1
Confirmed in their belief there’s still a need
for worship prior to Lauds,
the street-dog choristers

insist on how
any three of them form a quorum.
However great the din

they’re eventually forced to cede
their urine-soaked sod
to a single rooster,

his beak the prow
of an imperial quinquereme
at the break of dawn.

2
Not that a rooster ever rues
the day of days
he first lowered the tone

by kicking up a fuss.
He specializes in splutter and spout.
Sometimes the bearer

becomes the bad news,
as when Augustus would parlay      
the cult of Diana

at Ephesus
into the out-and-out
worship of himself as Emperor.
                           
3
A rooster will pay cash on the barrel
to join the Praetorian Guard
but the flanking eagles betoken

our throwing off one yoke
even as we take on fresh burdens.
Left to his own devices, a rooster will don

the kind of gaudy apparel
more often associated with the bard—
the three-quarter-length tuigen            

or “feather-cloak.” 
That he has a sense of his own importance
is hardly something he’ll deny.

4
That wattle-ear was sliced
off a slave
by the self-same Simon Peter

who’d cover it with a tissue
of lies… The blue gel,
the iodine,

the ice-pack ice.
The pigs who’ve had a close shave
in the abattoir

are in such a daze
they can’t tell
Gethsemane from the Garden of Eden.

5
The rooster’s claws are tempered by calcium
derived from the forearm
of a devotee of Saint Francis Xavier

going for broke
as he sawed the heart from a yucca
or agave. The rooster himself would never deign

to take a shortcut to Elysium
via fermented sap. Beating his breast on a farm
is learned behavior

but the tendency to stroke
his own ego                             
is pretty much baked into his DNA.

6
From the top
of the rubbish tip on which he’s parked
he rubbishes any duenna

trying to pull rank.
His hens are rumpled. Raggedy-ass.
Most statements issued from his pilaster

of slow-cured adobe
are followed by an exclamation mark!
A sheet of corrugated tin

is his main plank.
“When oh when,” he blubbers, “will this cup pass?”
All bully-pulpitry. All bluster.

7
For it’s very rarely a cup of joy,
the cup
that runneth over.

More a seed-bleed
from the agave’s once-in-a-lifetime pod.
More a fairground tune 

from a wind-up toy
winding us up
for what seems forever.

Till the street-dogs have once again treed
a god
somewhere on the outskirts of town.

Copyright © 2018 by Paul Muldoon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

They are not real
She said from the cellar
And slowly unveiled
The flat scope
Lizards and their eggs
That I hang around the neck
You will break your legs
He warned me
And I believed him
Ruby edgings around
The mushroom-colored stones
And the man who told me
The women
Are like pictures in a book
They are not real
And so I believed him
Despite all the years
Finally free
In the end of an era
She held her breasts
On a golden platter
Despite the pain
And blessings everywhere
Eat she said
And they ate
They did

Copyright © 2018 by Dorothea Lasky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Gear adrift I say—a phrasal anchor in me
& here at the summit no one I know
knows what it means. I stay neat & ask
 
What did I imagine better before work
before that last time breaking
One Tuesday I volunteered & never again
 
The drumbeat softens & I still decline to
admit how cowardly & shipwrecked I feel
so many miles from the equator
 
How fast can I choose differently
a presence I pretend
In the darkest sweater I own I'm almost cold

Copyright © 2018 by Khadijah Queen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

                        “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!”
 
She sat across the desk from me, squirming.
It was stifling. My suite runs hot
but most days it is bearable.
 
This student has turned in nothing,
rarely comes to class. When she does,
her eyes bore into me with a disdain
born long before either of us.
 
She doesn’t trust anything I say.
She can’t respect my station,
the words coming out of these lips,
this face. My breathing
is an affront. It’s me, she says.
 
I never was this student’s professor—
her immediate reaction
seeing me at the smart board.
But I have a calling to complete
& she has to finish college,
return to a town where
she doesn’t have to look at,
listen to or respect anyone
like me—forever tall, large
& brown in her dagger eyes,
though it’s clear she looks down
on me. She can return—
if not to her hometown, another
enclave, so many others, where
she can brush a dog’s golden coat,
be vegan & call herself
a good person.
 
