaps you do not improvise, perhaps you shackle, you type, you translate, you prosecute, you daily wage, your mouth goes dry when you speak—paper, palimpsests of silence, palimpsests of complicity and connection never made evident on the page.

Write down everything you need. How long is the list?
Sleep with it beneath your head, eat it, wear it.
Can you use it to make a little shade from an unrelenting gaze?

Speak into the court record the amount of profit extracted from such men as those before the judge shackled at the wrists, waists, and ankles not limited to the amount of profit that will be extracted from such bodies through the payments that will be made per prisoner per day to the Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, but also inclusive of all the profits generated by trade agreements that makes labor in the so-called developing countries so cheap.

Best of luck to you, the judge says.

Que le vaya bien, the lawyers say as the men begin their slow procession out of the courtroom in chains.

And in that moment, from the back of the courtroom, we can decide to accept or forget what we have seen, to bear it, or to change it

because we love it, we want it, we don’t care enough to stop it, we hate it,

we can’t imagine how to stop it, we can’t imagine it, we can’t imagine.

From Defacing the Monument (Noemi Press, 2020). Copyright © 2020 by Susan Briante. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

At first, I spoke to my neighbor daily, in part because of the weather
(he could still sit out on bench)

in part because of vice
(I was chain-smoking and he’d shout for one when I passed)

but this stopped, in part because of trust
(he did not believe I was smoking less and resented the imagined lie)

in part because of routes
(at first I added 15 minutes to my commute to walk north, past his apartment, towards 6th avenue, and up through the park, as this removes 25-50% of my anxiety, but now that I have lived here half a year, I find myself incapable of waking up early enough to permit this easy remedy, so I walk the other, faster direction)

and in part because of novelty
(having covered introductions, we now tend to say only “hello” when I do pass).

I have a sense of what he looks like, due to this regularity,
but I could not describe his building.

Someone I was hoping to kiss informed me
that it’s easy to remember

images (all you have to do, they said, is take
a lesson from a children’s book, one in which a girl could

remember anything she wanted by saying “click,”
and imagining she held a camera). Later, distracted

on my walk home by the kiss’s memory, which came
easily because my eyes had been closed for it, I took a wrong

turn and struggled to find my building
on an unfamiliar street. That’s why I’m studying:

There is my own blue bicycle; the round planter to the left
of the steps I use to enter, which the downstairs neighbor keeps

tidy—cutting back the plants that don’t stay green
in the winter, for example, but keeping the heartier cabbages

watered—though I have never seen her do this work;
somewhere between two and five pride flags,

some of which are there year round while others
appear only in June; a fire hydrant; the windows

of the apartment that face mine, through which I see my least
favorite bookshelves: they look mildly expensive

and comprise a set of intersecting diamonds, making the books
hard to remove and reshelf since they are all piled at slants;

some scaffolding that seems to attract unhappy couples mid-fight;
one set of table and chairs; a house that frequently puts books

or toys or clothes out on the sidewalk for free. I know that
there are two or more remarkable sculptures, but only

because I remember remarking: one might be of a silver
bust of a woman, maybe an angel or a pop star, while others

are definitely at the base of the railings to the steps across the street, but I don’t
remember now if they are dogs or birds. There is a statue of an owl

on a window ledge I can see from one chair, and it often scares me.
Now some buildings have Christmas lights, but I couldn’t say

which, and that could easily lead me to turn down any other residential
block. There is a lilac bush immediately next door, and in May, it helped me

identify my building from very far away. But when we came
to pick up our keys, I began to cry—it resembles

another that grew in front of my childhood and I am
sentimental. I sat down and demanded my roommate tell me

why he hadn’t pointed out the lilacs earlier, and he threw up
his hands: he had tried, but I had talked over him.

When the kisser who recommended I take snapshots
of my surroundings came to my apartment, there is a chance

that they noticed many more things: they probably know
whether it is broken up at any point by vinyl siding, or what words

appear on the inflatable Santa down the hill. When we passed
through the park, I did attempt to capture the snow lifting

from the ground in spirals, the two bodies—one seated, one running—blocking
some light, the corner-eye view of their metallic jacket. But I wanted

to remember what we looked like to the seated person, so replaced the above
description with an imagined photo of two people connected

by elbows, which I now see instead.
My panic, when it comes in public, starts

with lost vision; at home, with the heart. The classroom used to turn
to white: I could make out, maybe, the light from the streetlamps

visible from the class’ windows, but the shapes of the students’ faces
and the windows themselves would be gone. I got very good

at remembering where I had left my chair, sitting down, and pretending
to glance thoughtfully at my notebook. If I said “yes, mmhmm,

anyone else?” my students would feel prompted to speak
without raising hands, and sometimes I’d take illegible

notes on their comments in order to prolong the period
before I would need my eyesight back. If no voices emerged, but

I could register the electronic sounds enough to know my hearing
was still with me, I would spontaneously become a person

who lectures, or I would ask them to break into groups of 3-4
to collectively answer some question. Years before, when sound

and sight left together, I would sit on the floor
of the subway hoping to faint from a more auspicious

starting position. Looking at things indirectly—on a telephone,
say—does not typically produce such a reaction.

