One river gives
Its journey to the next.
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.
We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.
We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—
Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.
Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:
Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.
You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me
What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made
Something greater from the difference.
Copyright © 2014 by Alberto Ríos. Used with permission of the author.
Maybe there is more of the magical
in the idea of a door than in the door
itself. It’s always a matter of going
through into something else. But
while some doors lead to cathedrals
arching up overhead like stormy skies
and some to sumptuous auditoriums
and some to caves of nuclear monsters
most just yield a bathroom or a closet.
Still, the image of a door is liminal,
passing from one place into another
one state to the other, boundaries
and promises and threats. Inside
to outside, light into dark, dark into
light, cold into warm, known into
strange, safe into terror, wind
into stillness, silence into noise
or music. We slice our life into
segments by rituals, each a door
to a presumed new phase. We see
ourselves progressing from room
to room perhaps dragging our toys
along until the last door opens
and we pass at last into was.
Copyright © 2015 by Marge Piercy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 21, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
The poet sits and dreams and dreams;
He scans his verse; he probes his themes.
Then turns to stretch or stir about,
Lest, like his thoughts, his strength give out.
Then off to bed, for he must rise
And cord some wood, or tamp some ties,
Or break a field of fertile soil,
Or do some other manual toil.
He dare not live by wage of pen,
Most poorly paid of poor paid men,
With shoes o’er-run, and threadbare clothes,—
And editors among the foes
Who mock his song, deny him bread,
Then sing his praise when he is dead.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 9, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
Oh, solitude, where is the sting,
That men ascribe to thee?
Where is the terror in thy mien?
I look, but cannot see.
Where hidest thou, that loneliness
The world pretends to fear?
While lying on thy loving breast
I find my sweetest cheer.
They do not understand thee, no,
They are but knaves or fools,
Or else they must discern in thee
Dame Nature’s queen of schools.
For in thy care, with naught but books,
The bards and saints of old,
Become my friends and to mine ear
Their mystic truths unfold.
When problems and perplexities
Of life becloud my mind,
I know in thee, oh, solitude,
The answer I can find.
When grief and sorrow crowd my heart
To breaking, with their fears
Within thy arms, oh, solitude,
I find relief in tears.
And when I weary of the world’s
Deceits and cares and strife,
I find in thee sweet rest and peace
And vigorous new life.
My garden never is complete
Without a blooming rose,
Nor is my life, oh, solitude,
Without thy sweet repose.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 1, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
“Because it is so dense, scientists calculate the carbon must be crystalline, so a large part of this strange world will effectively be diamond.”
Like the universe’s largest engagement ring, it twirls
and sparkles its way through infinity.
The citizens of the new world know about luxury.
They can live for a thousand years.
Their hearts are little clocks
with silver pendulums pulsing inside,
Eyes like onyx, teeth like pearl.
But it’s not always easy. They know hunger.
They starve. A field made of diamond
is impossible to plow; shovels crumble and fold
like paper animals. So frequent is famine,
that when two people get married,
one gives the other a locket filled with dirt.
That’s the rare thing, the treasured thing, there.
It takes decades to save for,
but the ground beneath them glows,
and people find a way.
On Earth, when my wife is sleeping,
I like to look out at the sky.
I like to watch TV shows about supernovas,
and contemplate things that are endless
like the heavens and, maybe, love.
I can drink coffee and eat apples whenever I want.
Things grow everywhere, and so much is possible,
but on the news tonight: a debate about who
can love each other forever and who cannot.
There was a time when it would’ve been illegal
for my wife to be my wife. Her skin,
my household of privilege. Sometimes,
I wish I could move to another planet.
Sometimes, I wonder what worlds are out there.
I turn off the TV because the news rarely makes
the right decision on its own. But even as the room
goes blacker than the gaps between galaxies,
I can hear the echoes: who is allowed to hold
the ones they wish to hold, who can reach
into the night, who can press his or her
own ear against another’s chest and listen
to a heartbeat telling stories in the dark.
Matthew Olzmann, “Astronomers Locate a New Planet” from Contradictions in the Design. Copyright © 2016 by Matthew Olzmann. Used with the permission of Alice James Books, www.alicejamesbooks.org.