Are you having difficulty with your other classes?
 
No.
 
Go, I say, tenderly.
Loaded as a cop’s gun,
she blurts point-blank
that she’s afraid of me. Twice.
My soft syllables rattle something
planted deep,
so I tell her to go where
she'd feel more comfortable
as if she were my niece or
godchild, even wish her
a good day.
 
If she stays, the ways
this could backfire! 
Where is my Kevlar shield
from her shame?
 
There’s no way to tell
when these breasts will evoke
solace or terror. I hate
that she surprises me, that I lull
myself to think her ilk
is gone despite knowing
so much more, and better.
 
I can’t proselytize my worth
all semester, exhaust us
for the greater good.
I can’t let her make me
a monster to myself—
I’m running out of time & pity
the extent of her impoverished
heart. She’s from New
England, I’m from the Mid-South.
Far from elderly, someone
just raised her like this
with love.
 
I have essays to grade
but words warp
on the white page, dart
just out of reach. I blink
two hours away, find it hard
to lift my legs, my voice,
my head precious to my parents
now being held
in my own hands.
 
How did they survive
so much worse, the millions
with all of their scars!
What would these rivers be
without their weeping,
these streets without
their faith & sweat?
 
Fannie Lou Hamer
thundered what they felt,
we feel, into DNC microphones
on black and white TV
years before
I was a notion.
 
She doesn’t know who
Fannie Lou Hamer is,
and never has to.

Copyright © 2018 by Kamilah Aisha Moon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

I have oared and grieved,
grieved and oared,
treading a religion
of fear. A frayed nerve.
A train wreck tied to the train
of an old idea.
Now, Lord, reeling in violent
times, I drag these tidal
griefs to this gate.
I am tired. Deliver
me, whatever you are.
Help me, you who are never
near, hold what I love
and grieve, reveal this green
evening, myself, rain,
drone, evil, greed,
as temporary. Granted
then gone. Let me rail,
revolt, edge out, glove
to the grate. I am done
waiting like some invalid
begging in the nave.
Help me divine
myself, beside me no Virgil
urging me to shift gear,
change lane, sing my dirge
for the rent, torn world, and love
your silence without veering 
into rage.

Copyright © 2018 by Donna Masini. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Cinched belt tugged tight around the heart
5 or 6 aerial roots dangling      A strangler fig

Do homeless ancestors live inside the tree?
Child of noise    Hold the loosened ends    You

may miss the moon or fall in love with it         Embrace
ashes    I too am far removed    A thirst that wanders

thirsting     And I could never ask the name of the boy
who died     A baby boy who died but what could you do

and maybe words hang in sinew and care     Writer
of dead words or living words and life's hammer

Encase the host tree and erase it     I don't know
the folk songs on farms far from here    The dead buried

and gone    To dig the grave     Who dug the graves
Darling      The sea widens for you tonight      and deepens

Copyright © 2018 by Hoa Nguyen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 6, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

            In Memory of Paul Violi (1944–2011)

I did not realize that you were fading from sight
I don’t believe I could have helped with the transition

You most likely would have made a joke of it
Did you hear about the two donkeys stuck in an airshaft

I don’t believe I could have helped with the transition
The doorway leading to the valleys of dust is always open

Did you hear about the two donkeys stuck in an airshaft
You might call this the first of many red herrings

The doorway leading to the valleys of dust is always open
The window overlooking the sea is part of the dream

You might call this the first of many red herrings
The shield you were given as a child did not protect you

The window overlooking the sea is part of the dream
One by one the words leave you, even this one

The shield you were given as a child did not protect you
The sword is made of air before you knew it

One by one the words leave you, even this one
I did not realize that you were fading from sight

The sword is made of air before you knew it
You most likely would have made a joke of it

Copyright © 2018 John Yau. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 9, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

I worry that my friends 
will misunderstand my silence

as a lack of love, or interest, instead
of a tent city built for my own mind,  

I worry I can no longer pretend 
enough to get through another

year of pretending I know 
that I understand time, though 

I can see my own hands; sometimes, 
I worry over how to dress in a world 

where a white woman wearing 
a scarf over her head is assumed 

to be cold, whereas with my head 
cloaked, I am an immediate symbol 

of a war folks have been fighting 
eons-deep before I was born, a meteor.  