Copyright © 2020 by Diana Hamilton. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 28, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I turn on a light in a room I pace away from
take comfort behind neon signs    nested in wires
an errant mirror propped against a commercial strip
or cradled awkwardly in the elbows of a passerby
my legs become their legs
mushrooms came before us needing no light
now they clean up oil spills    rebuild biomes
ripped green awnings of my youth have become
sleek noun and noun stores like Gold and Rust where 
you can buy boutique sticks    stones    dead flowers
I’m more turned on by the defunct Mustang
its turquoise alive in the rain    nostalgia is dangerous 
turquoise that took millions of years to form   mined up
when there was one woman per one thousand men
Jin Ho threw herself into the bay when she learned
she would be sold into prostitution
threw herself not jumped so even in history she is 
an object possessing herself in an act of dispossession 
you make everything about yourself    
as if there’s another realm where I am real
if only    there was something essential    
an oil I could purchase that would reflect only you 
in my floral wrists shielding my eyes
here    take everything    my social security number
my hope that the rush of a population will crash

Copyright © 2020 by Claire Meuschke. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 29, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by Alejandro Cáceres Joseph

In the bosom of the sad evening
I called upon your sorrow… Feeling it was
Feeling your heart as well. You were pale
Even your voice, your waxen eyelids,

Lowered… and remained silent… You seemed
To hear death passing by… I who had opened
Your wound bit on it—did you feel me?—
As into the gold of a honeycomb I bit!

I squeezed even more treacherously, sweetly
Your heart mortally wounded,
By the cruel dagger, rare and exquisite,
Of a nameless illness, until making it bleed in sobs!
And the thousand mouths of my damned thirst
I offered to that open fountain in your suffering.
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

Why was I your vampire of bitterness?
Am I a flower or a breed of an obscure species
That devours sores and gulps tears?

 


El vampiro

En el regazo de la tarde triste
Yo invoqué tu dolor… Sentirlo era
Sentirte el corazón! Palideciste
Hasta la voz, tus párpados de cera,

Bajaron… y callaste… y pareciste
Oír pasar la Muerte… Yo que abriera
Tu herida mordí en ella —¿me sentiste? —
Como en el oro de un panal mordiera!

Y exprimí más, traidora, dulcemente
Tu corazón herido mortalmente,
Por la cruel daga rara y exquisita
De un mal sin nombre, hasta sangrarlo en llanto!
Y las mil bocas de mi sed maldita
Tendí á esa fuente abierta en tu quebranto.
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

¿Por qué fui tu vampiro de amargura?…
¿Soy flor ó estirpe de una especie obscura
Que come llagas y que bebe el llanto?

From Selected Poetry of Delmira Agustini: Poetics of Eros, published by Southern Illinois University Press. Translation copyright and selection © 2003 by Alejandro Cáceres. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on October 31, 2020.

acrostic golden shovel

America is loving me to death, loving me to death slowly, and I
Mainly try not to be disappeared here, knowing she won’t pledge
Even tolerance in return. Dear God, I can’t offer allegiance.
Right now, 400 years ago, far into the future―it’s difficult to
Ignore or forgive how despised I am and have been in the
Centuries I’ve been here—despised in the design of the flag
And in the fealty it demands (lest I be made an example of).
In America there’s one winning story—no adaptations. The
Story imagines a noble, grand progress where we’re all united.
Like truths are as self-evident as the Declaration states.
Or like they would be if not for detractors like me, the ranks of
Vagabonds existing to point out what’s rotten in America,
Insisting her gains come at a cost, reminding her who pays, and
Negating wild notions of exceptionalism—adding ugly facts to
God’s-favorite-nation mythology. Look, victors get spoils; I know the
Memories of the vanquished fade away. I hear the enduring republic,
Erect and proud, asking through ravenous teeth Who do you riot for?
Tamir? Sandra? Medgar? George? Breonna? Elijah? Philando? Eric? Which
One? Like it can’t be all of them. Like it can’t be the entirety of it:
Destroyed brown bodies, dismantled homes, so demolition stands
Even as my fidelity falls, as it must. She erases my reason too, allows one
Answer to her only loyalty test: yes or no, Michael, do you love this nation?
Then hates me for saying I can’t, for not burying myself under
Her fables where we’re one, indivisible, free, just, under God, her God.

 

Copyright © 2020 by Michael Kleber-Diggs. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 5, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in. I have learned to repeat these words to myself whenever I feel stuck.

Fear rustles mantras out of my body. I have risked a motherland. Why not also seduce the foreigner who implores nativity if loneliness can be broken and shared?

                                                         Aquarius

When Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical debuts on Broadway in April of 1968, it becomes the first production to include a nude scene with its entire cast.

Around the same time, Star Trek has popularized the phrase, Where no man has gone before.

Our bodies contain elements of outer space. So that when we’re naked we are gazing at the universe.

                                                         Aquarius

The night of my second panic attack, after getting released from the hospital and determined to change my mental health’s course, I dream of a nebula in the shape of an octopus, holding an astronaut in each tentacle. From my perspective, the cosmonauts feed on all my arms.

                                                         Aquarius

No more falsehoods or derisions. Golden living dreams of visions. Mystic crystal revelation and the mind's true liberation.

                                                         Aquarius

In the Age of Aquarius, give or take, plurality overtakes singularity. History becomes bored by its self-referentialism. Triangles burrow into single lines. Equal signs collapse on the spikes of other equal signs.

In the Age of Aquarius, give or take, we give birth to information and information delivers us. I make a fist and my fist speaks in four languages. Letters enter me and suddenly I experience flavors few before me have.

