Whether it’s true
that the moth mistakes the candle’s flame 
for the moon or the bioluminescent 
pheromones of another moth,

I can’t say.
I was the candle. 
I was the flame

conceived in and by reason of 
darkness, nibbling on a darkening wick. 
When moth after moth after moth 
swarmed me with their powdery wings,

I asked why. 
I asked how. 
I asked if

I could survive knowing
that not everything has a reason, 
that not everything is capable
of or interested in reason.

Nothing answered. 
Nothing spoke
my language of smoke.

Copyright © 2021 by Paul Tran. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 24, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

For our new apartment, which my mother may never see
since slugging into that old person’s disease—I won’t bring myself
to say it in writing—I bought a cactus and it’s beautiful,
its soldier-green skin and feline-whiskered dress howls
beneath the den light which encourages me to keep my big-boy jeans on.
I know I look for answers everywhere. Everywhere there you are
with your eyes a war-less country, a privilege we sometimes share.
But tonight, there isn’t a country. Just a sky fussing. Anxious music.
The classic duty of breath as we binge another episode of
What Should I Do When You Want to Die. Sometimes, you fail
to love me, I think I say, the math ain’t mathing—but what could you do?
You’ve researched plants, I know, to find which could live
without much gusto from its human. You pour yourself
another glass of vodka, a shot of tequila for me. Who am I
to think I’m too good for your anger—you were right…
Come, let’s sour our swords together. Come, let morning waltz
into our bedroom all cocky-like like it landlords the place. Come,
let’s plunge forward, drunkenly in love, grab hold the darkness we become.

Copyright © 2021 by Luther Hughes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by Florence Ayscough and Amy Lowell

The heavy clouds are broken and blowing,
And once more I can see the wide common stretching beyond the four sides of the city.
Open the door. Half of the moon-toad is already up,
The glimmer of it is like smooth hoar-frost spreading over ten thousand li.
The river is a flat, shining chain. 
The moon, rising, is a white eye to the hills;
After it has risen, it is the bright heart of the sea.
Because I love it—so—round as a fan,
I hum songs until the dawn.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 30, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

not back, let’s not come back, let’s go by the speed of 
queer zest & stay up 
there & get ourselves a little 
moon cottage (so pretty), then start a moon garden 

with lots of moon veggies (so healthy), i mean 
i was already moonlighting 
as an online moonologist 
most weekends, so this is the immensely 

logical next step, are you 
packing your bags yet, don’t forget your 
sailor moon jean jacket, let’s wear 
our sailor moon jean jackets while twirling in that lighter, 

queerer moon gravity, let’s love each other 
(so good) on the moon, let’s love 
the moon        
on the moon

Copyright © 2021 by Chen Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 31, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

In the dark
Down a stairwell
Through the doorway
Gone west
With a new wish
In daylight
Down the sidewalk
In a wool coat
In a white dress
Without a name
Without asking
On your knees
On your stomach
Gone silent
In the backseat
In the courtroom
In a cage
In the desert
In the park
Gone swimming
On the shortest night
At the bottom of the lake
In pieces
In pictures
Without meaning
Without a face
Seeking refuge
In a new land
Gone still
In the heart
With your head bowed
In deference
In sickness
In surrender 
With your hands up
On the sidewalk
In the daylight
In the dark

Copyright © 2021 by Camille Rankine. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 2, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Let’s thus shine these myths
to make apparent the spots
where arson is craved.
            —Ted Rees, Thanksgiving

origin myth: 
much before a further future elsewhere,
you met in a drawing class 

*

another legend is 
you were 
in labor 

almost twenty-four hours 
with me (who is 
indecisive) 

seven years later 
myth of a two-year visa 
tourist migration 

my grandmother’s house 
was waiting room, until we 
three joined my father 

              the door was always 
              open, overhead windows 
              cleared of everything

              but sun for hanging, 
              spilling leaves never yellowed
              here, the neighbor who 

              came for lunch every 
              afternoon is still alive, 
              so’s my grandmother 

              all her plants thriving 
              on soil always watered, 
              never fought over 

connecticut 
first winter 
hands in snow 

mythic 

legend was 
i didn’t even spend a year 
in esl 

              learned 
              the words 
              easy 

              drank 
              cold english 
              fast 

later, i’m living 
in the city, working to 
dissolve its myths on

trains and walks, where some
surroundings dull like nations
others shine, transform 

              look: our kitchen and 
              its table, legend has it 
              food is never cold 

              water boils quick 
              all our records flip themselves
              always enough chairs 

glasses always full 
with water or wine, 
just last night, photo 

              -graph of a hand 
              -written spell conjured layers 
              of potato, eggs, 

              sour cream for all 
              and, just this morning, our new
              one-eyed pup got scared 

bolted from the park 
crossed avenue traffic, still 
saw his way back home 

some myths are borders 
are administrations and 
for now return, too 

they just bought land in medellín 
soil to build new, for when 
(empty is myth—when is, too)

you stumbled into them 
mid video call one visit, 
blueprints on the table 

walking through the plot

*

Copyright © 2021 by danilo machado. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 4, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

18 February 2021

We've landed on the planet named after the god of war and the power's
out all over Texas my mother's buried under her grandmother's
quilt while they're looking for signs of life on the surface of the long-dried lake-
bed my cousins huddling around the clay pot heaters they've rigged
from overturned geraniums and the candles they keep lit
for the dead the heatshield reaching extreme temperatures in the final moments
of descent ice-sleeved branches cleaving from their trunks and downing
communication lines and lines and lines down the block for what's left
of clean water in the ancient river delta the rover arriving to drill down
as scientists cheer in control towers oil men feast and fatten
their pockets craters across the desolate expanse early
transmission from the hazard avoidance camera can't help
but capture its own shadow darkening the foreground.

Copyright © 2021 by Deborah Paredez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 7, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I watched my old life go by like television.

Slopes of grass whipping against bright blue skies,

Objects some called tools 

And others, totems.

A woodpile, a sheepskin, 

Garlic curing from the rafters;

A river’s loose slaps upon slabs of warm rock.

“Secret spot” read the caption disseminated 

Online. Coy copy. Cool 

Said the flatlanders 

Whose ranks I’d effectively joined.

While those I left drifted closer to one another 

Or God, to the sources 

Of life itself: children and dirt. Unkept

By the present tense, I was distant 

In my watching,

An existence I too tendered stagily 

As free. Like television, 

I was buying

Whatever was for sale

As the appraisers said You don’t seem like you’re from there

But I simmered in the grid

Of there’s off-the-grid life: the flowing virtue 

Of verdant surfaces, 

The cemented-down conclusion 

That meaning must be near.

The siren song soft focus of my own 

Slushy memories reenacted 

By someone else.

Good enough I brushed their expiration from my view.

I watched the endless plot 

Of daily benedictions over the land.

The land—

O—

Any of you could feel 

You were alive in its popular image.

Copyright © 2021 by Hanae Jonas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 9, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

On a dusty rooftop in Giza, I tell Imam,
in another life, he and Hugh would have been
the best of friends. I picture Hugh, taking him
by the arm down the corniche
or the Cape, the cool night air refusing
silence. I hear their strings and tubes cutting through
beaming crowds in Imbaba and Soweto. Miriam
is serenading an open sea, clicking to the wind
by El Montaza. I see Biko
and Negm, side by side, in a crowded auditorium,
a whole generation huddled
around their voices. This is to say, in another
life revolution would be but
abstract. Biko would be a doctor,
perhaps in Durban. There would be no trains
for Hugh to sing of, save for those
that would bring him back to his loved
ones, safely. Negm would only be known
for love poems. What more
could one ask for? Let us not cheer
for those who would rather die
as soldiers when there is no
war. My whole life I have envied
the kind of thirst for music
that can be quenched by
Elvis and Sinatra. I have prayed
nightly for those I have idolized
to find a good night’s sleep
before deadly fame. What good is poetry
if it kills the poet? In another life, what must be said
here is but fairytale, ghost stories
for the rowdy children. Kanafani would live
in Acre, Baldwin would die
in Harlem, neither knowing the taste
of exile. I would write of bees
and clocks. I would not need men’s solemn
crooning to put me
to sleep. I would not mourn
the dead.

