On another night
in a hotel
in a room
in a city
flanked by all
that is unfamiliar
I am able to move
my finger along
a glass screen
& in seconds
see your mother
smiling in a room
that is our own
that is now so
far away but
also not so far
away at all
& she can place
the small screen
near her belly
& when I speak
I can see you
her skin as if you
knew that this
& what a small
joy it is to be some-
where that is not
with you but to
still be with you
& see your feet
her rib cage like
you knew we’d
both be dancing
Copyright © 2017 by Clint Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 11, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
We were made to understand it would be
Terrible. Every small want, every niggling urge,
Every hate swollen to a kind of epic wind.
Livid, the land, and ravaged, like a rageful
Dream. The worst in us having taken over
And broken the rest utterly down.
A long age
Passed. When at last we knew how little
Would survive us—how little we had mended
Or built that was not now lost—something
Large and old awoke. And then our singing
Brought on a different manner of weather.
Then animals long believed gone crept down
From trees. We took new stock of one another.
We wept to be reminded of such color.
From Wade in the Water. Copyright © 2018 by Tracy K. Smith. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.
Out here, there’s a bowing even the trees are doing.
Winter’s icy hand at the back of all of us.
Black bark, slick yellow leaves, a kind of stillness that feels
so mute it’s almost in another year.
I am a hearth of spiders these days: a nest of trying.
We point out the stars that make Orion as we take out
the trash, the rolling containers a song of suburban thunder.
It’s almost romantic as we adjust the waxy blue
recycling bin until you say, Man, we should really learn
some new constellations.
And it’s true. We keep forgetting about Antlia, Centaurus,
Draco, Lacerta, Hydra, Lyra, Lynx.
But mostly we’re forgetting we’re dead stars too, my mouth is full
of dust and I wish to reclaim the rising—
to lean in the spotlight of streetlight with you, toward
what’s larger within us, toward how we were born.
Look, we are not unspectacular things.
We’ve come this far, survived this much. What
would happen if we decided to survive more? To love harder?
What if we stood up with our synapses and flesh and said, No.
No, to the rising tides.
Stood for the many mute mouths of the sea, of the land?
What would happen if we used our bodies to bargain
for the safety of others, for earth,
if we declared a clean night, if we stopped being terrified,
if we launched our demands into the sky, made ourselves so big
people could point to us with the arrows they make in their minds,
rolling their trash bins out, after all of this is over?
From The Carrying (Milkweed Editions, 2018) by Ada Limón. Copyright © 2018 by Ada Limón. Used with the permission of Milkweed Editions. milkweed.org.
Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.
Copyright © 2015 by Ross Gay. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.
The moon will shine for God
knows how long.
As if it still matters. As if someone
is trying to recall a dream.
Believe the brain is a cage of light
& rage. When it shuts off,
something else switches on.
There’s no better reason than now
to lock the doors, the windows.
Turn off the sprinklers
& porch light. Save the books
for fire. In darkness,
we learn to read
what moves along the horizon,
across the periphery of a gun scope—
the flicker of shadows,
the rustling of trash in the body
of cities long emptied.
Not a soul lives
in this house &
this house & this
house. Go on, stiffen
the heart, quicken
the blood. To live
in a world of flesh
& teeth, you must
learn to kill
what you love,
& love what can die.
Copyright © 2016 by Burlee Vang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 20, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
On the fifth day
the scientists who studied the rivers
were forbidden to speak
or to study the rivers.
The scientists who studied the air
were told not to speak of the air,
and the ones who worked for the farmers
and the ones who worked for the bees.
Someone, from deep in the Badlands,
began posting facts.
The facts were told not to speak
and were taken away.
The facts, surprised to be taken, were silent.
Now it was only the rivers
that spoke of the rivers,
and only the wind that spoke of its bees,
while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees
continued to move toward their fruit.
The silence spoke loudly of silence,
and the rivers kept speaking
of rivers, of boulders and air.
Bound to gravity, earless and tongueless,
the untested rivers kept speaking.
Bus drivers, shelf stockers,
code writers, machinists, accountants,
lab techs, cellists kept speaking.