In the Age of Aquarius, give or take, gender is a tree is a building is a cloud. It is anything that hasn’t been said. The truest instinct one listens to more and more.

Copyright © 2020 by Roy G. Guzmán. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 6, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

after Yvan Goll

In the absent oils of your eyes two brown ores
resting leisurely on the view of your children.

You uncoil casually. My hand slipping
to the west and what was felled fills me

until I fall forward injuring your already dead arm.
I am so sorry. Our wills in a twist. Electric.

Some pulse between the gurney and the distant coffin.
My camera shutter clicking wildly around my neck.

Back home tus rab hlau searches for your hands.
The soil to harden. Rapture on the way. Onions

sprouting passionately as neglected gardens do.
The seven prisms of my blood bursting through my ears.

Your living children still living. Your garden goddess
drying the last goods in her shrine. With spring-like

precision the sun weeps until I boil. My head cracked
in four places. The ribbed earth catching fatal drops

of your blood or mine. You beseech me but in my time
I’ve slept away the sun. The underside of distance.

But I behold you now in this cool church and for a ransom.
I photograph you again and again. Your form crystalizing.

Your parted mouth a new annex to the ancestral house.
Your bones at the table. O how fair the jaundiced skies.

You get up to close that clear brittle door.

Copyright © 2020 by Khaty Xiong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 10, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

No, it wasn’t like that—you didn’t see
He was lying quietly, mouth shut, one hand on his chest,
The other frozen mid-stir

We were be side one another
When they found us
                          Be side, what a wonderful word
Be side is the scent I carry
Be side the first man I touched
And his touching me.
Be side him when I woke.
Fully awake,
                          I hear something,
                          Our baby perhaps or
A kitten crying for a saucer of milk
A kitten crying because she is lost
Because she is forsaken
Because she is left alive.
No, not the cat,
Me

Give me your hand, John Hoggatt
Remember our fishing hole at Byng?
A cold underground stream feeds it,
Gorgeous switch canes at the blue water’s edge 
Make sturdy Cherokee baskets
Remember?

Give me your hand, John
Together we’ll catch a mess of perch,
Cut the canes and load the wagon
We’ll have the folks over for supper
Just a half day’s wagon ride away,
Not far.

Give me your hand, dearest
Just last fall we helped build the Byng P.O.
Named in honor of Sir Julian Byng,
A British World War I hero.
Your father had a conniption.
You an Irishman, putting an Englishman forward!

Give me your hand, Johnny boy
I call you home now and I call you home tomorrow,
A thousand times as our bodies flake into stars,
Mad or sane, Get up John Hoggatt!
You can’t stay in this death bed
You—
Walk on Iva, says John, softly.
Walk on my girl,
My girl,
My

Copyright © 2020 by LeAnne Howe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 11, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

after Olivia Gatwood

I get ready for my first day as the new girl in high school
already knowing what not to wear. I dress perfectly
to stand out and disappear. I know how to put on
makeup, and I do it exactly right. My hair
looks awesome, of course! I step onto the bus,
pause by the driver, raise my arms like a superstar,
and meet the eyes of my adoring audience.
Three different beautiful girls punch
each other in the face to have me sit next to them.
I decline and the school’s most lovely, artsy boy
slides over to make room. He knows his feelings
and only goes too far
when he honestly misunderstands. He’s one of the safer ones.

I walk down the halls and no one makes fun of me.
I pass the section of lockers where her locker is, and
she is there, taking a book out of her backpack.
She’ll go running this weekend, as usual, and won’t
be followed. The man who won’t be following
her has already followed half a dozen women
to rape and kill and leave in the woods. But she won’t be
followed. She’ll survive her fate this time, and come back

to school on Monday, avoid the mean girls in the bathroom.
She’ll pick on the new girl, call her a virgin of all things.
She’ll limp her way through math, cheat a bit in science,
do pretty good in history and English. She’ll graduate,
and go to the state school on a track scholarship. She’ll
have two girls and keep them safe. She’ll almost forget

about this other ending: her in the woods near her house,
staring at the ground beneath her, wondering why.

Copyright © 2020 by Melanie Figg. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 12, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Zhingwaak gaa-ozhibii’aan Bamewawagezhikaquay
translated from the Anishinaabemowin by Margaret Noodin

Zhingwaak! Zhingwaak! Ingii-ikid, – Pine! Pine! I said,

Weshki waabamag zhingwaak – The one I see, the pine

Dagoshinaan neyab, endanakiiyaan. – I return back, to my homeland.

Zhingwaak, zhingwaak nos sa! – The pine, the pine my father!

 

Azhigwa gidatisaanan – Already you are colored

Gaagige wezhaawashkozid. – Forever you are green

Mii sa naa azhigwa dagoshinaang – So we already have arrived

Bizindamig ikeyaamban – Listen in that direction

Geget sa, niminwendam – Certainly I am happy

Miinwaa, waabandamaan – And I see

Gii-ayaad awiiya waabandamaan niin – He was there I saw it myself

Zhingwaak, zhingwaak nos sa! – The pine, the pine my father!

Azhigwa gidatisaanan. – Already you are colored.

 

Gaawiin gego, gaa-waabanda’iyan – Nothing, you did show me

Dibishkoo, ezhi-naagwasiinoon – Like that, the way it looks

Zhingwaak wezhaawashkozid – Pine he is green.