Copyright © 2021 by Hazem Fahmy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 10, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

there must be one thing you can’t have in order to be alive 

watching flowers open on youtube 

I mean, my life is wasted on my life

requirement is simple 

it takes a wound to

return to yourself 

the new sky 

is the same as the old one

its achy maw 

its barbwire grip 

people are whatever they are next to

that won’t remember them

a dumb desert 

a broken open sign

whatever I love best

reminds me of something else

Copyright © 2021 by Jon-Michael Frank. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 11, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets

When my mom discovers heaven’s just a noise festival

the godchoir of all her loves breathing
unsnagged by asthma or Newport-dragged lung

the true song life makes untethered from a body
tugged at last from the men who hold its reins

will she blame her pastors (like I did)
for Sunday portraits of pooled white gold?

Will she miss the wooden flute of her body
mourn the days corner-propped, cloaked in dust

too pious to disturb a room’s skin cells
and stray hair with her sound

snapped awake at the nightmare of a slip fringe
the private note sung aloud?

Or, unburdened by hell

will she exhale
and hear the bells?

Copyright © 2021 by Kemi Alabi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 16, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

who hurt you here by the river
at the supermarket who hurt you
who saw you hurting who hurt
you who saw you hurting who
turned around and walked away

 

                          exit exit we must exit but how i have no
                          advice no direction but up and over and
                          swerve swerve the metal circle rusted and
                          dissolved on the side of the road it was left
                          after construction de stabilize meaning
                          and reinvent history but only if history
                          oppressed you six women naked in a hot
                          tub and we won't leave this house in the
                          country six women naked in a hot tub

 

we end it together so we can begin it
again we begin it was a different
rhythm we don't forget our fear we
were never afraid in the woods even
though we knew what was in the woods

 

we looking in the dirt
for something we all
putting our hands in the
dirt a gesture we saw
before somewhere on
someone she didn't
speak we didn't speak
to each other the forest
lit our hands a gesture

 

erase ignore separate
they say they tell us
they tell us to be an
individual that we can
be individuals we
cannot be individuals
any more

Copyright © 2021 by LA Warman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 17, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

5 AM—the world is silent save for the heater 
in the hallway, the cars wooshing
down the main road, the vibrato of
every single driver. Every creak of a settling
house. Lay my head down, press it into pillow.
On the window sill a jar of coins,
sunlight crawling through the
water in an empty spaghetti jar.
A spider settles itself into the warmth
of my house. Inside the body: ghosts
of IVs, needles, feeling
breathless in a hospital bed. 
Somewhere inside my brain aware 
of the machine pumping oxygen,
beeping, attached by wires to the chest.
In the chest, an animal. The animal
forgetting how: to howl, to crawl, 
to find the words.

Copyright © 2021 by Margarita Cruz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 18, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

We should have a land of sun, 
Of gorgeous sun, 
And a land of fragrant water
Where the twilight is a soft bandanna handkerchief
Of rose and gold, 
And not this land
Where life is cold.

We should have a land of trees,
Of tall thick trees,
Bowed down with chattering parrots
Brilliant as the day,
And not this land where birds are gray.

Ah, we should have a land of joy, 
Of love and joy and wine and song, 
And not this land where joy is wrong.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 19, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Came home and found my typewriter
case a little crushed it’s my fault
probably for leaving it looking like
a stepping stone for someone not tall
enough to climb onto the toy chest
but who very much likes to clamber
up there my father built the toy chest
for me and now the result is my comma
key sticks won’t fly up to make its mark
so no more clauses of that tender
kind or just imagine them there or figure
out how to use a semicolon or type the word
comma when I need one lots of things
are called commas not just punctuation
a certain butterfly a bacillus responsible for cholera
the chest’s nails are slowly withdrawing I notice
pulling themselves out in the invisible
hammerclaw of time or else the wood itself’s
ejecting them feeling maybe hey it’s been long
enough let me just be planks again or it could
be the climbing itself did I also climb
and all that climbing’s worked
against those nails a little each time after
my father held one in his hand one in his
mouth and with his hammer made a box

Copyright © 2021 by Miller Oberman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 22, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I didn’t mind ferns enough, I thought, the last time I hiked
up to Lookout Point. They’re so unassuming. I’d be looking up
to the tops of third-generation redwoods, or beyond, toward
Googleplex, in Mountain View, which later Google confirmed
was the complex off in the distance. And I’d be picturing,
those last days, cages and tents. Sorry to make you feel judged,
I almost texted. Stopped myself. Truth is I judge, and if judges
were capable of feeling sorry, they wouldn’t. I welcomed noise
instead of trying to block it out with the folk musician’s songs,
Scottish, coming from my laptop. If you don’t remember a name,
does it mean you don’t care to remember. You’d taken yourself
to places whose specifics you’d chosen to forget. You said you
weren’t there to keep track, but to experience. Which, when
I’m feeling negative, I translate as ditching the thing as soon as
you’re done with it onto the heap of junk you’re not accumulating.
Those who get the backend know what detailed tagging can lead to:
a map so precise it’s the territory’s size. We’re drifting apart
again, spore-like. I’m done completing your sentences.
A version of the signs along the trail anticipating the hikers’ ups
and downs. “It begins with feeling,” was the first, spotted
at the same time I noticed the pet waste bags someone had left
behind. “Here you leave your worries,” seen after I passed a guy
whose grin was such, he did seem to have just dumped them.
This one got me thinking about our tendency to ruin things:
“This is a beautiful moment.” The last wasn’t part of the art:
“Please keep out of area under renovation.” That resonated. 

Copyright © 2021 by Mónica de la Torre. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 23, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Little grey dreams,
I sit at the ocean’s edge,
At the grey ocean’s edge, 
With you in my lap.

I launch you, one by one,
    And one by one,
      Little grey dreams,
Under the grey, grey, clouds,
Out on the grey, grey, sea, 
You go sailing away, 
From my empty lap,
      Little grey dreams.

Sailing! Sailing!
Into the black,
At the horizon’s edge.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 26, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Many ways to spell good night.

Fireworks at a pier on the Fourth of July
        spell it with red wheels and yellow spokes.
They fizz in the air, touch the water and quit.
Rockets make a trajectory of gold-and-blue
        and then go out.

Railroad trains at night spell with a smokestack
        mushrooming a white pillar.

Steamboats turn a curve in the Mississippi crying
        in a baritone that crosses lowland cottonfields
        to a razorback hill.

It is easy to spell good night.
                                     Many ways to spell good night.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 4, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

in your thirties everything needs fixing. i bought a toolbox
for this. filled it with equipment my father once owned
to keep our home from crumbling. i purchased tools with
names & functions unknown to me. how they sat there
on their shelf in plastic packaging with price tags screaming:
hey lady, you need this!  like one day i could give my home
& everything living inside it the gift of immortality, to be
a historical monument the neighbors would line up
to visit even after i’m gone & shout: damn that’s a nice house!
i own a drill now, with hundreds & hundreds of metal pieces
i probably won’t use or use in the wrong ways but what
i’m certain of, is still, the uncertainty of which tools repair
the aging dog, the wilting snake plant, the crow’s feet
under my eyes, the stiff knee or bad back.
& maybe this is how it is—how parts of our small universe
dissolve like sugar cubes in water—a calling to ask us
to slow our busy breathing so we can marvel
at its magic. because even the best box of nails are capable
of rust. because when i was a child i dropped
a cookie jar in the shape of noah’s ark,
a family heirloom that shattered to pieces.
the animals broke free, zebras ran under
the kitchen table, the fractured lion roared by
the front door & out of the tool cabinet
i snagged duck tape & ceramic glue. pieced each beast
back to their intended journey.  because that afternoon
when my father returned from work i confessed
& he sat the jar on the counter only to fill it with
pastries. how the cracks of imperfection mended by
my hands laid jagged. chipped paint sliced across a rhino’s neck.
every wild animal lined up against the boat—
& a flood of sweet confections waiting inside.

