I find myself most alone 
When I believe I am striving for glory. 

These times, cool and sharp,  
A monument of moon-white stone 

lodges in place near my heart. 
In a dream, my children  

Glisten inside raindrops, or teardrops. 
Like strangers, like seeds of children.  

I will only be allowed to claim them 
if I consent to love everyone’s children. 

If I consent to love everyone’s children, 
Only then will I be allowed to claim them, 

My strangers, my seeds of children, 
Glistening inside raindrops or teardrops 

In my dream. Children 
Lodged in place near my heart— 

A monument of moon-white stone, 
Cool and sharp. 

I believe I am striving for glory 
When I find myself most alone. 

Copyright © 2024 by Tracy K. Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 20, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Whitney cottage, Hermitage Artist Retreat

You could write about the windows
all nine of them. You could write about 

the gulf, red tide strangling Florida’s 
shore, the opaque eyes of dead fish

caught in the algal bloom. You could write 
about the sky—long as a yawn, sky blue

chasing cerulean away, stretched wisps
of white determined to be the canvas 

for another sunset showstopper. But the body
has its own narrative in mind. Neurons hustling 

pain blank out any page. No writing can be done 
when an electric snare corrals the brain. No ear 

searching for song while one temple pulses 
an arrhythmic lament. Mercifully there’s triptan, 

a black curtain over this inflammatory act. Strike
through today, uncap the pen again tomorrow.

Copyright © 2024 by Teri Ellen Cross Davis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 26, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

When my upstairs neighbor invites me to her baby shower, 

                I feel guilty about forgetting to bring in my recycling bins, 

again. I am a bad neighbor, but she’s going to be a mother 

                so she’ll have to practice forgiveness on someone first. Usually, 

I’m a people pleaser. I am a people. I was born 

                with all the people I could ever create, inside me. I try 

to forgive them—their dirty handprints on my skirt, the towels

                left on the bathroom floor. We blessed the baby 

while we tied around our wrists one long, red string. 

                For a moment, the string connected us—wives, mothers, 

and me, neither—until it didn’t, until the scissors severed 

                us, made a bracelet of the blood string. I told the baby, 

I give you this wrist. The world will break all your blessings

                if it wants, and believe me, baby, most of the time, it wants.

Copyright © 2024 by Diannely Antigua. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 1, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

From   her   perch   on  the  docent’s  gloved  wrist,  she
watches   us with the eyes  of any creature handled  too
much:  featherless head a closed door,  body a mask of
silence.   In   the  steep   twilight  descending  like   the
backwards  count of a  nurse’s  voice leading  a patient
into  unconsciousness,   the   handler  explains  to  our
circle   the  generalities    of   the   species—the    turkey
vulture’s    primary    form     of     self-defense   is     the
regurgitation   of   semi-digested    meat    that  is   then
vomited      onto     a       predator’s        face—and     the
particularities of this one, who had come   to them with
a broken wing.  I, too,  have places on my body  knitted
back together by unseen hands,  scars laid while I slept
the   sleep  of  the  unknowing:    one  above  the    belly
button,  and  another  below where   two  fingers   must
have parted the dark hair before shaving a path.   Does
she remember  the first faces to peer toward her  as she
surfaced?  Every time  I try to write  what those   hands
did,  I end   up  plunging  my own   fingers deep   inside
until  I  pull  up the voice  of the surgeon  in post-op:   I
usually have to pay women to take their clothes off for
me.  Oh, the shudder of her black-feathered shoulders.
Oh, the bile rising in her throat

Copyright © 2024 by Keetje Kuipers. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 8, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Last night I get all the way to Ocean Street Extension, squinting through the windshield, wipers smearing the rain, lights of the oncoming cars half-blinding me. The baby’s in her seat in the back singing the first three words of You’re the Top. Not softly and sweetly the way she did when she woke in her crib, but belting it out like Ethel Merman. I don’t drive much at night anymore. And then the rain and the bad wipers. But I tell myself it’s too soon to give it up. Though the dark seems darker than I ever remember. And as I make the turn and head uphill, I can’t find the lines on the road. I start to panic. No! Yes—the lights! I flick them on and the world resolves. My god, I could have killed her. And I’ll think about that more later. But right now new galaxies are being birthed in my chest. There are no gods, but not everyone is cursed every moment. There are minutes, hours, sometimes even whole days when the earth is spinning 1.6 million miles around the sun and nothing tragic happens to you. I do not have to enter the land of everlasting sorrow. Every mistake I’ve made, every terrible decision—how I married the wrong man, hurt my child, didn’t go to Florence when she was dying—I take it all because the baby is commanding, “Sing, Nana.” And I sing, You’re the top. You’re the Coliseum, and the baby comes in right on cue.