Wiin eta gwanaajiwi wi – He is beautiful

Gaagige wezhaawashkozid. – Forever he is the green one.

Copyright © 2020 by Margaret Noodin. Reprinted with permission of the poet. All rights reserved. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 14, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Sleep, my little man-child, 
Dream-time to you has come. 

In the closely matted branches
Of the mesquite tree, 
The mother-bird has nestled 
Her little ones; see 
From the ghost-hills of your fathers, 
Purpling shadows eastward crawl, 
While beyond the western sky-tints pale 
As twilight spreads its pall. 

The eastern hills are lighted, 
See their sharp peaks burn and glow, 
With the colors the Great Sky-Chief 
Gave your father for his bow. 
Hush my man-child; be not frighted, 
'Tis the father's step draws nigh. 
O'er the trail along the river, 
Where the arrow-weeds reach high 
Above his dark head, see 
He parts them with his strong hands, 
As he steps forth into view. 
He is coming home to mother, 
Home to mother and to you. 
 
Sleep my little man-child, 
Daylight has gone. 
There's no twitter in the branches, 
Dream-time has come. 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 15, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Let us, instead, consider the pockets 
Martin Rodriguez sewed onto the insides 
of his jacket and pants. 
                                      This was 5th grade.
This isn’t about the fact that he got caught 
jacking a bunch of shit from Market Spot. 
All of us wished we’d thought of it first. 
                                                                 We need 
to stay focused on those extra pockets. How 
big those caverns must have been—that fortune 
of whispered temptation. 
                                           Boy-genius, we said. 
Pockets for bags of apple-rings, beef jerky. A Pepsi 
2-liter. Crunch bars. Cans of Cactus Cooler, 
maybe. The lonely monster of desire bent us 
away from boyhood, made it something small 
that we wanted to toss rocks at. 
                                                    Rolls of Oreos 
in those pockets. Enough Doublemint gum 
to anchor friends on a green recess field. A few
sheets of temporary tattoos to offer in class 
while Mrs. Hawkins continued her lesson 
on the Gold Rush. 
                               I can see those pockets 
pomegranate when pulled apart: a bloom 
of endings across the Market Spot parking lot 
as he tried to run. Bomb Pop ice cream bars, 
or the cartoon kind with gumballs for eyes, 
oozing out. 
                   Look, I am talking about collapse. 
As always. The rest of the poem wants to go 
like this: I don’t know what happened 
to Martin Rodriguez. He never came back
to school. But the truth is he returned to class 
the next day. 
                     We stood in a circle, laughing 
about what he took until the day Manny 
got caught smoking weed. Then we talked 
about that until someone’s cousin got shot 
after school by the computer lab. We played 
Oregon Trail on Thursdays. None of us 
could ever cross the river. I kept dying 
of snake bite. 
                       We got older and painted walls 
for different crews. We became enemies, me 
and Martin, drawing exes over each other. We 
turned into no one, and then, 
                                                finally, we became 
fathers. I saw him, years later, with his son. 
We crossed each other on the street. Both of us 
nodded and kept on moving toward the sidewalk. 
So many years collapsing into each other, 
I thought. 
                  Someone has changed the sign 
in front of the store. But if I say Market Spot
today, the homie points to where we watched 
the cashier jump the counter and snatch Martin 
into the air, splicing it with sugar. The sharp kick 
of a boy’s legs. A body jolted into enough quiet 
that police were called. Officers with notepads, 
                the cashier waving flies away from his face.

Copyright © 2020 by Michael Torres. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Loosely translated in English
means “They say.” Tuscarora
and English do not run through
the cerebral cortex on the same
groove. They are like the Two
Row Wampum, a treaty pronouncing
relationships between our people
and the first white people arriving
on our shores. We made it after
those new people inexplicably
decided the sand and everything
following it was in fact theirs, decided
that because we were not Christians,
their god could not have meant it
for us. Then we said skoden, agreeing and
thinking they agreed, we must each travel side
by side like two canoes, neither crossing
in the other vessel’s movement forward.

Because they are different, the parts can not
be parsed in English. Eee-ogg, or Eee-awk
(depending on your family inflection)
is not neatly divided. Eee is not they,
ogg (or awk) is not say. And no, it’s not
Ewok, the animate Teddy Bears from Return
of the Jedi. And please don’t say “this is too
hard to remember.” If you can learn to say
Tatooine or Alderaan, or Obi-Wan Kenobi,
or god forbid, Jar Jar Binks, you can learn
to say Eee-awk (or Eee-ogg)

Tuscarora is a verb based language,
an action language, where English
loves its nouns more. In English
you want to know who is doing
scandalous things, the activity less
important, as long as it’s juicy.
In English, you want to say “I heard”
and not “They say,” and if you don’t
understand the importance of that
difference, it is good that we travel
our parallel paths, crossing only in
the wake we leave to dissipate behind us.

Copyright © 2020 by Eric Gansworth. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 18, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

But where do the breasts go first is my question.
I understand their fantasies of fleeing south. 

The winters are loud and long and white 
and by March, well. I wonder why I’m still 

in it too. Now the round pits thumb up 
beneath the skin, tender and hot to the touch, 

crushed by my new weight. This island I’ve 
had to make of myself brought a bevy, 

angered by easy pleasures: sugar, soy sauce, 
potatoes, ice cream. My love’s language 

is to make a meal, ask what I can take in, 
ask what maladies to avoid. As for my house:

touch is far and few between. Desire wanes 
between compresses of cloves cinnamon turmeric 

and honey.  But in the mornings, a gulf between us, 
my hands are kissed. The blinds drawn to keep

the sun from disturbing my sleep while we wait 
patiently for my body’s quiet prayer of thanks.