Copyright © 2018 by Tarfia Faizullah. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Everybody is doing trigger warnings now, so
To Whom It May Concern, I hated God
when my sister died. I didn’t know it was
coming, but we were at the hospital in a private
room for family, and our pastor
was there, the one who baptized me, and 
he said Let us pray, and I kept my eyes
open to watch everybody, but
listened, and when he said Sometimes
God has to take back his angels,
I was smart enough to know, I was 14, that
he was saying she was gone or going
and I loathed him so much, he didn’t see
the look on my face, that blazing anger
blank heart f-you-forever look, but then
my parents told us we were going to
take her off life support, and I died then,
and after they took away the machines we had
solitude, family time the five of us, mom,
dad, me, my brother, and my sister. Holding her
body she was warm she wasn’t conscious
but she could hear us I know it, then they
opened the door for other family to 
say goodbye and I was hugging her back
in her bed, my face against her face, my tears
wetting her cheek it was flush and her wavy
hair, I wanted to hold her forever I was
hurting but felt selfish like other people
wanted to say goodbye too so I let go,
and her head kind of tilted to the side and
I straightened it so I was a mess then
goodbye goodbye we left there to clean
the house for mourners to come.

Copyright © 2018 by CM Burroughs. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 11, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

                                        October

             where three we-horses mark ground,
turn snake our necks inside the guayla circle. My aranci,

             —etan, childfox
                                    out my fourth mouth, you drank
                          
                      then the year went dark

                      & our own flowers & fires & what we thought we were

though, still, our faces opened to
              the whooping of coyotes

at the canyon rim,
                          how they throw their voices out,

              falling, starless veils of lace
                            over our still, black heads.

                            Awake I sit sentried with all my Sight
& the purple fennel musting after rain.
               This hour

                             Become my canyon, become my bottom of the 
     world
listening for your breaths—to ward off nonbreath.

    Parent, my son—My son,
                          a flicker barely

               born. Already

withstand the blanched eye of our grief

               One morning with our faces crying into
the arroyo it answers:
               Once there were no doors.
                                 No doors on earth, not a single one.

               —so when I listen I
still hear you still kicking the ball,

               laughing as you say the story of endurance.

               & the women flutter their flickering tongues
                         a flock of sound suddenly aflight to be,
               for you, both here & further

                        they throw their voicebirds over the births

                        so we are three & simultaneous earths inside
               your coil of fatherhair to which I press my ear to hear
the histories, then the bell

               Then the whirl  The whir
                             of doctors above your beds,
               your noiseless struggle to be.

                                                       Stay.        Say. 
              
You are my Heres & Furthers
               Daddy, now I join the mothers

                    Remember, when you were a little boy
                             I used to hold you?

Copyright © 2018 by Aracelis Girmay. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Consider the palms. They are faces,
eyes closed, their five spread fingers
soft exclamations, sadness or surprise.
They have smile lines, sorrow lines, like faces.
Like faces, they are hard to read.

Somehow the palms, though they have held my life
piece by piece, seem young and pale.
So much has touched them, nothing has remained.
They are innocent, maybe, though they guess
they have a darker side that they cannot grasp.

The backs of my hands, indeed, are so different
that sometimes I think they are not mine,
shadowy from the sun, all bones and strain,
but time on my hands, blood on my hands—
for such things I have never blamed my hands.

One hand writes. Sometimes it writes a reminder
on the other hand, which knows it will never write,
though it has learned, in secret, how to type.
That is sad, perhaps, but the dominant hand is sadder,
with its fear that it will never, not really, be written on.

They are like an old couple at home. All day,
each knows exactly where the other is.
They must speak, though how is a mystery,
so rarely do they touch, so briefly come together,
now and then to wash, maybe in prayer.