Copyright © 2024 by Ellen Bass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 11, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

was no consolation to the woman
whose husband was strung out on opioids.

Gone to a better place: useless and suspect intel
for the couple at their daughter’s funeral

though there are better places to be
than a freezing church in February, standing

before a casket with a princess motif. 
Some moments can’t be eased

and it’s no good offering clichés like stale
meat to a tiger with a taste for human suffering.

When I hear the word miracle I want to throw up
on a platter of deviled eggs. Everything happens

for a reason: more good tidings someone will try
to trepan your skull to insert. When fire

inhales your house, you don’t care what the haiku says
about seeing the rising moon. You want

an avalanche to bury you. You want to lie down
under a slab of snow, dumb as a jarred

sideshow embryo. What a circus.
The tents dismantled, the train moving on,

always moving, starting slow and gaining speed,
taking you where you never wanted to go.

Copyright © 2024 by Kim Addonizio. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 12, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

to Mary Rose

Here is our little yard  

too small            for a pool  
or chickens   let alone 

a game of tag or touch 
football       Then 

again   this stub-  
born patch  

of crabgrass  is just 
big enough      to get down  

flat on our backs 
with eyes wide open    and face 

the whole gray sky  just 
as a good drizzle 

begins                   I know  
we’ve had a monsoon  

of grieving to do  
which is why  

I promise    to lie 
beside you  

for as long as you like  
or need  

We’ll let our elbows 
kiss     under the downpour  

until we’re soaked  
like two huge nets  
                    left  

beside the sea  
whose heavy old

ropes strain  
stout with fish 

If we had to     we could  
feed a multitude  

with our sorrows  
If we had to  

we could name   a loss  
for every other  

drop of rain   All these  
foreign flowers 

you plant from pot  
to plot  

with muddy fingers  
—passion, jasmine, tuberose—  

we’ll sip 
the dew from them  

My darling                here
is the door I promised  

Here
is our broken bowl Here  

                        my hands  
In the home of our dreams  

the windows open  
in every  

weather—doused  
or dry—May we never  

be so parched 

Copyright © 2024 by Patrick Rosal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 13, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

(In the city)

The sun is near set 
And the tall buildings 
Become teeth 
Tearing bloodily at the sky’s throat;
The blank wall by my window
Becomes night sky over the marches 
When there is no moon, and no wind, 
And little fishes splash in the pools.

I had lit my candle to make a song for you, 
But I have forgotten it for I am very tired;
And the candle … a yellow moth …
Flutters, flutters, 
Deep in my brain. 
My song was about, ‘a foreign lady
Who was beautiful and sad, 
Who was forsaken, and who died 
A thousand years ago.’
But the cracked cup at my elbow,
With dregs of tea in it, 
Fixes my tired thought more surely 
Than the song I made for you and forgot …
That I might give you this. 

I am tired. 

I am so tired
That my soul is a great plain 
Made desolate,
And the beating of a million hearts 
Is but the whisper of night winds
Blowing across it. 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 16, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.

I love you but I don’t know you
               —Mennonite Woman

When I was seven, I walked home
with Dereck DeLarge, my arm
 
slung over his skinny shoulders,
after-school sun buffing our lunch boxes.
 
So easy, that gesture, so light— 
the kind of love that lands like a leaf.
 
It was 1963.  
We were two black boys
 
whose snaggle-toothed grins 
held a thousand giggles.
 
Remember? Remember
wanting to play
 
every minute, as if that 
was why we were born?
 
Those hands that bring us
shouting into this life
 
must open like a fanfare 
of big band horns.
 
Though this world is nothing
 
like where we’d been, 
we come anyway, astonished
 
as if to Mardi Gras in full swing.
There must be a time
 
when a child’s heart builds 
a chocolate sunflower
 
while katydids burnish the day
with their busy wings.
 
This itching fury that 
holds me now—this knowing
 
the early welcome
that once lived inside me
 
was somehow sent away:
how I talk myself back
 
into all the regular disguises
but still walk these streets
 
believing in the weather
of the unruined heart.
 