Copyright © 2020 by Aricka Foreman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by Pierre Joris

So many constellations, dis-
played to us. I was,
when I looked at you—when?—
outside with
the other worlds.

O, these paths, galactic,
O this hour that billowed
the nights over to us into
the burden of our names. It is,
I know, not true,
that we lived, a mere
breath blindly moved between
there and not-there and sometimes,
comet-like an eye whizzed
toward extinguished matter, in the canyons,
there where it burned out, stood
tit-gorgeous time, along
which grew up and down
& away what
is or was or will be—,

I know,
I know and you know, we knew,
we didn’t know, for we
were there and not there,
and sometimes, when
only Nothingness stood between us, we
found truly together.

 


Soviel Gestirne

Soviel Gestirne, die
man uns hinhält. Ich war,
als ich dich ansah – wann? –,
draußen bei
den andern Welten.

O diese Wege, galaktisch,
o diese Stunde, die uns
die Nächte herüberwog in
die Last unsrer Namen. Es ist,
ich weiß es, nicht wahr,
daß wir lebten, es ging
blind nur ein Atem zwischen
Dort und Nicht-da und Zuweilen,
kometenhaft schwirrte ein Aug
auf Erloschenes zu, in den Schluchten,
da, wo’s verglühte, stand
zitzenprächtig die Zeit,
an der schon empor- und hinab-
und hinwegwuchs, was
ist oder war oder sein wird –,

ich weiß,
ich weiß und du weißt, wir wußten,
wir wußten nicht, wir
waren ja da und nicht dort,
und zuweilen, wenn
nur das Nichts zwischen uns stand, fanden
wir ganz zueinander.

From Memory Rose into Threshold Speech: The Collected Earlier Poetry (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2020) by Paul Celan, translated by Pierre Joris. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 22, 2020, with the permission of the translator.

You don’t need me, I know, here on
this podium with my poem. You
hunched in the back of the room,
tilted in your hard-earned reservation
lean. You ho-hum your gaze out the
window toward some other sky.  

Dear new blood, dear holy dear fully
mixed up mixed down mixed in and
out blood, go ahead and kick the shit,
kiss the shit from my ears. I swear I
swear I’ll listen. Stutter at stutter at me you
uptown weed you thorn you
petal, aim my old flowered face at the
sky.

I know you don’t need me, here on
this podium with my poem. You
pressed flat to the wall, shoulders
cocked, loaded for makwa, for old
growlers like me. You yawn your
glance out the window at the
tempting sky.

Wake me. Bang my dead drum drum,
clang clang my anvil my bell. Shout me
hush me your song, your shiny
impossible, your long, wounded song.
Tell me everything you know, you
don’t. Tell me, do you feel conquered
and occupied? Maybe I’ve forgotten.
Sing it plain, has America ever let you
be you in your own sky?

Sing deep Chaco, deep Minneapolis,
deep Standing Rock, deep Oakland
and LA. Sing deep Red Cliff, sing
Chicago, deep Acoma, deep Pine Ridge
and Tahlequah. Mourn. I think you,
too, were born with broken heart.
Rise. Smash your un-American throat
against the edge of the sky.

You don’t need me, I know. But don’t
go don’t look away. I need you.

Copyright © 2020 by Mark Turcotte. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 23, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

That’s us: the bruise on my thigh, a Camel
dangling from your beautiful mouth
and this our favorite wedding picture. The vows:
      (1) Do I take thee Wife
as wedge against the fear

of sleeping alone
in Southeast Asia?

      (2) Do I take thee Husband as solace
for all the girls ever wanted? For the ones kissed

and held by and held.

Twenty years later I am queer as
a happy Monday and you dead from cancer—

lung or liver, I no longer know
anyone to ask and made up the cause, cancer 
I say, because the paper said you died at home.
And that there was a child after besides the one before
and nothing to mark the one 
we washed away.
I dream of her sometimes, little toothless sack of skin.
with something, nothing, something 
swimming inside. 
                                     But more often
I dream of a house I once lived in,

a certain room, a street, its light. I wake 
trying to remember which country, 
what language. Not the house
where we lived and its bodies.
How they come and go

late at night, nearly dawn. I am making 
crepes and coffee and the group from the bar 
can’t believe their luck.
What did we talk about? I am trying to remember
and not trying to remember
how I tried or never tried to love you.

Copyright © 2020 by Janet McAdams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 25, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

This is how a country goes bad.

Reason does not govern

The social order, in the Republic.


The old philosophers thought reason

If spoken plainly could alter

The governing order of the world.


Was it a comfort to believe

That someone held the Word

In their mind to establish

The world beyond thinking


The world on the ground

Upheld and upholding

The mind in its cottage

The thought of the world


Apart from the mind

Stable of immortal horses?


And the long disputations of Abelard... 

What was the discourse?


What was the virtue of speech

Had there not been a world

To uphold and a mind to think

Of worlds that were not itself


The mind echoing the outside

Creak of tree-frogs at night—

The window and witness—

To tell the story of what it saw?


Was there never a song

A dogma close to Paradise

Worthy of our tenderness?