Copyright © 2021 by Karla Cordero. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 6, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

for my favorite auntie, Jeanette

Sometimes I think I’m never going to write a poem again
and then there’s a full moon.

I miss being in love but I miss
myself most when I’m gone.

In the salty wet air of my ancestry
my auntie peels a mango with her teeth

and I’m no longer
writing political poems; because there are

mangoes and my favorite memory is still alive.
I’m digging for meaning but haunted by purpose

and it’s an insufficient approach.
What’s the margin of loss on words not spent today?

I’m getting older. I’m buying smaller images to travel light.
I wake up, I light up, I tidy, and it’s all over now.

Copyright © 2021 by Camonghne Felix. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 7, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Just a dash of lambent carmine
  Shading into sky of gold;
Just a twitter of a song-bird
  Ere the wings its head enfold;
Just a rustling sigh of parting
  From the moon-kissed hill to breeze;
And a cheerful gentle, nodding
  Adieu waving from the trees;
Just a friendly sunbeam’s flutter
  Wishing all a night’s repose,
Ere the stars swing back the curtain
  Bringing twilight’s dewy close.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

           is the sound of me thinking
in a language stolen from my
ancestors. I can’t tell you who the
first slave in my family was, but we
are the last. Descendants
of the sun. Rye skinned
and vibrant, wailing to
a sailing tomb. We twist
creoled tongues. Make English
a song worth singing. You erase
our history and call it freedom.
Take our flesh and call it fashion.
Swallow nations and call it
humanity. We so savage
we let you live. 
           I can’t tell you who the first slave
in my family was, but we remember
the bodies.   Our bodies remember.
We are their favorite melody. Beat
into bucket. Broken
into cardboard covered
concrete. Shaken
into Harlem. The getting over
never begins, but there
is always the get down. Our DNA
sheet music humming
at the bottom
of the ocean.

Copyright © 2021 by Roya Marsh. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

That night the moon’s song was
Cupped by the edge of the plane’s hum.
The beginning soundtrack for our last meeting.
Throughout it all, your breathing slighted the mourning.
We lay, as the loose sand soon hooked
Into the concave of our backs. The ocean waves
Undulating, marking between us, my fast breath.
There is another line here, but I’m not sure
Where to locate it. I could have
Looked at the moon, asked for forgiveness,
But like you, I searched for meteors instead.
You taught me what they look like,
By verbal description, by whispers, and pointing but
Characteristically, I kept missing them.
Because I’m not so good with language,
Nor instructions, and saying goodbye
Where the ground, sea, and sky meet and depart.
Listen: I’m clumsy with my hands and feet.
I also don’t know how to clean a microwave.
And I’m not sure what to say to you anymore.
But that night, before I left, I learned on my own,
Without telling you: This is how you find meteors.
You have to take in the entire dark sky, (like viewing a landscape painting or
A movie screen), but let the frame blanket over our bodies until nothing is left.
Watch carefully, because meteors
Disappear in a glimpse, into the slender cock of your neck,
In my short eyelash flutter.
One by one, then another.
By the end, we are greedy.
We stop counting
As we clasp our hands,
Gulp in the disappearing us, then
Suffocated, strayed.

Copyright © 2021 by Margaret Rhee. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 19, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

for Willem

My love,
you are water upon water
upon water until it turns
azure, mountainous.

The horizon fills like sand
between glass marbles. So much
has passed between us—

last night you told me
to press your hand
harder and harder as I pained.

The sunset was at its last
embers. The dark was stealing
the blue light from our room.

I was falling into you.

~ ~

Compress water and it turns to ice— compress beauty
and it loses breath. Gaze at it too long, and even the wide
mirror of the ocean will shatter.

~ ~

My Willem,
between us, God has descended in all His atoms.
We have not yet learned to hold Him.

Copyright © 2021 by Adeeba Shahid Talukder. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 20, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

If other planets dark as earth
About dim trembling stars
Carry frail freight of death and birth,
Wild love, and endless wars;

If from far, unseen motes in flight
Life look down questioning
This helpless passage through the night
Is a less lonely thing:

But if unchained through empty space
Drift only shell and fire
What seeks the beauty of this face,
What end has its desire?

A candle in a night of storms,
Blown back and choked with rain,
Holds longer than the mounting forms
That ride time’s hurricane.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 25, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

The sun was gone, and the moon was coming
Over the blue Connecticut hills;
The west was rosy, the east was flushed,
And over my head the swallows rushed
This way and that, with changeful wills.
I heard them twitter and watched them dart
Now together and now apart
Like dark petals blown from a tree;
The maples stamped against the west
Were black and stately and full of rest,
And the hazy orange moon grew up
And slowly changed to yellow gold
While the hills were darkened, fold on fold
To a deeper blue than a flower could hold.
Down the hill I went, and then
I forgot the ways of men,
For night-scents, heady, and damp and cool
Wakened ecstasy in me
On the brink of a shining pool.

O Beauty, out of many a cup
You have made me drunk and wild
Ever since I was a child,
But when have I been sure as now
That no bitterness can bend
And no sorrow wholly bow
One who loves you to the end?
And though I must give my breath
And my laughter all to death,
And my eyes through which joy came,
And my heart, a wavering flame;
If all must leave me and go back
Along a blind and fearful track
So that you can make anew,
Fusing with intenser fire,
Something nearer your desire;
If my soul must go alone
Through a cold infinity,
Or even if it vanish, too,
Beauty, I have worshipped you.

Let this single hour atone
For the theft of all of me.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 1, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I hear you wake before I’m up myself
and snap to ready now before my eyes
crack from their crud to face your face today.
I hear you blunder toward my door. I hear

you crash it wide. The loosened hinges shiver
their frame, and now the house itself, awake
to the world and you, complicit, pulls me hard
as thunder from my sleep. You beat the echoes

to me, blear-faced, awash with night sweat; 
you drag a bunny by the ears to bed
and tumble graceless up the mattress, silent,
a drowsy rocket wanting, wanting something

I’m not awake enough to understand
but will be, soon, my son, and then we’ll go
to blaze the day, to stomp each puddle left
by the rain you never notice as you pull

me into the world, all leap and bowl, all grab
and fall. Today I’ll wake up better, call
the distance order, order it to be
a smaller thing. I’ll stand to make it so.

Copyright © 2021 by Dan Rosenberg. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 2, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

You are always in the middle of the poem
even at the end.
More and more you are tied by ropes,
foliage, and as you move
the bindings grow around your knees, your feet.
Again and again you pass
your own footprints on the grass, on floors,
once more you have tracked mud into the house.
Have tracked a house into the mud. Outside the poem
are sirens, fires, ocean hitting
pier. Say to yourself: does not cohere
but is subsumed
and must not, must not. Outside the poem
a little vein clicks in the forehead of a financier,
a cue called, an oboe,
truncheons, pigeons, rain
mineralizes a colonnade. 
A chorale stands up, taller than a building,
false in sense, numerically true.
You despise these techniques.
You have not got to the truth yet.
A truck downshifts on the freeway,
a shift whistle blows,
someone else’s emergency makes the poem hold.
At night, like notes pushed under doors,
sounds come in––
flypaper in an open window,
your mother rubbing lotion on her hands.
All this is with you, is you,
runs after you into the dark
like those men after Copernicus,
like a planet chased by telescopes into space.