My friends, with crow’s feet
edging their eyes,
 
keep looking for a kinder
city, though they don’t
 
want to seem naïve.
When was the last time
 
you wrapped your arm
around someone’s shoulder
 
and walked him home?

Copyright © 2024 by Tim Seibles. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 19, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

For Norman

You visit me in a dream after passing,
            after I’ve been awaiting you for weeks,
because Chinese belief teaches us our
            loved ones will appear when we’re asleep.
It’s real when I enter the hotel restaurant
            in the middle of nowhere town I live in,
as the Midwest architecture transforms
            into Kowloon at evening time. We eat
bird’s nest soup, and I remember the time
            my father ordered me this four-hundred-
year-old delicacy at Hong Kong airport.
            Out comes the Peking duck, and I ask you:
“Why did it take you so long?” You answer:
            “I arrived once you were strong and ready.” 

Copyright © 2024 by Dorothy Chan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 26, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

People going through 
hard times don’t listen 
to songs about people

going through hard times,
says my son. Debt, addiction, 
chronic bad luck, unemployment—

I’m with you, I say. The only 
exception is heartbreak;
when you’re deep in it 

you just want a late-night
DJ to spin your pain. The car 
radio is playing Jason Isbell 

through Wyoming, part of it
in Yellowstone National Park,
home to 500 of the world’s

900 geysers. Mesmerizing
eruptions! Geothermal wonders!
Hot holes and fumaroles! 

Last week a Bison
gored a Phoenix woman,
but who knows how close

she got before it charged.
Bison run three times faster
than humans and injure

more people than any animal 
in the park—even grizzlies. 
In thermal areas the ground 

is just a thin crust above 
acidic pools, some resembling 
milky marbles, others the insides 

of celestine geodes reflecting 
the sky. Boardwalk signs 
all over Yellowstone shout 

Dangerous Ground! Potentially 
fatal! and despite that—
despite the print of a boy 

off-balance, falling through 
the surface into a boiling 
hot spring, his mouth an O 

of fear—despite the warnings
in writing that more than
a dozen people have been

scalded to death here and
hundreds badly burned 
or scarred, there are still

the tourons taunting bears,
dipping their fingers
off the side of the Boardwalk

into a gurgling mudpot.
Got a loan out on the truck 
but I’m runnin’ out of luck, 

sings Isbell, and the parking lots 
are packed with license plates 
from every state—so many 

borrowed RVs taking the curves 
too hard, so much rented 
bear spray dangling from 

carabiners clipped to cargo 
short waistbands, and ample
Christianity too: the Jesus

& Therapy t-shirt, the Enjoy 
Jesus baseball hat, the all I need
today is a little bit of coffee

and a whole lot of Jesus tote,
Mennonite families with 
women in bonnets

hauling toddlers. I want 
to tell my son it’s not
shameful to need

something or someone
to help us out of the darkness
when it gets very dark.

Jeff Buckley. Joy Division.
Jesus. Dolly Parton. Even
Delilah and her long 

distance dedications 
cracking the silence of 
every solo backroad

I’ve been driving since
before he was born.
He is sixteen. Does he know 

the black hole of loving 
and not being loved in return,
the night and its volume?

And the moon—nearly full,
rising over Old Faithful
which erupts on cue

to an appreciative crowd
every ninety-ish minutes.
And the moon, keeping me 

insomniac with its light 
shining like an interrogation 
trick into this cabin

through the crack
between the window 
and the blind.

Copyright © 2024 by Erika Meitner. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 27, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

i’m confident that the absolute dregs of possibility for this society,
the sugary coffee mound at the bottom of this cup,
our last best hope that when our little bit of assigned plasma implodes 
it won’t go down as a green mark in the cosmic ledger,
lies in the moment when you say hello to a bus driver 
and they say it back—

when someone holds the door open for you 
and you do a little jog to meet them where they are—

walking my dog, i used to see this older man 
and whenever I said good morning, 
he replied ‘GREAT morning’—

in fact, all the creative ways our people greet each other
may be the icing on this flaming trash cake hurtling through the ether. 

when the clerk says how are you 
and i say ‘i’m blessed and highly favored’ 

i mean my toes have met sand, and wiggled in it, a lot. 
i mean i have laughed until i choked and a friend slapped my back.
i mean my niece wrote me a note: ‘you are so smart + intellajet’

i mean when we do go careening into the sun, 

i’ll miss crossing guards ushering the grown folks too, like ducklings 
and the lifeguards at the community pool and
men who yelled out the window that they’d fix the dent in my car, 
right now! it’d just take a second—

and actually everyone who tried to keep me alive, keep me afloat, 
and if not unblemished, suitably repaired.

but I won’t feel too sad about it,
becoming a star 

Copyright © 2024 by Eve L. Ewing. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 6, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

(Being an Occasional Poem for All Q&As Henceforth)

For Jamal Cyrus and Tomás Morin, and all kith who make do to make work

“Do you also make work that isn’t political?”