Were the tongues always 

Deceived and the spoils 

Bestowed by conquerors

The purchase of blindness?


On the wall is the writing

By hand of the last poet

To leave the last city behind.

Her words are calligraphy.


The drawing made by them

The letters of the writing

What it says is that here

A hand once made a mark.
 

O liberty to write your precious

Freedom like a faulty wire.


Through the window the maple trees

Shining and swaying.


Lights sputter as the hand moves.


Well then, to write dark letters

On dark pages in the dark hall.

It matters that the words hold on

And the meanings cling like iron.

Copyright © 2020 by Mark McMorris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 1, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Insomniac for a high noon
called midnight. Another howling
Coyote ass chorus of disapproval—Malinche          
was my Farrah Fawcett poster          

no strap
              no thong

no tongue
              just hair

masculine taped to     my bedroom wall

an imagined papacito
in a big bad brown
teen lobo
den for real.

The gigalo furrowed browed
spittled jowls highlights yellow        

an estrangement with my pack
of sancho sinvergüenzas

swimming in lack
for Mommy Malinchismo

But we appreciate over time,
our bellies get full over time.
And     these papers     overwhelm an archive.

So for a good time call Cortez, a casual encounter. 
No strings attached
             cuando estoy triste I swipe right.

Copyright © 2020 by Raquel Gutiérrez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 2, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

How dreary the winds shriek and whine:
    The trembling shadows grow chill. 
O soul of my soul, wert thou mine!

O where are the stars that did shine?
    The moonlight that tinselled the hill?
How dreary the winds shriek and whine! 

Despair ’round my heart doth entwine,
    Far soundeth my cry weird and shrill:
O soul of my soul, wert thou mine!

I’ve quaffed to the dregs the mad wine 
    Of passion, but under my sill
How dreary the winds shriek and whine!

’Tis thine, is the dream so divine, 
    That doth this vain yearning instill; 
O soul of my soul, wert thou mine!

’Tis mine, here to crave and to pine
   For what thou wilt never fulfill;
How dreary the winds shriek and whine!
O soul of my soul, wert thou mine! 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 6, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Like, the last thing I said to you was let’s buy a duplex,
like, you live on your side & I’ll live on my side &
you’ll rise when you rise & I’ll rise when I rise &
I said something like, let’s divide these hurts & regrets
& you get a stack & I get a stack & you walk a block
& I walk a block & you get a poodle & I get a pug
& you stub a toe & I twist an ankle & you get
a wheelbarrow & I get chickens glazed with rain
& you interrupt & I intercept & you call
the Congressman & I call the Mayor & you blow
a trumpet & I smash a tuba or maybe seal off all sound 

sheltering the shuddering of the heart compressed

the high-pitched operas of trolley wheels breaking
at the edge of midnight where magnolias
shelter the stoplights & left-footed lovers, drunk 
on beignets & champagne-kisses & maybe struck
by the distant drift of a giant
sea turtle floating toward a green wave
in a tacky, overpriced painting
& somehow they’re safe, the couple is safe
& there’s no parade stilts that will break, no stars
that will bend, there’s just an orchid
tucked behind an ear & hours blurred together

& I said something

like

& you said—

& I said—

Remember?

Copyright © 2020 by Yona Harvey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 7, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

We felt nostalgic for libraries, even though we were sitting in a library. We looked around the library lined with books and thought of other libraries we had sat in lined with books and then of all the libraries we would never sit in lined with books, some of which contained scenes set in libraries.   *   We felt nostalgic for post offices, even though we were standing in a post office. We studied the rows of stamps under glass and thought about how their tiny castles, poets, cars, and flowers would soon be sent off to all cardinal points. We rarely got paper letters anymore, so our visits to the post office were formal, pro forma.   *   We felt nostalgic for city parks, even though we were walking through a city park, in a city full of city parks in a country full of cities full of city parks, with their green benches, bedraggled bushes, and shabby pansies, cut into the city. (Were the city parks bits of nature showing through cutouts in the concrete, or was the concrete showing through cutouts in nature?)   *   We sat in a café drinking too much coffee and checking our feeds, wondering why we were more anxious about the future than anxiously awaiting it. Was the future showing through cutouts in the present, or were bits of the present showing through cutouts in a future we already found ourselves in, arrived in our café chairs like fizzled jetpacks? The café was in a former apothecary lined with dark wood shelves and glowing white porcelain jars labeled in gilded Latin, which for many years had sat empty. Had a person with an illness coming to fetch her weekly dose of meds from one of the jars once said to the city surrounding the shop, which was no longer this city, Stay, thou art so fair? Weren’t these the words that had sealed the bargainer’s doom? Sitting in our presumptive futures, must we let everything run through our hands—which were engineered to grab—into the past? In the library, in the post office, in the city park, in the café, in the apothecary... o give us the medicine, even if it is a pharmakon—which, as the pharmacist knows, either poisons or heals—just like nostalgia. Just like the ruins of nostalgia.

Copyright © 2020 by Donna Stonecipher. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 8, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The afternoon was a medium.
You made it to the beach. You made to it
an invertebrate overture. Lay down slug
-like, slit belly, what gave.
You were entering what then was called
the universal. A bit
pendulous. You felt a motion that wasn’t
negative pulling you toward the ancient texts
you had discovered floating in some sewage.
They were from the heyday of psychology.
You laughed at this. An animal filament
flickered at the edge of sea. By sea
they had meant mind. You laughed at this.
You observed frothing something. Universal. Stung
your toes. Something universal at the edge you nip
your toes in. Something universal this way you become.