I consider my hands, palms up. Empty, I say,
though it is exactly then that they are weighing
not a particular stone or loaf I have chosen
but everything, everything, the whole tall world,
finding it light, finding it light as air.

Copyright © 2018 by James Richardson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 13, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Neighbors saying our face is the same, but I know
Toward my daughter, he lurches like a brother
On the playground. He won’t turn apart from her,

Confounded. I never fought for so much—
My daughter; my son swaggers about her.
They are so small. And I, still, am a young man.

They play. He is not yet incarcerated.

Copyright © 2018 by Jericho Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

There are gods
    of fertility,
corn, childbirth,

& police
    brutality—this last
is offered praise

& sacrifice
    near weekly
& still cannot

be sated—many-limbed,
    thin-skinned,
its colors are blue

& black, a cross-
    hatch of bruise
& bulletholes

punched out
    like my son’s
three-hole notebooks—

pages torn
    like lungs, excised
or autopsied, splayed

open on a cold table
    or left in the street
for hours to stew.

A finger
    is a gun—
a wallet

is a gun, skin
    a shiny pistol,
a demon, a barrel

already ready—
    hands up
don’t shoot

arms
    not to bear but bare. Don’t

dare take
    a left
into the wrong

skin. Death
    is not dark
but a red siren

who will not blow
    breath into your open
mouth, arrested

like a heart. Because
    I can see
I believe in you, god

of police brutality—
    of corn liquor
& late fertility, of birth

pain & blood
    like the sun setting,
dispersing its giant

crowd of light.

Copyright © 2018 by Kevin Young. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

I liked Jane’s team. I’d bet money on them but it wasn’t that kind of thing. Too disorganized, plus it was just lunchtime pickup winterball with deflated goal bulbs and not enough of the good knee-gel to go around. The kids were tough. The kids goofed. Jane shone.

She worried that winter ball like a craft, then, like it was nothing, she’d plffft it dead center while everyone else looked sleepy, sidewise, a full surprise every time. Her main move always a low private conversation with the air. Then lightning knees you could never see.

The rest of the team shot sparks on occasion. Tella’s swift half-bank could rattle the shoulder of the thickest bulb-guard, and The Brain (a sticky girl in Advanced Graphmatics) had all the angles. We stood in the stands like snipers, trying to see what The Brain saw but never did till the fluke-score landed from outer space. Jane again, invisibly.

Some girls thought winter ball too mean-streaked, too psychic. My oldest daughter could hardly watch, preferring hockey. They shared a season so it was one or the other in our town. My younger daughter would rather ice-swim, but even in her ice-hole in the lake, her eyes followed Jane.

Our hearts were in Jane’s feet, her hands. All the bills we couldn’t pay, the wishing for electricity and lit-up screens of pleasure, the food gone rotten because no one could bring themselves to eat it—Jane gave us so many more chances to do it right this time.

We couldn’t give our kids the bountiful, bullet-proof homes we wanted, but we could insist on watching them try to win their childhoods back, inspecting their scraped knees before the raw red and pink dappled wounds turned burgundy, into crusts of edible leather.

Copyright © 2018 by Brenda Shaugnessy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

He courts her with Soir de Paris & braids myths in her hair.

To hear time how they need it to be is the sound of dare.

His soft-burred tenor soaks her like grapes in wild yeast.

A beautiful loser, she takes pleasure in being incomplete.

He draws tears from grown men when he plucks his box.

She is reckless, never trained, so much a wound clock.

They move like movement in a still life picture.

She sings behind the beat and leans into the future.

Stepping out of sequence as though they’ve just begun.

Then again, the start moves back, depending on the run.

Copyright © 2018 by Linda Susan Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 18, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

In the invitation, I tell them for the seventeenth time
(the fourth in writing), that I am gay.

In the invitation, I include a picture of my boyfriend
& write, You’ve met him two times. But this time,

you will ask him things other than can you pass the
whatever. You will ask him

about him. You will enjoy dinner. You will be
enjoyable. Please RSVP.