They spoke, the fifth day,
from Ledger (Knopf, 2020); first appeared in The Washington Post. Used by permission of the author, all rights reserved.
A hint of gold where the moon will be;
Through the flocking clouds just a star or two;
Leaf sounds, soft and wet and hushed,
And oh! the crying want of you.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 23, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Translated by Idra Novey and Ahmad Nadalizadeh
For the city of Bam destroyed in the 2003 earthquake
The window is black
the table, black
the sky, black
the snow, black
I don’t need medicine
or a psychotherapist.
Just lift these stones,
sweep aside the earth
and look into my eyes!
that are round like the Earth
an image of the world
the world of shut doors
of countless walls
anytime I stand before the mirror
the image of an upside-down tortoise
makes me long for a passer-by
to arrive and invert the world
our hands will tremble from all this solitude
and our depiction on the canvas
will be scribbled out
the ruins of Bam scribbled out
the shelters we built
collapsing on our heads
I am terrified by the next images in this poem
the image of God lifting all the doors onto his shoulders
retreating far and then farther
I write: one day
the missing keys will be recovered.
What should we do about the missing locks.
Copyright © 2020 by Garous Abdolmalekian, Idra Novey, and Ahmad Nadalizadeh. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 21, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Where one finds poetry, one finds the Lord,
God of Epic, a golden instrument on Our Lord’s plums, God the body,
pelt of Our Lord, red cap for red God, tree of the Heavens.
Remember, José Daniel? The God we engraved on our desks?
Christ of Our Lord, Christ of Our Children.
Lord’s denominator in the Lord’s arithmetic, a pair of children scissors.
God at our borders, the salt of Our Lord, God’s ocean of cotton, of sugar.
A nickname for God: The Lord Elephant. Lord mule.
Lord’s acres. Hospital Lord. Texas for God Alabama.
God’s sea of blue tarps.
Our Lord’s November. An August for Our God. Roses of God
for the roses.
Freights for God’s rest, clouds for the Lord. Will the Gods
disappear, their arms full of roses?
God in the shadows, 11 months of God in the shadows,
the dogs relieving themselves
on the walls of the Lord, the wall of our Lord, Our Lord in God’s roses,
Lord’s wound flowering red.
One heaven of fog clouding faces for heaven of roses—a heaven
for God, Our Lord and the Darkness
of numbers, Lord’s icebox, Lord’s cages
for the Children of God, an armful of roses
for roses of God, God’s labor, God’s Wednesdays
as labor and the labor of God.
El mercado de materia prima
Donde se encuentre la poesía, se encuentra su Dios
epopeya, el tenedor oro en ciruelas de Dios, el Dios en su cuerpo,
sus pieles de Dios, su gorro de Dios rojo, el árbol de los cielos.
¿Recuerdas, José Daniel, cuando grabamos al Dios en los pupitres?
El Cristo de Dios, el Cristo de los Niños.
Su aritmética el denominador de Dios, las tijeras
de los Niños.
El Dios en las fronteras, la sal
de su Dios, su mar de algodón, de azúcar.
El Dios en su apodo de Dios Elefante. Dios mula.
Los terrenos de Dios. El Dios de hospitales. Un Texas para el Dios
Su mar de carpas azules.
El Dios su noviembre. Su agosto de Dios. Las rosas de Dios
de sus rosas.
El Dios su vagón donde duerme su Dios en sus nubes. ¿Desaparecerán
los Dioses con rosas en sus brazos?
El Dios en su sombrío, 11 meses de sombrío de Dios,
los perros orinando
sobre los muros de Dios, el muro de Dios, el Dios en sus rosas,
Dios su llaga de flamboyán.
El cielo estaba encancaranublado, encancaranublado de rosas
su Dios, Dios en sus turbios
números, la hielera de Dios, las jaulas de Dios
de sus niños, sus rosas de manos
de rosas de Dios, su trabajo, su miércoles
de Dios, su trabajo de Dios.
From The Life Assignment (Four Way Books, 2020) by Ricardo Alberto Maldonado. Copyright © 2020 by Ricardo Alberto Maldonado. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.