Oh with gratitude, friends, I’m alive and thinking
about this dated metaphor. 36 and doing it again,
feeling new when I’m not. Forgive it, revise it. Oh I
felt less closeted than doored, an “or,” embellished
at the teeth on either end with an outcome. Factual,
I have decorated each door from the other side and
never just gathering the knob in my hand. Flattened
diadems collaged, I thought, cosmic radar for all our
later gazing, museum tablet on and on, behind glass,
canonic laser algebra, deathbed shooting star. Who’s
to say? That seemed like the magic a secret believer
could ask from it. Oh seems. And how it follows you
out. Come on get in I’m in this junker again and
writing “FOR SALE” in backwards letters onto the
window and adding whatever still makes noise from
inside its own made up case: dated doored gazing
deathbed window. Oh and pursing my lips wherever
your eye falls! Oh and oh and, I’m alive! Soon enough
the lethal hand of god reaches into all of us to pull out
something, a heart a rib. Come outpace me if you
can—already I have unlearned the name Adam,
unrehearsed any story of man and woman. Decorated
my body from the other side of that outcome.

Copyright © 2020 by Atom Atkinson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 1, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

You are someone with a penchant for dark
beers and pasts, walk-in closets and porch-step

smokes, who liked to ride it out to the depths 
of the middle of Lake Hopatcong, spark

the flint of your lighter, take longing drags
and talk about hipster coffee and sex

with whipped cream designs—and sometimes, your next
lover—and dive in to put out the fag,

swim to the deck to peel off your cotton
boxers and wring them in your fighter’s fist.

It’s too cold in the fall on the water
we fall in, too naked for falling in

naked and docking unanchored like this.
I remember. You’d kiss me and shiver.

Copyright © 2020 by Billie R. Tadros. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 2, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I’m sorry, could you repeat that. I’m hard of hearing.
To the cashier
To the receptionist
To the insistent man asking directions on the street

I’m sorry, I’m hard of hearing. Could you repeat that?
At the business meeting
In the writing workshop
On the phone to make a doctor’s appointment




Hello, my name is Sorry
To full rooms of strangers
I’m hard to hear

I vomit apologies everywhere
They fly on bat wings
towards whatever sound beckons

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I am so, so sorry
           and repeating
                       and not hearing

Dear (again)
I regret to inform you

I       am



Copyright © 2020 by Camisha L. Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

                 Missing one hundred.

for many leagues, i slept under
surface. couldn’t learn enough
to stay, couldn’t hurt along
midriff, scrum and scrub. see myself
rushing into tomorrow’s wet
world. thin trees almost ferns with quiet mouth
desire. took to cold high plain, only wind and a murdered boy.

started running at the first sign
of breath but there’s only
three yesterday heads speak in these fields.
so much to circle. always asking
to let me repair small chord between us.
you started lagging each step, dragging
the water, stirring up dirt. he still
refuses all nourishment, says everything bad.

an odd man rushes past, asking if
near swamp, still looking for signs
we’ve seen two girls on horseback.
not tired, he says, refusing to go to sleep.
we’ve seen very little all day, close to the whistling ground.
in this family, we don’t count sheep because we eat them.
we shake our heads no
under black light, we’re all deep stream, counting down cows.

as the man points to the tracks, they couldn’t have gone far.
         Still fresh, still fresh. 

Copyright © 2020 by Ching-In Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 6, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

After Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Beheading Holofernes (Uffizi, 1620)

Because I know what rough work it is to fight off
a man. And though, yes, I learned tenebroso from
Caravaggio, I found the dark on my own. Know too

well if Judith was alone, she’d never be able to claw
her way free. How she and Abra would have to muster
all their strength to keep him still long enough

to labor through muscle and bone. Look at the old
masters try their best to imagine a woman wielding
a sword. Plaited hair just so. She’s disinterested

or dainty, no heft or sweat. As if she were serving
tea—all model and pose. No, my Judith knows
to roll her sleeves up outside the tent. Clenches

a fistful of hair as anchor for what must be done.
Watch the blood arc its way to wrist and breast.
I have thought it all through, you see. The folds

of flesh gathered at each woman’s wrist, the shadows
on his left arm betraying the sword’s cold hilt.
To defeat a man, he must be removed from his body

by the candlelight he meant as seduction. She’s been
to his bed before and takes no pleasure in this.
Some say they know her thoughts by the meat of her

brow. Let them think what they want. I have but one job:
to keep you looking, though I’ve snatched the breath
from your throat. Even the lead white sheets want

to recoil. Forget the blood, forget poor dead Caravaggio.
He only signed one canvas. Lost himself in his own
carbon black backdrop. To call my work imperfect

would simply be a lie. So I drench my brush in
a palette of bone black—femur and horn transformed
by their own long burning—and make one last

insistence. Between this violence and the sleeping
enemies outside, my name rises. Some darknesses
refuse to fade. Ego Artemitia. I made this—I.