Copyright © 2020 by Aditi Machado. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 14, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

    KLYTAIMESTRA:

In prayerful, rational geometry

his arrow arced

but just—a kill—
through heaven’s rolled, impersonal blue,

arriving beyond view
before the thought of it.

The deer kicked without purchase
in the air
so, the further out she ran,
she laid right there

before he raised a pole

a little taller

than a daughter
on a pile of oiled wood
might stand.
            
               •

    KLYTAIMESTRA:

On his cup
the murex —

a spiny conch
as if within the rib complex
of some dissolved

creature
new proprietors
built a calcite beehive tomb

captured in Syrian ivory
and Caucasian tin
that touches between his eyes

each sip axe glint



as naval ships
that lamplight sails
approach the bath

gridded, grouted, fit.

Whose legs submerged waste?

What man’s penis refracted to a boy’s wavers



and in creases of lapped water
winks away?

His own?

Or is he meant to be on board
and then myself in Mycenae

on the outer room’s pisé walls
he storms
décor.

Copyright © 2020 by Eric Ekstrand. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 15, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

(for FR)

1

After the pain of one thing you found
another            less sharp        it tickled
the hurt you kept company
to feel again so you
could go on without
really moving
one more time
from this
and

2

On the way to the island what happened
receded like the shoreline you knew 
it grew smaller but you didn’t
find or try or think or see
a way to keep the scale
as it had been before.
Things happened.  That’s no:
no revelation.
It’s not sealed.
But still—
oh.

3

The green light Rohmer wrote of in that film
what did it mean? Can you remember
anything more than the hopeful
expression fading from each
character… is a dream
the grass blown against
the source… is it
that or that
we wake
yet

4

Sisyphean levity we said our
joy cresting as we turned outside out
ourselves our happiest moments
in rooms four-or five-sided 
by air and earth and trees
we hold that sometimes
flatteringly
together
us two
now

5

Let’s make a prairie one beautiful thing
we will have to remember again 
our agreement to make a way  
out of what we are given
the uprooting terror
of our undoing. First
cut what has been
living here
cut it
down

6

Today everything you love weeps and leans
its metaphoric arms to the ground 
pendula           pendula           the trees
take their shape from their parents
even the peashrub sprawls
outward and downward.
Today’s a day
for sitting
down, yes?
Oh

7

No one has come to tell us what we want
to hear is hardly the wondrous thing
existence is though we wonder
whether each opening takes
will take us further on
from from to into
from from to to
from from yes
from from
from

8

Chores enough for days and days enough for
whatever we might want time to do
days sweep and cower under breath 
sleeping under the daylight 
bower rocking in wind
we are the baby
the baby cries
what it wants
it wants
then

Copyright © 2020 by G. E. Patterson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I have a friend who measures desire

by stillness, who is most turned on

by the person in the room who meditates

without flinching. The librarian, too,

in the Manuscripts Division, handling

the patron who can’t seem to stay seated

warns: I will serve you the smallest items first

as a knit sweater slides off a chair’s back 

into a loose knot. All day we could have

watched clusters of blue bottle gentians

flexing their umbrellas open and shut

as bumblebees submerged head-first

into one bloom after another,

dizzy subspaces, partially open

paper dressing rooms, trying on things

till they’d wrapped themselves

in a good dusting of pollen. Everywhere

intimate containers seem to be in motion.

The raised bed full of squash flowers.

The black latex glove masking

the bare hand ladling bowls

of wedding soup for the lunch crowd.

My quick pedal revved by the world.

Copyright © 2020 by Jenny Johnson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 17, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The first plea-

sure was,

someday, a man

amen a boy be-

fore this boy

without form

yet here god-

send said god—

send me an-

other portion

of sky ’ipelíikt

turns to bruise

pressed to our

skin now skinn-

-ed touch us

into extinction

where we are a-

live, so say it:

live—no out-

live any god

salvaged by

the image a-

flame trapped

in the night

of the throat

like a gun-

lit glimmer

in a room sh-

redded with

our pleas-

                    ure.

Copyright © 2020 by Michael Wasson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 18, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Thou sing’st alone on the bare wintry bough,
As if Spring with its leaves were around thee now;
And its voice that was heard in the laughing rill,
And the breeze as it whispered o’er meadow and hill,
Still fell on thine ear, as it murmured along
To join the sweet tide of thine own gushing song.
Sing on—though its sweetness was lost on the blast,
And the storm has not heeded thy song as it passed,
Yet its music awoke in a heart that was near,
A thought whose remembrance will ever prove dear;
Though the brook may be frozen, though silent its voice,
And the gales through the meadows no longer rejoice,
Still I felt, as my ear caught thy glad note of glee,
That my heart in life’s winter might carol like thee.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 19, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