I mean, do we make work

about where and when we were

raised: the three-whistle corner store

the empty coke bottle trill

the nickname that doesn’t nick us

as we blow through customs

with a toothpick smile

and hell-no eyes, sweet fools

greasing the bike chains

for this day, always saying

someone better fix this street

light? Do we flicker at night

when the kids are sleeping

dim, bright, dim, bright, do we?

Do we, at times, make work

about who breaks the news

to us at breakfast and how the syrup

she’s holding is now trembling, how

she’s beating, beating, beating

what no one can now eat, the mouth

fumbling for what no one

can now say? Do we make it

work with mirrors held

to the bottom of lakes, with combs

pulled through palms, with thumbs

flipping the bills, with two bags

and three names

at the border?

I mean, do we make work

about the road that crackles

with sirens or about Dad’s hydrangeas

which came up again that summer

violet clouds of bruises and pinker

than the Hubba Bubba we were popping

so loud, no one could stand us

but we grinned and grinned because

any air left in us meant

we could still answer

years later

a question like this?

Copyright © 2024 by Divya Victor. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.

Surely there was a river, once, but there is no river here. Only a sound of drowning in the dark between the trees. The sound of wet, and only that. Surely there was a country that I called my country, once. Before the thief who would be king made other countries of us all. Before the bright screens everywhere in which another country lives. But what is it, anyway, to live—to breathe, to act, to love, to eat? Surely there was a real earth, wild and green, here, blossoming. Land of milk and honey, once. Land of wind-swept plains and blood, then of shackles and of iron. And then the black smoke of its cities and the laying down of laws. Under which some flourished—if you call that flourishing—and from which others would have fled had there been anywhere to flee. My country, which is cruel, and which is beautiful and lost. Surely, there were notes that made a song, a pledge of birds. And not a child in any cage, no man or woman in a ditch. Surely, what we meant was to anoint some other god. One made of wind and starlight, pulsing, heart that matched the human heart. Surely that god watches us, now, one eye in the river, one eye where the river was.

 

Copyright © 2024 by Cecilia Woloch. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 4, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.

there is a kind of memory that feels, somehow
suddenly, like a wound, though not always, not until
one wanders back through: the dark, damp alley the only path 
toward home—every place i have loved has forced me to leave.
and then there is memory as one might always wish: 
bejeweled, like sugar on the tongue upon reentry.
what is the name for the scent that whispers mother,
the twanged hue of evening that gestures island,
limestone, cane, spume? Flatbush, i have sauntered away
from everything that has called me kin now,
as i have before, but in what little time we have left,
let me remember you, let me remember what lay beneath
your weather—your snow-born streams, your troubled foliage. 
guinep, worship, convenience, heel and toe. old dream,
will either of us return to what we once were? to when?

From You Are Here: Poetry in the Natural World (Milkweed Editions, 2024), edited by Ada Limón. Copyright © 2024 Milkweed Editions and the Library of Congress. Used with the permission of the author. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 13, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.

Until around sundown, the surviving
lilies in the yard stay wide open,
like the window of a car passing
on a hot day. No music from the flowers,
but they smell like somebody’s fragrant
soap unwrapped on a dish edged
with daisies. All those smells expressing
themselves haphazardly like a band
trying to tune up. Escape is what I’ve wanted
since I was little, cramped in summertime
Section 8: flowers everywhere,
my bird-legged brother a couple steps
back, my sister book-nosed somewhere
in the radius of us. Just a deciduous minute 
when the blossom of noises
was from my own AM radio & not my thin
stomach. No more backtalks, no more
slapbacks. Just a quick inhale before
I tiptoed out the front door. Unlatch, turn,
run away. Escape, as Indiana bats wheeled
up top, chirping sonorous somethings.
I ran under them & to the bus, past
those long-necked lilies, self-congratulatory
in their exploded colors. Their purples leaned
the way June does, their reds hot as the woman’s
attitude waiting at the bus stop while
the #17 scooted past without picking us up.

Copyright © 2024 by Adrian Matejka. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.