Copyright © 2021 by Timmy Straw. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 5, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Since Poets have told of sunset, 
What is left for me to tell?
I can only say that I saw the day
Press crimson lips to the horizon gray, 
And kiss the earth farewell.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 8, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Easy light storms in through the window, soft
            edges of the world, smudged by mist, a squirrel’s 

            nest rigged high in the maple. I’ve got a bone 
to pick with whomever is in charge. All year, 

I’ve said, You know what’s funny? and then,
            Nothing, nothing is funny. Which makes me laugh

            in an oblivion-is-coming sort of way. A friend
writes the word lover in a note and I am strangely

excited for the word lover to come back. Come back
            lover, come back to the five and dime. I could 

            squeal with the idea of blissful release, oh lover,
what a word, what a world, this gray waiting. In me,

a need to nestle deep into the safe-keeping of sky.
            I am too used to nostalgia now, a sweet escape

            of age. Centuries of pleasure before us and after
us, still right now, a softness like the worn fabric of a nightshirt

and what I do not say is, I trust the world to come back.
            Return like a word, long forgotten and maligned 

            for all its gross tenderness, a joke told in a sun beam,
the world walking in, ready to be ravaged, open for business.

Copyright © 2021 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 4, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I have come
not to beg nor barter but to enter.

                                                                                                  Who are you seeking?

The past
opens and opens, fleshing me
with loss.
I descend
to find my way,
I who am
haunted and a haunting.

                                                                                                 What are you willing to abandon?

In the before, I continue:
a woman carrying on with the dishes,
the dusting, the sweeping. 
But here, I am the voice of the petitioner.
Dearest, who was once of earth,
Dearest, whose departure has cleft me,
Dearest, who was my country,
my soil, my sun and sky,
every migration 
is a bird taking wing. 

                                                                                                 Is this the place you seek?

And if at last I arrive,
will I find you in that room
with every window like the soul
flung open and flooded
with sounds of the distant sea.
And if I spill
out into the yard, will she be still
there, the child who was me
set down in the grass,
watching the stars blinkering
on and off, their light burning
with the knowledge of death.

                                                                                                  How will you carry this?

I will have to use the flowers to address you.
Wild-blooming frangipani (your cloying scent marks me).
Pointillist-starred ixora (I braid you into my hair).
Indigo-blue plumbago (you obliterate the sky).
Lignum vitae (you foretell all histories).
Roses that grow ragged along the shore (stay with me).

                                                                                                  How will you return to the living?

Called back by the susurrating wind and sea.
Called back by the roots of my hair, dirt
beneath my nails, the body’s sweat and stink.
Called back by their voices, yours
still clenched in my fist. Called back
to all that is matter, bone, and skin,
what fragment of you survives in me
as I open my mouth to speak?

Copyright © 2021 by Shara McCallum. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 8, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

“Pain blesses the body back to its sinner”
            —Ocean Vuong

Handcuffs around my wrists 
lined with synthetic fur, my arms bound 

& hoisted, heavenward, as if in praise.
Once, bodies like mine were seen as a symptom

of sin, something to be prayed away;
how once, priests beat themselves to sanctify

the flesh. To put their sins to death. Now,
my clothes scatter across the floor like petals

lanced by hail. Motion stretches objects 
in the eye. A drop of rain remade, 

a needle, a blade. Mark how muscle fiber 
& piano strings both, when struck, ring. 

No music without violence or wind. 

I’ve been searching the backs of lover’s hands
for a kinder score, a pain that makes 

my pain a stranger tune. Still, my body aches 
an ugly psalm. All my bones refuse to harm

-onize. Percussion is our oldest form of song, 
wind bruised into melody. Let me say this plainly:

I want you to beat me 

into a pain that’s unfamiliar. How convenient 
this word, beat, that lives in both the kingdoms 

of brutality & song. The singer’s voice: a cry, 
a moan, god’s name broken across a blade 

of teeth. The riding crop & flog & scourge—
a wicked faith. A blood-loud devotion.  

There is no prayer to save me from my flesh. 
You can’t have the bible without the belt.

Copyright © 2021 by torrin a. greathouse. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 11, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I once made a diorama from a shoebox
for a man I loved. I was never a crafty person,

but found tiny items at an art store and did my best
to display the beginning bud of our little love,

a scene recreating our first kiss in his basement
apartment, origin story of an eight-year marriage.

In the dollhouse section, I bought a small ceiling fan.
Recreated his black leather couch, even found miniscule

soda cans for the cardboard counters that I cut and glued.
People get weird about divorce. Think it’s contagious.

Think it dirty. I don’t need to make it holy, but it purifies—
It’s clear. Sometimes the science is simple. Sometimes

people love each other but don’t need each other
anymore. Though, I think the tenderness can stay

(if you want it too). I forgive and keep forgiving,
mostly myself. People still ask, what happened?

I know you want a reason, a caution to avoid, but
life rarely tumbles out a cheat sheet. Sometimes

nobody is the monster. I keep seeing him for the first
time at the restaurant off of West End where we met

and worked and giggled at the micros. I keep seeing
his crooked smile and open server book fanned with cash

before we would discover and enter another world
and come back barreling to this one, astronauts

for the better and for the worse, but still spectacular
as we burned back inside this atmosphere to live

separate lives inside other shadow boxes we cannot see.
I remember I said I hate you once when we were driving

back to Nashville, our last long distance. I didn’t mean it.
I said it to hurt him, and it did. I regret that I was capable

of causing pain. I think it’s important to implicate
the self. The knife shouldn’t exit the cake clean.

There is still some residue, some proof of puncture,
some scars you graze to remember the risk.

Copyright © 2021 by Tiana Clark. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 14, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

In lieu of a break down, I buy a Tuscan villa  
with what’s left of the alimony.  
The keys I am given are old and because  
I am a novelist, I imagine my past lives  
as the generations that once lived in this house  
and each one of them is white.  
Citizenship goes unsaid; the visa process unsexy,  
taxing, and therefore not worthy  
of a plot line—unlike
the man who will teach me  
that after a lengthy divorce I can still orgasm.  
He takes me to Rome—O Roma! I already miss  
the Tuscan fields, where the olive trees are plucked  
by Black hands that were plucked from the Mediterranean,  
and from the road, don’t look like hands  
at all, but like
row after fragrant row  
of gnarled branches. Love becomes me in this new city.  
I am always radiant. My body, after all, a vessel  
of history, but I dress it in white, cinched 
at the waist, and no one says a thing. 
I antique shop, never suspecting I could find  
my skull behind glass, just another artifact, price tagged  
and measured, among such fine china. He leaves me of course. 
After all, we’d never survive it; not love or the hours  
long drive between us, but the credits rolling.  
I don’t shed a single tear (I’m lying, enough to flood the piazza).  
Besides, there are many men to take his place, ballads of them.  
Men, who will touch me, their hands staying hands,  
and not blossoming into a rifle, or a colony  
of ants—
this is the pinnacle of romance, I’m sure.  
Men, who tell me I have eyes they could drown in.  
Men, who have never been left to die at sea. I want to  
lie naked in their beds—my desire, simple  
and ahistoric—and rename each place they kiss me  
like conquered territory: Giorgio, Marcello,  
Pietro, whose oiled lips at dinner  
could make a blush cross Mary’s porcelain cheeks.

Copyright © 2021 by Edil Hassan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Listen, no one signed up for this lullaby. 
No bleeped sheep or rosebuds or twitching stars 
will diminish the fear or save you from waking 

into the same day you dreamed of leaving
mockingbird on back order, morning bells
stuck on snoozeso you might as well  

get up and at it, pestilence be damned. 
Peril and risk having become relative,
I’ll try to couch this in positive terms:

Never! is the word of last resorts, 
Always! the fanatic’s rallying cry. 
To those inclined toward kindness, I say

Come out of your houses drumming. All others, 
beware: I have discarded my smile but not my teeth.