at the edge of the verbena the echium swallows bees in a lavender bath or olfactory wash for these bitters these fingers edged in yellows drift in thyme crushing sprigs under nails along this promenade these lawns this potted fragrance mellow take it in as an order a numeral a douche for the senses an enema florid this clyster now rare, herbage archaic, sediment of suppository, for fodder rough or coarse or other entryways for fibers in this hall an inflation of sideways facing a maker of daydreams shaker of this here bed or chaise lounge or sofa or basement or cottage, let the soles of these shoes splinter so the heels come in contact with dirt direct as a rod from the ground through tendons, cross the body with roots from the base of the bottom of earthen alignments of dust, take it in, balance of penance, attention to breath, anchor of gaze, extend the senses, the bounds of a body, of its practice, of its potential, disintegration of silvering, of a mirror, or a boundary, between subject // object, language // record, active // passive, life form, be it animal // vegetal // mineral, no tin to this here tin, no metals to distinguish in this bath of the senses, waft of my helpless musk, it has filled columns of the study, sat on pillars in the middle of the city, with the stylites, the ascetics, as a hermit or a dweller in these cosmos for reception, fasting for the intertextual, desire for connection, from a lapse of memory, an abstraction, an association of sediment, squatting atop this city, on its rods, as a spiritual practice, reading grids, or leaves, or grounds, or spreads, of cards, or cheeks, mixed fluids my roots all trade / one another amalgam temptation / in this here lavender linguistics / boots full dirt my present my offering 

Copyright © 2020 by Noah Ross. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 23, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Born to bees (they follow the deer trails
down to drink from the rivers).

Born to call the dog Houdini—
Hoo! Yo, ’Dini! 

Born to parlay “First yellow leaves
on the ash trees/Cool breeze up
the backside/Spinach to Popeye.”

Born to Draco, low,
or the lights of town, or home,
or cooking fires off along the mesa—
Lost Horizon in a common poem. 

Born to crows’ eyes
the furnace-red of sunrise,
and a country girl, old mosquito bites
up one arm and down the other.

Born to stand and see
as one of the thugs tees up
marbles from my childhood cache
and drives them in bright smithereens
off over the lower town and the harbor. 

Copyright © 2020 by Merrill Gilfillan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 24, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

With dusk’s slow bleed, the scent comes back 

from beyond our gate, sickly-sweetly powdering the yard

and its scattered buckets, chalk, decapitated 

plastic fauna—how all the bright junk 

rushes to the pixelated surface 

in the final minutes before remorse 

douses the world in itself. High-tops on the phone wire

already mortared into silhouettes, like crows.

Roof rat in the plum tree, synching its intricate listening 

with the stop-start taps on my MacBook 

ten feet beneath. Wondering what’s taking us so long

to vanish. Its tail pulses from its rich perch 

with what I thought I had once—a hunger 

so absorbing it becomes, while nothing changes,

its own reward. Some hidden dark

where you could crouch and find a pattern. 

While nothing changes; while the scent of jasmine

flutters and drifts, like sympathy, living for itself.

Copyright © 2020 by Nate Klug. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 25, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

There was a husband-father at one time, distinguished in phrases but not in gestures.
There was a daughter circulating in vain attempts, calculating the usage of efforts,
I’m afraid to say. I had painted her in pearly fabric
amidst the lost husband-father who blew up our foundation
when he sought to line draw the exaggerations in our field: what were perished
actions of the family. I thought to resuscitate it all and my cheeks blew inward.
I was holding all my breath inside. This wasn’t a good idea.

So does this world spring from the imperishable, says The Upanishads.

And led me to ask for a crystalline idiom, because in finding
the daughter, I lost myself. I realized (too late)
I was granted tyranny for all the lost occasions.
My therapist calls this manipulation. I decided to stake its claim.
I will be done now. I knew I was the hat trick for them.
And thus I’m over with the game because the game had since
been done with me—I had no idea until I blew and blew and blew.

Copyright © 2020 by Prageeta Sharma. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 28, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I told Alli I really wanted
to write a poem called “Dog Park.”

In bed she’s like you could make it
a New Yorker poem, where you
go to a dog park and then have some
huge epiphany. And then we
have a soft debate as to whether
a poem called “Dog Park”
needs a dog park in it or
not, or even a dog. I dunno.

But I do I know I don’t want
to get up out of bed, not now,
five milligrams of warm indica
coaxing me into its native land
of sleep, to write down Alli’s
idea for my poem “Dog Park”
and I tell her so and she says
get up, you’re a poet, and it’s
true, so I shuffle off this
warm, magnificent mattress,
firm as the back of a Golden
Retriever in the prime of life.

The blinds in the bedroom
are shut tight against the mean
lights of the Pacific East Mall
that moan all night and make
the nearby bedrooms bright.
But I get up, ugh, to write
down what might be the
beginning of a poem called
“Dog Park,” with or without a
dog park or even a dog. And
obviously you’d rather be
a cloud than a poet, Jesus.
Or the plastic tip of a vape pen
or the floating lint in the store
where they sell beds and sheets
and pillows and duvets or even
a grody hunk of sand on the
ground of a dog park, my
nightmare. But it will just
take a minute or two, and then
I can pee one last time with
impunity, double check the
door is locked, go back to bed,
wait for the next one.

Copyright © 2020 by Brandon Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 29, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

No slips           moan
impossible & smooth
Maybe             my tongue
embellished                 your
other hours
I never ask      names
must have         known
street’s            light
welcomes you
into me                            in quiet
Your memory
                       forgives you
Mine   Thighsneck 
Hands on legs, ankles
You are not cruel enough
for this to be                it is
My bed            a message
a bed  in use
and I want you
to leave it  I want
to be left          The next no
is                     followed close

 

and as been clinked dark flicker from heard hours into kisses like neck now other our prove to you your

Copyright © 2020 by Eran Eads. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 30, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.