your body still your body
your arms still wing
your mouth still a gun
          you tragic, misfiring bird
you have all you need to be a hero
don’t save the world, save yourself
you worship too much & you worship too much
when prayer doesn’t work:      dance, fly, fire
this is your hardest scene
when you think the whole sad thing might end
but you live      oh, you live
everyday you wake you raise the dead
          everything you do is a miracle

From Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017) Copyright © 2017 by Danez Smith. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press,

by way of entry you sit with an object, hold it in your hands, rub your fingers across its grooves. you close your eyes, not so much an act of faith as it is an attempt to focus the senses, to see what knowing might be made available through a haptic relationship. it is only a wallet. it is empty. Reginald Jerry Clark would leave this for Regina, she in turn would leave this for you. she teaches you not to speak ill of the dead, to not speak of them at all, so there is no ceremony around the absence. 

a black rail worker was born in 1913, served as a porter for The Great Northern Railroad for 25 years and retired without pension. he died some time later. in 1913 there was a rail worker, a porter he served on The Great Northern Railroad and died some time after retirement. a black rail worker died and came back a porter, he retired without pension he died. a black worker was born a porter for the railroad he died and came back as a quarter mile of track. a black rail worker worked and railed and died and retirement was always later, later. 

you work with words, which unlike the wallet, is not a material you touch, but you wonder if in reordering them you might disrupt what is presupposed, if you might work something other than emptiness from their grooves. you’ve only failed at this. you are not yet a skilled enough practitioner of failure, and so you keep reordering them, to see what casts a shadow.

Copyright © 2023 by Chaun Webster. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 12, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Because the bee
In my bonnet
Is the B in my bed,
Who I can’t and I
Won’t stop bumping;
We do the humpty
Hump. My big nose
Nestled in her sassafras.
At attention, we round
Each other out. At ease, 
Her peach is a galaxy.

Now and later is a square
I quietly hold on my tongue,
My mouth an empty gesture. 
Spaced out between her legs, 
I am an astronaut.
The gravity of my offense
Adds up to a rational number.

When the heavens are free
From light, I sit desire on my lap.
She is stardust; And I, 
As it were, am impossible.  
When she asks for space
She is the future. When she
Asks for a room, it is the end. 
I place before her chutes,
Ladders, and whatever else
Might fall from the sky.

Copyright © 2021 by Alison C. Rollins. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 18, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.