They RSVP. They come.
They sit at the table & ask my boyfriend

the first of the conversation starters I slip them
upon arrival: How is work going?

I’m like the kid in Home Alone, orchestrating
every movement of a proper family, as if a pair

of scary yet deeply incompetent burglars
is watching from the outside.

My boyfriend responds in his chipper way.
I pass my father a bowl of fish ball soup—So comforting,

isn’t it? My mother smiles her best
Sitting with Her Son’s Boyfriend

Who Is a Boy Smile. I smile my Hurray for Doing
a Little Better Smile.

Everyone eats soup.
Then, my mother turns

to me, whispers in Mandarin, Is he coming with you
for Thanksgiving? My good friend is & she wouldn’t like

this. I’m like the kid in Home Alone, pulling
on the string that makes my cardboard mother

more motherly, except she is
not cardboard, she is

already, exceedingly my mother. Waiting
for my answer.

While my father opens up
a Boston Globe, when the invitation

clearly stated: No security
blankets. I’m like the kid

in Home Alone, except the home
is my apartment, & I’m much older, & not alone,

& not the one who needs
to learn, has to—Remind me

what’s in that recipe again, my boyfriend says
to my mother, as though they have always, easily

talked. As though no one has told him
many times, what a nonlinear slapstick meets

slasher flick meets psychological
pit he is now co-starring in.

Remind me, he says
to our family.

Copyright © 2018 by Chen Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

It’s not that the old are wise
But that we thirst for the wisdom

we had at twenty
when we understood everything

when our brains bubbled
with tingling insights

percolating up from
our brilliant genitals

when our music rang like a global siege
shooting down all the lies in the world

oh then we knew the truth
then we sparkled like mica in granite

and now we stand on the shore
of an ocean that rises and rises
but is too salt to drink

Copyright © 2018 by Alicia Ostriker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

The hastily assembled angel saw
One thing was like another thing and that
Thing like another everything     depend-
ed on     how high it was     the place you saw

Things from     and he had seen the Earth from where
A human couldn’t see the Earth     and could-
n’t tell most human things apart    and though
He hadn’t ever really understood

His job he knew it had to do with seeing
And what he saw     was everything would come
Together at the same time everything
Would fall apart     and that was humans thinking

The world was meant for them and other things
Were accidental     or were decora-
tions meant for them and therefore purposeful
That humans thought that God had told them so

And what the hastily assembled angel
Thought     was that probably God had said the same thing
To every living thing     on Earth and on-
ly stopped when one said Really back     but then

Again     the hastily assembled angel
Couldn’t tell human things apart     and maybe
That Really mattered what     would he have heard
Holy     or maybe Folly     or maybe Kill me

Copyright © 2018 by Shane McCrae. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

This fireman comes every afternoon
to the café on the corner
dressed for his shift in clean dark blues
This time       it’s the second Wednesday of January
and he’s meeting his daughter again
who must be five or six
and who is always waiting for her father like this
in her charcoal gray plaid skirt
with green and red stripes
She probably comes here straight from school
her glasses a couple nickels thick

By now I know     that she can sit       (except
for her one leg swinging from the chair) 
absolutely still      while her father pulls       
fighters’ wraps from his work bag
and begins half way down the girl’s forearm
winding the fabric in overlapping spirals
slowly toward her fist           then     he props            
her wrist      like a pro    on his own hand
unraveling the black cloth   weaving it          
between her thumb and forefinger
around the palm            taut but
not so much that it cuts off the blood          then
up the hand and between the other fingers
to protect the knuckles         the tough           
humpback guppies just under the skin           

He does this once with her left       then again
to her right      To be sure her pops knows he has done
a good job       she nods        Good job       Good      
Maybe you’re right              I don’t know what love is
A father kisses the top of his daughter’s head
and knocks her glasses cockeyed
He sits back and downs the last of the backwash
in his coffee cup         They got 10 minutes to kill
before they walk across the street         down the block
and out of sight         She wants to test
her dad’s handiwork            by throwing 
a couple jab-cross combos from her seat
There is nothing in the daughter’s face         
that says     she is afraid         
There is nothing in the father’s face              
to say he is not                     He checks his watch                 
then holds up his palms    as if to show his daughter            
that nothing is burning                     In Philadelphia
there are fires      I’ve seen those  in my lifetime too