Copyright © 2021 by Rita Dove. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 18, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

The light retreats and is generous again.
No you to speak of, anywhere—neither in vicinity nor distance, 

so I look at the blue water, the snowy egret, the lace of its feathers 
shaking in the wind, the lake—no, I am lying. 

There are no egrets here, no water. Most of the time, 
my mind gnaws on such ridiculous fictions. 

My phone notes littered with lines like Beauty will not save you
Or: mouthwash, yogurt, cilantro

A hummingbird zips past me, its luminescent plumage 
disturbing my vision like a tiny dorsal fin. 

But what I want does not appear. Instead, I find the redwoods and pines, 
figs that have fallen and burst open on the pavement, 

announcing that sickly sweet smell,
the sweetness of grief, my prayer for what is gone. 

You are so dramatic, I say to the reflection on my phone, 
then order the collected novels of Jean Rhys. 

She, too, was humiliated by her body, that it wanted
such stupid, simple things: food and cherry wine, to touch someone. 

On my daily walk, I steal Meyer lemons from my neighbors’ yard, 
a small pomegranate. Instead of eating them, 

I observe their casual rot on the kitchen counter, 
this theatre of good things turning into something else.

Copyright © 2021 by Aria Aber. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 19, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

On April 22, 1993, 18-year-old 2nd Generation Jamaican youth Stephen Lawrence was attacked and stabbed to death in an unprovoked hate crime by a gang of white boys as he waited at a bus stop in London. His murderers were acquitted and allowed to walk free for 18 years, until two of his six killers were convicted of murder in 2011.

for Stephen Lawrence (September 13, 1974—April 22, 1993)

In the dream, Stephen  
you’re thicker than when we were young
but thoughtful, as a first kiss.  

We had one summer in Kingston 
before England’s white boys 
kicked, clubbed, knifed you.   

Too brief again, this August light 
its hours shifting. And hate, a hungry  
animal that only takes.  

The day your family stood above  
your grave, swept by coconut palms 
and a small bird orchestra 

I smashed the shuttlecock  
repeatedly against my backyard wall
my grief knocking back 

against the day’s blunt silence. 
What loves still lives, transforms  
my days, each night 

each decade passing—  
I follow you, and return to the gate 
you towered over  

that careless summer 
when you were just a boy  
laughing against the sky 

and I still believed in the light  
and what it makes of us.

Copyright © 2021 by Ann-Margaret Lim. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 21, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

for my cousins

 

                      “First the meat disappeared from our rations,
                      then the rice, then the barley and millet,
                      then the rations vanished.

 

                                               ———

 

                      “We caught croakers, cuttlefish,
                      hauled creels of eelgrass and whip-wrack
                      until soldiers fired warning shots to keep us from the sea:

                      trapped squirrels, snapped sparrows’ necks,
                      stoned snakes if we were quick, dug mud
                      for frogs, dragged dogs from their holes:

                      and when they were wiped out, gnawed rats raw—
                      until they seemed to grow thinner,
                      the parasites in our guts wither, the lice on our scalps
                                                      starve—

 

                                              ———

 

                                                   하루 두 끼만 먹자!
                                                   [LET’S EAT TWO MEALS A DAY!]

 

                                               ———

 

                      “We boiled bracken, ground flour for noodles
                      from bean-stalks, stretched it with sawdust,
                      cooked gruel from grass or moss:

                      stripped pine-trees to chew the green inner bark,
                      picked pigweed, hogweed, horseweed, wort,
                      pounded acorns into a pulp—

 

                                              ———

 

                                        고난의 행군에서 승리한 기세로 새
                                                   세기의 진격로를 열어나가자!
                                        [LET’S CHARGE FORWARD INTO THE NEW
                                                      CENTURY 
IN THE SPIRIT
                                                        OF THE ARDUOUS MARCH!]

 

                                              ———

 

                      “Hunt for spilled grain near shipyards and train stations.
                      Poke through cow-shit for corn.
                      Wash well.

 

                                              ———

 

                      “Crush grubs.  Suck leeches.  Swallow
                      the worms that would swallow you.
                      Eat anything alive to stay alive.

 

                                              ———

 

                     “Snatch scraps of black-market meat.
                      Mother-meat, father-meat, meat of wandering swallows,
                                    
                  meat of tomorrow—?
                      Is-Was.   Eat-Eaten.

 

                                              ———

 

                                    오늘을 위해 살지 말고 내일을 위해 살자!
                                    [LET US NOT LIVE FOR TODAY,
                                    
                  BUT FOR TOMORROW!]

 

                                              ———

 

                      “The children’s skulls swelled, their bellies bloated,
                       their nails fell off,
                       their faces leathered, flesh blackened with infection,

                       hair rusted, eyes ringed with wrinkles
                       as if steel spectacles had been soldered into skin,
                       but what was there to see?

 

                                               ———

 

                      “Faster, dig faster! Save face, the aid workers are coming!
                       Hide them, the rotted bodies, lives heaped high as leaves—
                       There is hardly earth enough to bury all the dead.

Copyright © 2021 by Suji Kwock Kim. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 25, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

My heart is like an opal, flashing fire
And flaming gleams of pointed light
At thy approach; or lying cold and white
When thou art gone; robbed of a dream’s desire
Is left moon-white and dull; no darting flame
Or sapphire gleam to mark a sweet suspense.
But only still, benumbed indifference
Unwaked at thy soft whisper of my name.
Come now, I tire of waiting to know love;
Teach me to scorn indifference white and dim
For I would drain fate’s cup of joy or strife;
Would play to the lost chord the vibrant hymn
That passion sings; my heart lifted above
Dull apathy; pulsating; knowing Life.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 7, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I imagine today just like yesterday—
I will spend the morning writing and then,
when the tide recedes, I’ll trip along drift lines
searching. Yesterday I found an entire sand dollar
and four amber sea agates. The day before—
a red plastic heart stuck in driftwood. But

Anne,     what I really want to find

is a buoy. A fine glass fishing buoy, like the one
you brought to our third-grade show-and-tell
in 1982. A perfect glass bauble, wrapped in brown
hemp. Mint green, cerulean, sparkling, and you,
Anne, gleaming, cradling the globe, in small,
flawless hands. You illumed, Anne, in front of the class,
teaching us what your Grandma taught you
about glassblowing and fishing nets and the tide
that carried that buoy all the way from Japan
to the Oregon Coast, so far from our landlocked
Colorado town, so far from anywhere
our imaginations had yet taken us. Even those of us
in the back row could see. Anne,
tall and gangly, shy and anxious, you traveled
to the sea and brought back a flawless
glass buoy. Even those who teased you hardest
felt the weight of envy. “Be careful,”

you begged us, hinting finally toward fragility, rarity.

Yet these years later I am still searching the wrack
lines, my hands begging back that unbroken
weight, as if by finding my own buoy I might know something
about…     Anne,

please forgive me, I held on too loose—
what do ten-year-old hands know of mortality or the way
lives can be shattered on coasts? What
does this forty-nine-year-old heart understand
about the mechanics of staying afloat, of netting a life
and not letting go?

Copyright © 2021 by CMarie Fuhrman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 16, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

is like being burned up
in a twelfth-floor elevator.
Or drowned in a flipped SUV.

It’s like waking with scalpels 
arrayed on my chest.
Like being banished to 1983.

Having a fight with you 
is never, ever less horrid: that whisper 
that says you never loved me

my heart a stalled engine
out the little square window.
Your eyes a white-capped black sea.