Copyright © 2020 by Danielle DeTiberus. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 7, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Hushed whispers in an undisclosed room
            Take it out of the girl
a child, boyish in nature             their smallness magnified.

Outcasted—the soft bodied animal you are
determined unruly animalia,
                                                   what survives inflation & inertia?

The body is a set of complex feedback systems
nothing is as it appears
                                                   the coexistence of a beard & breasts
                                                   evidence of the body’s willfully defiant nature

The body’s resilience amid the promise of perish:
                                              somehow the child survives their own hand
                                              the day’s weary edge inverted toward grace

A child, boyish in their nature           & barrel shaped
            survives sedimented against the residue
            of dunes, soil, leaf litter,       & the bodies of a lesser

What couldn’t be excised
            your boyish nature
            your untamed phylum,         your small heart pulsing loud
                                                        notes against the night.

Copyright © 2020 by Jari Bradley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 8, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Did tear along.
Did carry the sour heave
of memory. Did fold my body
upon the pillow’s curve,
did teach myself to pray.
Did pray. Did sleep. Did choir
an echo to swell through time.
Did pocket watch, did compass.
Did whisper a girl from the silence
of ghost. Did travel on the folded map
to the roaring inside. Did see myself
smaller, at least, stranger,
where the hinge of losing had not yet
become loss. Did vein, did hollow
in light, did hold my own chapped hand.
Did hair, did makeup, did press
the pigment on my broken lip.
Did stutter. Did slur. Did shush
my open mouth, the empty glove.
Did grace, did dare, did learn the way
forgiveness is the heaviest thing to bare.
Did grieve. Did grief. Did check the weather,
choose the sweater, did patch the jeans
worn out along the seam. Did purchase,
did pressure, did put the safety on the scissors.
Did shuttle myself away, did haunt, did swallow
a tongue of sweat formed on the belly
of a day-old glass. Did ice, did block,
did measure the doing. Did carry.
Did return. Did slumber, did speak.
Did wash blood from the bitten nail,
the thumb that bruised. Did wash
the dirt-stained face, the dirt-stained
sheets. Did take the pills. Did not
take the pills. Cut the knots
from my own matted hair.

Copyright © 2020 by Jessica Rae Bergamino. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 9, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

To be apart, I’m told.
To be asunder.
To be a privative, negative, reversing force.
To be reached only by oaths and curses.
To have black sheep sacrificed in my name
because I’m a god, yes,
as we are all gods on occasion.
To be bodied as I am bodied.
To be rich of earth,
which is to be chronically chthonic.
To be where the gems are—
To be Dīs. To be Dīs. To be Dīs.
To reject any pickaxe disguised as love.

Copyright © 2020 by Sandra Beasley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 10, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

English translation from Spanish

we are fiercer than melted snow;
we are bigger than storage cemeteries;
we are more rabid than mired winds;
we are immenser than rivers in sea;
we are wider than wasted tyrannies;
we are more tender than roots with earth;
we are more tender than rain in moss;
we are more tender than downpour’s tremor;
we are stronger than overworked years;
we are braver than stalking anguish;
we are more beautiful than universal monarchies;
we are more jevos than the dreamt good life;
we are richer than stolen ports;
we are more pirates than federal governments;
we are more justice-seeking than armed gods;
we are more more than the minimum
and more more than the most.
we are insularly sufficient.

we owe no one shame.

we owe no one smallness.

they tell us for a whole centuried
and quintuplentaried life that we are
the smallest of the upper,
that we are much of the less
and too little of the more,
but we are more than what they say,
more than what they imagine
and more than, to this day,
we have imagined.

we are home libraries
gathered in a data strike
that miss their bowels
of historied flesh.