Copyright © 2018 by Patrick Rosal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 23, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

For Frank X Walker

FXW: I don’t know how to swim
Me: What?!
FXW: There were no pools for Black Folk when I was coming up

In sleep’s 3-D theatre: home,
a green island surrounded
by the blue of ocean. Zoom
to the heart, see the Couva
swimming pool filled with us
—black children shrieking
our joy in a haze of sun; our life-
guard, Rodney, his skin flawless
and gleaming—black as fresh oil
—his strut along the pool’s edge,
his swoonworthy smile; Daddy
a beach-ball-bellied Poseidon,
droplets diamonding his afro;
my brother, hollering as he jumps
into his bright blue fear, his return
to air gasping and triumphant.
And there, the girl I was: dumpling
thick and sun-brown, stripped
down to the red two-piece suit
my mother had made by hand,
afloat in the blue bed of water,
the blue sky beaming above.
When I wake up, I’m in America
where Dorothy Dandridge
once emptied a pool with her pinkie,
and in Texas a black girl’s body
draped in its hopeful, tasseled bikini,
struck earth instead of water,
a policeman’s blue-clad knees
pinning her back, her indigo wail
a siren. I want this to be a dream,
but I am awake and in this place
where the only blue named home
is a song and we are meant to sink,
to sputter, to drown.

Copyright © 2018 by Lauren K. Alleyne. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

say it with your whole black mouth: i am innocent

& if you are not innocent, say this: i am worthy of forgiveness, of breath after breath

i tell you this: i let blue eyes dress me in guilt
walked around stores convinced the very skin of my palm was stolen

& what good has that brought me? days filled flinching
thinking the sirens were reaching for me

& when the sirens were for me
did i not make peace with god?

so many white people are alive because
we know how to control ourselves.

how many times have we died on a whim
wielded like gallows in their sun-shy hands?

here, standing in my own body, i say: the next time
they murder us for the crime of their imaginations

i don’t know what i’ll do.

i did not come to preach of peace
for that is not the hunted’s duty.

i came here to say what i can’t say
without my name being added to a list

what my mother fears i will say

                       what she wishes to say herself

i came here to say

i can’t bring myself to write it down

sometimes i dream of pulling a red apology
from a pig’s collared neck & wake up crackin up

           if i dream of setting fire to cul-de-sacs
           i wake chained to the bed

i don’t like thinking about doing to white folks
what white folks done to us

when i do
                      can’t say

          i don’t dance

o my people

          how long will we

reach for god

          instead of something sharper?

          my lovely doe

with a taste for meat

          take

the hunter

          by his hand

Copyright © 2018 by Danez Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

And seriously now the guitar is beating me up
It is shoving me into the narrow range of its cheerful melancholy
And all sorts of feelings I want to have I cannot
My feet start to move in exactly the same way
They did for so many years each time I entered
The tin shack where the dancing occurred
Again I see you Luna just as I did
When I was a boy once and everything
Made a large kind of sense we were being guarded
The new wave band with the exciting hair
Produced inside us the same faint scent
Of oranges that filled the patio in ancient holy Spain
We read about in our textbooks
We knew someday we would go
Together there and feel our song
In the narrow alleyways made sense
We would sing it and drink each other’s blood
Which would only make us grow stronger
Sometimes we talked about just going to Panama
To watch the ships move through the artificial scar
Overlords made in earth to bring the goods we loved
We put them in our mouths and on our record players
Luna I am losing the red thread
I want to rush back out into the street
Away from this terrible guitar that is making me feel
I’m just a chandelier in the reflections of my own
Glass droplets quantifying what has passed
Too enervated to keep toiling like a star
Luna I don’t mean to say it’s all been a loss
There was that class I took on how to ride
The carousel holding my nephew
But it’s impossible to be positive with this guitar playing
There is something inside the tune
I can’t alter and this man is singing
All these songs about going there
To be honest I just gave up and moved
I hear my sister yelling in the yard
Luna I’m going to bring my head outside
To see if I can scare some crows
They have bad manners not that I really care
There are three of them right now
Making me think of you and me and the other one
The best evening of my life was when we parked
Above that hill and talked all night
About the things we would never do
Until we grew dark and indifferent
As a well in a ruined village
The army passes by…