Copyright © 2022 by Patrick Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 11, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

You’re humming through the streets,
self-lit. I have to correct strangers
who touch your head without asking,
as if to bless you or to take a blessing from you.

When we leave the city, you become
a boy hunting locusts. Nature stuns you—
you load up your pockets and want to bring it
home with us, but Nature stays with nature, I say,
a refrain learned from another mother.

You cannot be unpuzzled by things,
but you marshal all your sweet bravado for me,
who tries but never beats you in a game of chess.
I witness the rook and Queen
moving inside your thinking, squaring
and hewing 
to pathways of wins, losses.

Childhood’s end is always menacing,
apparent places of stars mark its outer limits.
It heaves up in you when you lose,
when you rage, 
when you’re afraid.

Glowering out of a fever dream, your eyes shine
as you confess in the dark I was the monster.

You show me a hornet’s nest on a bed of cotton,
hold it up as an offering. I wonder with you
at what you hold—
            summer rivers that show bracken corners,
            eye agate marbles,
            daggerwings of our days in the city
            built of strangers,
                         in a country built of sky.

When I pull you close,
what will flee trembles in you.

Copyright © 2022 by KC Trommer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 13, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I am the smoke king,
I am black.
      I am swinging in the sky,
      I am ringing worlds on high;
      I am the thought of the throbbing mills,
      I am the soul of the Soul toil kills,
      I am the ripple of trading rills.
Up I’m curling from the sod,
I am whirling home to God.
I am the smoke king,
I am black.

I am the smoke king,
I am black.
      I am wreathing broken hearts,
      I am sheathing devils’ darts;
      Dark inspiration of iron times,
      Wedding the toil of toiling climes,
      Shedding the blood of bloodless crimes,
Down I lower in the blue,
Up I tower toward the true.
I am the smoke king,
I am black.

I am the smoke king,
I am black.
      I am darkening with song,
      I am hearkening to wrong;
      I will be black as blackness can,
      The blacker the mantle the mightier the man,
      My purpl’ing midnights no day dawn may ban.
I am carving God in night,
I am painting Hell in white.
I am the smoke king,
I am black.

I am the smoke king,
I am black.
      I am cursing ruddy morn,
      I am hearsing hearts unborn;
      Souls unto me are as mists in the night,
      I whiten my black men, I blacken my white,
      What’s the hue of a hide to a man in his might!
Hail, then, gritty, grimy hands,
Sweet Christ, pity toiling lands!
Hail to the smoke king
Hail to the black!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 16, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Oye! This is an apartment building ode.
But not just any ode, an ode about breathing,
walking, jumping, running, skipping people.
An ode to a time where we’d remember what
odes felt like to read outside. An ode about
oding so hard it boxes itself into a sonnet.
Harder than bus stop benches and light rail
seats, taxes, and systemic poverty. The oding
of this poem is an apartment building sonnet
about people stacked up like bricks like words
in a sonnet. People that will tap your shoulder
to make sure you’re listening to the fact that this
poem is a token, a favor, a shirt off their back.
Oye! This is The Apartment Building Ode.
 

There’s Freestyle, Hip Hop, and Bachata on the steps
depending on the time of day we pick up groceries.
There are bikes by the curb and notebooks on those steps,
soda bottles, 2 quarter juices, and candy wrappers in bags.
There is a 10pm curfew for noise and the music plays
until 9:59, because the stoop DJ wakes up early too.
There are “No loitering on the stairs” signs in every hall-
way though it is understood that what we do isn’t aimless.
There is the smell of food, home-cooked or homemade,
plantains in C5, Hot Pockets in A3 and Chinese in the lobby.
There are lovers, soothsayers, tall-tale tellers, doers, hustlers,
potatoes, flowers, lighters, and so many hand gestures.
 
This is a concrete box that we call home.
There is a life we’ve learned to love and live.

Copyright © 2022 by Dimitri Reyes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 18, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

for Aya, September 2021

Be kind to her. She’s eleven & already
wants to turn you back. She wished this
after she squeezed a drop from her index
& read me the number. She always insists
I close my eyes & guess
what her blood is saying—
sometimes I’m wrong & sometimes not.

I kiss the tiny tears on her fingertips.
I kiss her arms & thighs before the insulin.
When I ask her to inject herself, I’m asking her to live
without me, & she knows it. When her legs trembled,
& I soothed with “I’m here, I’m here,”
she reminded me: “But you can’t do anything.”
Perhaps she meant “undo.”

Who am I kidding. Time, I demanded your undoing too,
that first night in the hospital before dawn,
when I woke up having forgotten, then remembered
where I was, what had happened.
The neon corridor light, the nurses’ chatter,
the potassium’s slow burn in my daughter’s vein.

Time, I know
I can’t reason with you. You go on and on.
Instead, I’m wishing her
astonishing slowness, softness
inside the arduous & unfair. Like this:

the dog’s limp, the cold coffee, the struggling
baby bougainvillea, the winged ant on the floor,
the half-eaten sandwich, the tenderness
of the 5am light, the daily departures,
the basil plant’s shadow on the wall,
& her hair, the swing of my love’s hair
as she runs, shaking her head
left & right, left & right,
how she always ran like this, always ran
as if swaying, No, No.

Copyright © 2022 by Zeina Hashem Beck. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

after the 2021 Texas Winter Storm

I’ll admit that I’ve never thought about frostbite.

Trauma of the blood, a thing to be avoided when heat goes out for an entire state.

I don’t know where to place this grief, this sweltering state freezing, politicians breezing over to a country that doesn’t have tissue choked out by its winter yet.

The sky can only do what it does.

The American government can only do what systems driven by green paper, violence & ache can do.

The trees bloom over dead bodies, missing.

The sound of hands rubbing, engines purring, hopes that gas lights or chafing or the rapture won’t come first may quiver in my blood forever.

I am Black but maybe I am doomed.

Memory flashes like a computer screen; I see the zoom link expand. Colleagues process whatever failure number of a thousand this was this year and I can only remember white.

Six inches deep, sunken into my boots all over.

The timeline of friends stranded, impending doom of electricity shutting off, water pressure slipping into nothing every hour, pipes bursting on top of all that white.

I haven’t recovered from seeing things that too-closely resemble holes in a graveyard.  

I haven’t forgotten the project is due in 2 weeks.

My therapist says take it easy as if capitalism is listening. As if the body will ever forget what it is given.

I am Black which is history, personified.

I used to listen to Pilot Jones fondly. With all this frostbite on my fingers, I’m not sure if I can type.

I cannot finish another sentence on unity.

What is unified about ERCOT letting us freeze? Knowing how to fix the problem & not doing it; how does that form a Kumbaya circle?

If I made art about every pain I’ve felt unjustly, I would be swimming in accolades for great American books.

I would take back every word I’ve written if it ended this.

America is the worst group project.

I’m writing a great American poem about suffering.

How much is going without food that isn’t canned for a week worth?

The absence of snow feels like betrayal. My memory mixes with American delusion. 

I can’t believe half the things that I’ve been through.

Ice cold, baby, I told you; Im ice cold.

Who said it first, Frank Ocean or Christopher Columbus?

I’ve never been taught how to adequately mourn the nights spent bitching about a brisk wind; the night we almost got stranded trying to get to J before the cold swallowed them whole.

I want to give everything I’ve been handed a good cry. Red skin & chapped lips deserve it.  

Good grief, what has Texas done to me.

An article features a person walking past tents near I-35. 

I can’t cry about the body but I feel it.

A highway splits a nation from its promise to be one.

Everything feels blurry and the palm trees have died.

Everything transported here withers away eventually.

6 months later and I haven’t been able to shovel out my sadness.

A news report said that it’s safe to go back to work. & I listen, because what else can you do in 6 inches of white.

The snow melted and I still feel frostbitten.

There are no heroes in a freeze-frame changing nothing.