we are a latitude of tied belts,
serpents who shed their punishing skins,
make a tape to measure the globe
and know if the world can
expand by opening chests.

we are that calculation that traces today
and hits rock bottom.

we are the fortaleza without spaniards,
the rib cage that expires the old empire
where before they housed crusades.

we are fatal, meaning,
the death of trenches
and the governments that induce them.

we are high-and-mighty on the coast
and humble in the mountains.
we gather coffee and plant it
in the buildings we build,
the children we raise,
and the exponential applications
we complete.

and in all things we are independent,
even in the most colonized hole of our porous fear;
even in the panadería most packed with papers that cover ads;
even in the corrosive act of saying we are only an island;
even that we have done looking each other in the face,
gathering cement blocks,
arming the neighbor’s storage rooms;
even from afar, it has been us
who has gone to the post office
and sent cans and batteries.

don’t fear what you already know.
we’ve spent a lifetime fearing ourselves
while getting robbed by strangers.
look at us. look closely.
don’t you see we are




la independencia (de puerto rico)


somos más fieros que la nieve derretida;
somos más grandes que un cementerio de vagones;
somos más rabiosos que los vientos atascados;
somos más inmensos que los ríos en el mar;
somos más amplios que las tiranías gastadas;
somos más tiernos que las raíces con la tierra;
somos más tiernos que la lluvia en el musgo;
somos más tiernos que el temblor del aguacero;
somos más fuertes que los años fajones;
somos más bravos que la angustia acosadora;
somos más bellos que las monarquías universales;
somos más jevos que la buena vida soñada;
somos más ricos que los puertos robados;
somos más piratas que los gobiernos federales;
somos más justicieros que los dioses armados;
somos más más que lo más mínimo
y más más que lo más mejor.
somos insularmente suficientes.

no le debemos a nadie la vergüenza.

no le debemos a nadie la pequeñez.

nos dicen por toda una vida siglada
y quintuplegada que somos
el menor de las mayores,
que somos mucho de lo menos
y muy poco de lo más,
pero somos más que lo que dicen,
más de lo que se imaginan
y más de lo que hasta hoy
nos hemos imaginado.

somos las bibliotecas de las casas
juntadas en una huelga de datos
que añoran sus entrañas
de carne historiada.

somos una latitud de correas atadas,
sierpes que mudaron su piel de castigo
por una cinta de medir el globo
para saber si el mundo puede
expandirse abriendo pechos.

somos ese cálculo que traza hoy
y toca fondo.

somos la fortaleza sin españoles,
la caja torácica que expira el viejo imperio
donde antes se almacenaban cruzadas.

somos fatales, es decir,
la muerte de las trincheras
y los gobiernos que las inducen.

somos altaneros en la costa
y humildes en la cordillera.
recogemos café y lo sembramos
en los edificios que construimos,
los niños que cuidamos,
las solicitudes exponenciales
que completamos.

y en todo somos independientes,
hasta en el hueco más colonizado del temor poroso;
hasta en la panadería más llena de periódicos de anuncios;
hasta en el acto corrosivo de decir que somos isla solamente;
hasta eso lo hemos hecho mirándonos las caras,
juntando los bloques de cemento,
armando los almacenes de los vecinos;
hasta en la lejanía, hemos sido nosotros,
nosotros los que llegamos al correo
y enviamos latas y baterías.

no temas lo que ya conoces.
llevamos una vida temiéndonos
mientras nos roban extraños.
míranos bien.
¿no ves que somos

Copyright © 2020 by Raquel Salas Rivera. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 13, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

When my daughter whines I tell her to say what you want in a nice voice.

My nice voice is reserved for meetings with a view, my palm outstretched saying here. Are our problems. Legacies rolling out like multicolored marbles. Don’t focus so much on the ‘doom and gloom’ they keep saying. We don’t want to depress. Everyone. This is only our survival. We rely heavily on foreign aid I am instructed to say. I am instructed to point out the need for funds to build islands, move families from weto after weto, my mouth a shovel to spade the concrete with but I am just pointing out neediness. So needy. These small. Underdeveloped countries. I feel myself shrinking in the back of the taxi when a diplomat compliments me. How brave for admitting it so openly. The allure of global negotiations dulls. Like the back of a worn spoon.