Copyright © 2018 by Matthew Zapruder. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 26, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Every day I am born like this—
No chingues. Nothing happens
for the first time. Not the neon
sign that says vacant, not the men
nor the jackals who resemble them.
I take my bones inscribed by those
who came before, and learn
to court myself under a violence
of stars. I prefer to become demon,
what their eyes cannot. Half of me
is beautiful, half of me is a promise
filled with the quietest places.
Every day I pray like a dog
in the mirror and relish the crux
of my hurt. We know Lilith ate
the bones of her enemies. We know
a bitch learns to love her own ghost.

Copyright © 2018 by Erika L. Sánchez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Soon my father will lose his wedding ring
but before that happens we take the path
along the cliff-edge past the sign that says
Danger: Keep Back because the waves below
have undermined it, and the next big storm
will be enough to bring the whole face down.

I know this but I can’t help looking down
and noticing how each wave throws a ring
of pretty foam that’s nothing like a storm
round fallen rocks forming a sort of path
for someone who might find themselves below
which no one ever would, my father says.

It’s much too dangerous, my father says,
new rock-falls any time might tumble down
and injure them, and while the sea below
looks calm, a quickly-rising tide would ring
and terrify them, devastate the path,
then drown them just as surely as a storm.

I hear him out about the calm and storm
and fall in line with everything he says,
continuing along the cliff-top path
until it leads us in a zig-zag down
onto the sea-shore where a wormy ring
of sand recalls the tunneling below.

My father says the North Sea is below
freezing almost, thanks to a recent storm,
and so he eases off his wedding ring
because the cold is bound to shrink, he says,
his fingers, and his ring would then slip down
and vanish like the dangerous cliff path.

He turns around to see once more the path,
the dizzy fall, the rocks, the waves below.
He thinks his only choice is to set down
on one stone of the many that the storm
has carried from their North Sea bed, which says
a lot about the power of storms, his ring.

It slides down out of sight as though the storm
has also switched his path to run below.
This neither of us says. He never finds his ring.

Copyright © 2018 by Andrew Motion. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 28, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Before my son was born, I had been inside my home often and, one spring day, sat myself on the astroturf behind a playground close to my home. I laid back, allowing the plastic grass to prick my arms and wrists. A few feet away, three girls sang a string of songs about heartbreak, all the while the lyrics broke and remade themselves on the edge of each spring leaf. I listened and I didn’t listen at once which felt like my fullest attention. The girls were so casual in their beauty, legs entangled in one another, fingers braiding each other’s teen hair. They seemed like one animal of burnished light and I tried not to stare. It was the kind of beauty that held its own attention, needed no validation, long eyelashes and pale arms gestured toward wholly bright selves. I closed my eyes hearing their laughter. I heard, too, from afar someone approaching. I heard a small thud and a boy’s voice. They talked, they joked, and then a silence that made me open my eyes. After a longer pause, they asked him to please leave. I now saw the boy was black and I registered an expression that was slow rain coming down hard as he grabbed his backpack swinging it so fiercely, it almost hit one of the girls. As he walked away, they laughed past him. Their laughter was the long shadow that followed him for years, their laughter forced him to round the corner, almost gone from view. Before he disappeared, he yelled, “Bitch,” but the memory of him left not a trace. The girls continued to sing except now there were thorns falling on the imagined grass, some of which landed close to me. When I sat up, I felt a strong kick inside me. My boy would be here soon. Six more days into the future I would meet him. I touched the area that moved. I waited.

Copyright © 2018 by Tina Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 30, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.