I pose begrudgingly. Say cheese & then write this.

I’m not a survivor; just still breathing.

I remember grief, loves grand finale.

What else do we have if not the memory of life before this?

I cannot tell you how many lives I’ve lost to mourning, but I can tell you that the sky does what it does.

Let’s go for a walk & touch the trees that survived like us.

Let’s write a future more joyful & less inevitable in segments of leaves.

Anything we dream will be better than this.

Copyright © 2022 by KB Brookins. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 23, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Some people presume to be hopeful
when there is no evidence for hope,
to be happy when there is no cause.
Let me say now, I’m with them.

In deep darkness on a cold twig
in a dangerous world, one first
little fluff lets out a peep, a warble,
a song—and in a little while, behold:

the first glimmer comes, then a glow
filters through the misty trees,
then the bold sun rises, then
everyone starts bustling about.

And that first crazy optimist, can we
forgive her for thinking, dawn by dawn,
“Hey, I made that happen!
And oh, life is so fine.”

Copyright © 2022 by Kim Stafford. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 27, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Ocean, every so often, a kitchen tile or child’s toy 
rises from you, years after the hurricane’s passed. 

This time, the disaster was somewhere else. 
The disaster was always somewhere else, until it wasn’t. 

Punctuation of the morning after: comma between red sky
and sailors’ warning; white space where a storm cloud lowers. 

Where the bay breaks away, the sentence ends: a waning
crescent of peninsula, barely visible 

but for the broken buildings, the ambulance lights. 
Ocean, even now, even shaken, you hold the memory 

of words, of worlds that failed slowly, then all at once. A
flotilla of gulls falls onto you, mourners draped in slate.

Copyright © 2022 by Liza Katz Duncan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 30, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

The dead are breathing inside me now,

everything slowing to the pace of the newt
crawling across the bricks, the old cat watching,

the newt too slow for even him
as the crack in the earth opens and the roots

rise up to trip me. Fire lives in me
and the fear of fire, plague and the fear

of plague, death and the fear of death
though only it will silence me. I remember

the abandoned freight cars
standing on unused tracks, doors open.

I saw through them to the stubbled fields
beyond. The owl sitting on its fencepost late

in the day, the creek and its flowing,
the pied horse in its pasture—I was afraid

I’d lose them. If I could only do just this,
the long days filled, me longing, in pursuit

of something exquisite that eludes me, always
clumsy, never knowing the manners

of the place I have entered.

Copyright © 2023 by Maxine Scates. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 2, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

The yellow flowers on the grave
make an arch, they lie 

on a black stone that lies on the ground
like a black door that will always

remain closed down into the earth,
into it is etched the name

of a great poet who believed
he had nothing more to say,

he threw himself into literal water
and everyone has done their mourning 

and been mourned over, and we all 
went on with our shopping, 

I stare at this photograph of that grave
and think you died like him, 

like all the others,
and the yellow flowers 

seem angry, they seem to want to refuse 
to be placed anywhere but in a vase 

next to the living, someday 
all of us will have our names 

etched where we cannot read them,
she who sealed her envelopes

full of poems about doubt with flowers 
called it her “granite lip,” I want mine 

to say Lucky Life, and what would 
a perfect elegy do? place the flowers 

back in the ground? take me 
where I can watch him sit eternally 

dreaming over his typewriter? 
then, at last, will I finally unlearn 

everything? and I admit that yes, 
while I could never leave 

everyone, here at last 
I understand these yellow flowers, 

the names, the black door 
he held open 

and you walked through.

Copyright © 2023 by Matthew Zapruder. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 18, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

A trip to Laredo is like breaking open the sky.

Each long row of wheat meets the eye 

before it sloughs into desert, where the occasional hawk, 

in a few concentric turns, identifies a weak movement. 

I know this place. The place in between. 

I have seen limbs of prickly pear hovering in the still, hot air, 

clustered and distorted like a reef in reverse.

I have seen the hay bales lead me to ranch houses 

with tin foil winks on every window 

and a museum of appliances on every porch,

sliding from one world to another,

where there are trucks without wheels, 

willows without spirits, and mesquites with nothing to lose.

 

I have seen the sun own the land. I have seen it bake 

into our hands. And I have seen it sleep in a dark coverlet

while the sky opens loose, and the coyotes, in their constellation,

propose a trick. A star crosses with intelligence. 

A rabbit becomes an antique. At the gas station in Cotulla, 

I eat the moon in the form of a pie. A real U.F.O. in cellophane,

a chemically unctuous sweet. Each bite, with the physics of an asteroid,

crumbles onto the asphalt where purpling black spheres of gum

have each staked a claim on the cosmos. There is no claim

that cannot be shifted. There is no orbit that cannot be redone.

I have a stepfather who I call a father, who believes other life forms

are out there, far beyond our boastful sun. And I have seen

this moon pie has no bloodline. I have seen it orbit from

one home to another, a pre-made kindness at a pit stop 

where something in the brush is changing up its cry.

Copyright © 2023 by Analicia Sotelo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 20, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

Whenever I feel loss or lack, I imagine 
The wind roaming outside of my childhood’s lair
—as I am a child again, with my red knapsack 
bouncing lightly on my back— 
Beckoning me to run to it, into its slurry white expanse . . .
And in my heart, I am already on my way 
To some thrilling future 
Which is not yet weak and diluted with a lonely pain.
There, I am someone who wishes to be 
An exception and I am. A third and ringing note 
Edges the banal alternatives of 
Yes, and No. A lyric possibility rises 
Everywhere and at once, a thousand roses—allusive, corrosive.
Think how much you must change. Even more than you dare.

Copyright © 2023 by Sandra Lim. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 1, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

So the world turned
its one good eye

to watch the bees
take most of metaphor
                        with them.

            Swarms—
                        in all their airborne
                    pointillism—
                                shifted on the breeze

for the last time. Of course,

the absence of bees
                                    left behind significant holes
in ecology. Less


                                    obvious
            were the indelible holes
in poems, which would come
                                                            later:

Our vast psychic habitat
shrunk. Nothing was

            like nectar
                                    for the gods

Nobody was warned by
a deep black dahlia, and nobody

grew like a weed.

Nobody felt spry as
                        a daisy, or blue
                        and princely
as a hyacinth; was lucid as
            a moon flower.            Nobody came home


                        and yelled   honey!   up the stairs,

And nothing in particular
by any other name would smell as sweet as—

Consider:
the verbal dearth
that is always a main ripple of extinction.

The lexicon of wilds goes on nixing its descriptions.
Slimming its index of references
for what is

super as a rhubarb, and juicy
as a peach,
or sunken as a
comb and ancient as an alder tree, or
conifer, or beech, what is royal
as jelly, dark as a wintering

hive, toxic as the jessamine vine
who weeps the way a willow does,
silently as wax
burned in the land of milk and

all the strong words in poems,
they were once

smeared on the mandible of a bee.

Copyright © 2023 by RK Fauth. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 29, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

we have given up on knocking. 
Incoming! we say, with our eyes lowered for modesty,
or, Hello! or sometimes, Sorry, sorry! 
You have to pass through everyone’s bedroom
to get to the kitchen. We only have two bathrooms. 
As a courtesy, nobody will poop while you are showering,
but they might have to do their makeup or shave 
if they are in a rush, if we have somewhere to be,
so you can recognize every person by their whistle 
through a wet shower curtain, you haven’t seen your own face
on an unfogged mirror in weeks. It doesn’t matter,
self-consciousness has no currency here. 
If you were nosy, I suppose the little bathroom trashcans 
would spill their secrets to you, but why bother, 
privacy is a language we don’t speak.
Someone is always awake before you, 
the smell of coffee easing you into a today
they have already entered, 
a bridge you will never need to cross first,
and no matter how latenight your owl,
there is always someone still awake 
to eat popcorn with, to whisper your daily report to,
to compare notes on what good news you each caught in your nets.
In bed, you say, Goodnight! in one direction 
and someone says it back, then turns and passes it, 
so you fall asleep to the echo of goodnights down the long hallway
’til it donuts its way back around to your pillow. 
Someone is doing a load of laundry,
if anyone wants to add some extra socks?
Someone is clearing the dishes, 
someone has started singing Gershwin in the backyard 
and you can’t help but harmonize,
and for a moment what you always hoped was true
finally is: loneliness has forgotten your address,
french toast browning on the stovetop,
the sound of everyone you love
clear as the sun giggling through the window,
not even a doorknob between you.

Copyright © 2023 by Sarah Kay. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 2, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

So I fight all my destructive urges to give her one. A tiny globe
filled with first snow I’m determined not to shatter across blacktop.
Once, in the parking lot of Home Depot, we got into the blue van
& everything felt off, uncanny, a fast-food wrapper from a place 
we hadn’t eaten, the dashboard dustier than it should’ve been. 
It took us a full thirty seconds, Mom in the driver’s
seat though she hadn’t driven in years, me in the passenger, her ride-
or-die since I was a little girl & one of her only friends in our strange &
tiny border town, before we realized This isn’t our van! & we scrambled
out, laughing our heads off & terrified the owner 
had called the cops on the women who look like twins 
carjacking them. We laugh about it every time we’re in a parking lot. 
That wasn’t our only Lucy & Ethel moment. There was the time 
we ordered what we thought was a roll from the drive-
thru at Panera Bread, thinking we’d share it to split the calories 
but when the server handed it to us, the long, thin bread kept
coming through the window. Mom & I thought 
baguette meant roll, it sounded petit. & although this poem’s 
only point is to make Mom happy it’s also to heal
something in myself I hadn’t known needed a balm until the words
hit the page, the way moms know, the way mine sent me flowers 
when the love of my young life got another girl pregnant & left me 
heartbroken & without a prom date, or when Mom gave me a gold
nutcracker pin after the ballet recital when all the other girls got
flowers & I shoved the beautiful pin back at her because it wasn’t flowers.
And she said flowers wilt. I wanted to get you something 
that would last forever. Like her love. A poem can be sentimental 
because poems are filled with life, but sometimes we need to look
our moms in the eyes & apologize. Or say thank you.
Our moms remind us what it felt like when we were safe
in their arms, even if our moms weren’t safe, even 
if they were only holding it together for us, to give us a happiness
they’d created from thin air. Motherhood is made of that
magic. I’m crying now. Mom, I promise, they’re happy tears.

Copyright © 2023 by Jennifer Givhan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Another word I love is evening
for the balance it implies, balance
being something I struggle with.
I suppose I would like to be more
a planet, turning in & out of light
It comes down again to polarities,
equilibrium. Evening. The moths
take the place of the butterflies,
owls the place of hawks, coyotes
for dogs, stillness for business,
& the great sorrow of brightness
makes way for its own sorrow.
Everything dances with its strict
negation, & I like that. I have no
choice but to like that. Systems
are evening out all around us—
even now, as we kneel before
a new & ruthless circumstance.
Where would I like to be in five
years, someone asks—& what
can I tell them? Surrendering
with grace to the evening, with
as much grace as I can muster
to the circumstance of darkness,
which is only something else
that does not stay.

Copyright © 2023 by Jeremy Radin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 16, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Sometimes when you start to ramble
or rather when you feel you are starting to ramble
you will say Well, now I’m rambling
though I don’t think you ever are.
And if you ever are I don’t really care.
And not just because I and everyone really 
at times falls into our own unspooling
—which really I think is a beautiful softness
of being human, trying to show someone else
the color of all our threads, wanting another to know 
everything in us we are trying to show them—
but in the specific, 
in the specific of you
here in this car that you are driving
and in which I am sitting beside you
with regards to you 
and your specific mouth
parting to give way
to the specific sweetness that is
the water of your voice 
tumbling forth—like I said 
I don’t ever really mind
how much more 
you might keep speaking
as it simply means 
I get to hear you 
speak for longer. 
What was a stream 
now a river.

Copyright © 2023 by Anis Mojgani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 18, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

the moon’s rose madder in composite image: capture 
photons from the upper atmosphere, gather all the images  
together, aggregate raw data analyzed into a single instance, come,
fovea and nerve cell and ganglion, fold over on yourself, awake—
it will be a celebration 

“worldmaking is a territorializing process” someone posts on the internet.
“deep down in the bible-black vents” writes Nick Lane in his book about the
biochemistry origins of metabolic processes  

I am trying to tell you something about the architecture of time
I am trying to understand something about the structure of the shared universe 

I am trying to build a nest, in our minds, together 
out of everything, all together. as if we could bear that, 
poet.  

that it is a universe to all but a multiverse to each 
or the opposite, I don’t know, vice versa? I have to go 

sweep my small corner of the universe, the dogs track in 
so much dirt, I have to make breakfast, two or three eggs on toast.  

the shining fats, the protein strands, the sugars, the yeasts, the sun
streaming in at an angle now, the music of the spheres is getting louder— 

the sound of a distant chainsaw, laughter, maybe where you are,
traffic, or birds, or construction, or wind down the canyons of avenues 

honking horns, sirens, a TV in the next room, the sound  
of someone cooking, someone playing an instrument, vibrations 

in the molecules of air, the radio playing Bach or Megan Thee Stallion
or Marketplace Morning Report 

and the constant new hum of electricity coursing through wires,
leaking its bracts and tendrils into the effusive livingrooms and countertops of our
incandescing time  

isn’t there some oscillating connection between a cycle and a trajectory?
this is the calendar of the future, sailing outward, this is how a battery works 

all cycles are rituals 
your tracking number will be provided 

think of every chicken egg on earth, right now. palm-sized 
fruit, or cell, or orbit. there is a way

the present can cannibalize the future, 
the Pleiades come up in the power-line cut, now 

my mother emails me “my credit cards  
aren’t working, please bake me a cake  

with a metal file in it” and  
“the hawks are migrating, again!”  

ants are a game played by chemicals 
humans are a game played by myth 

supply-chain disruptions “uncoiled” 
humans are a game played by markets 

caterpillar tractor, Texas instruments, Boeing signed a deal for 
8,000 more machinists and aerospace engineers, the GDP 

contracted again, this rocky birth, weird chrysalis, phase-converter, please,
algorithm, know me, show me to myself again, to each other, give— 

“weaker global activity…” “lowered demand for grapes”  
“what the actual price of raisins is right now in Tokyo” “speaking
of apples” “to dust we shall return” 

sunlight and sugar: atoms and the void 
dimensional time: to live inside 

for thine is the kingdom, the phyla, the glory 
for thine is the order, the genius, the species 

don’t mess this thing up for us, us apes of kinship and grief 
at the corner of online shopping and heaven 

at the corner of the combustion engine and All-Life-On-Earth 
under this wide swath of infinitely expanding universe, bless 

New-Babel, New-Uruk, New-Arkadelphia, New-Gate 
of-All-Nations, New- Moon-Landing, New-Rain-on-Genetically 

Modified-Wheat, New-Blessings, New-Cyanobacteria-crusting-on-the-small-rocks,
small crustaceans exploring the chromatic topography of our shared mind, let us go
out and ask of it, the World.  

let us go out and ask of it, the world which is hard and made of a hard materia,
electron-repulsion of negatively charged particles which is all you have ever touched,  

neck, body of a lover, table, rock, the space between where atoms sing to the void,
soprano, acapella, queen-of-the-night, king-of-the-road, master-of-puppets, come
back to me, world, work of our hands—

Copyright © 2023 by Cody-Rose Clevidence. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 9, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.