I lose myself easily in a kemem. Kemem defined as feast. As celebration. A baby’s breath endures their first year so we pack hundreds of close bodies under tents, lined up for plates I pass to my cousin, assembly line style. Our gloved hands pluck out barbeque chicken, fried fish, scoop potato salad, dew-like droplets of bōb and mā. Someone yells for another container of jajimi. The speaker warbles a keyboarded song. A child inevitably cries. Mine dances in the middle of the party. A pair elbow each other to rip hanging beach balls from their strings. The MC shouts Boke ajiri ne nejim jen maan. The children are obstructing our view. Someone wheels a grandma onto the dance floor. The dances begin here

is a nice
of survival.

Copyright © 2020 by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 14, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I clean its latex length three times a day
                      With kindliest touch,
           Swipe an alcohol swatch

From the tender skin at the tip of him
                      Down the lumen
            To the drainage bag I change

Each day and flush with vinegar.
                       When I vowed for worse
            Unwitting did I wed this

Something-other-than-a-husband, jumble
                       Of exposed plumbing
            And euphemism. Fumble

I through my nurse’s functions, upended
                        From the spare bed
            By his every midnight sound.

Unsought inside our grand romantic
           Another intimacy

Opens—ruthless and indecent, consuming
                        All our hiddenmosts.
            In a body, immodest

Such hunger we sometimes call tumor;
                       In a marriage
           It’s cherish.  From the Latin for cost.

Copyright © 2020 by Kimberly Johnson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 15, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Brown love is getting the pat down but not the secondary screening
and waiting after you clear to make sure the Sikh man or
the Black woman or the hijabis behind you get through

Brown love is asking the Punjabi guy working at the starbucks knockoff
if all the tea sizes are still the same price

and he says no,
it hasn’t been like that for at least four years,
but he slips you an extra tea bag without talking about it.

Brown love is the unsmiling aunty
at the disabled immigration line

anything to declare? No? No? Have a good day.
and your rice, semolina, kari karo seeds and jaggary all get through
even though they are definitely from countries
where there are insects that could eat america to the ground

Brown love is texting your cousin on whatsapp asking
if she’s ever had a hard time bringing weed tincture in her carry on 

brown love is a balm
in this airport of life

where, if we can scrape up enough money
we all end up
because we all came from somewhere
and we want to go there
or we can’t go to there but we want to go to the place we went after that
where our mom still lives even though we fight
or our chosen sis is still in her rent controlled perfect apartment
where we get the luxury of things being like how we remember
we want to go to the place we used to live
and even if gentrification snatched the bakery
with the 75 cent coffee where everyone hung out all night
we can still walk the block where it was
and remember

and the thing about brown love is, nobody smiles.
nobody is friendly. nobody winks. nobody can get away with that
they’re all silently working their terrible 9 dollar an hour
food service jobs where tip jars aren’t allowed
or TSA sucks but it’s the job you can get out of the military
and nobody can get away with being outwardly loving
but we do what we can

brown love is the woman who lets your 1 pound over the 50 pound limit bag go
the angry woman who looks like your cousin
who is so tired on the american airlines customer service line
she tags your bag for checked luggage
and doesn’t say anything about a credit card, she just yells Next!
Brown love is your tired cousin who prays you all the way home
from when you get on the subway to when you land and get on another.
This is what we have
we do what we can.

Copyright © 2020 by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

                                       after Hieronymus Bosch

There’s no there there, no here here—
a timetable shows the missing trains, the fruit bowl longs for oranges.
We went ahead to lurch behind, booked
a passage so circuitous it carves
new dimensions in the tabletops. They’ve posted
soldiers in the laundromats and everything you want

Irradiates to dust. I wanted
to become a different human, left myself here
among the daisies, tied the horse to a newell post
and let him nibble all the oranges.
Sweet tongue to the fruit, sweet agronome—carve
statues out of butter to venerate the cows—your books

with all their fractured mirrors, diminish me, bookend
this life with the twin ghosts of hollowness and want.
Among all the things we might have carved
into trees or out of marble, not a single effigy captures the here
of our simplicity, the rolling hips of fields, the slutty orange
of trees that turn on you each fall. Whereas a fence is made of posts

the country’s made of crosses and we post
death threats on the clothesline flapping with the sheets. I thought a good book
could solve it all, the proper smile. Yet tyranny wears orange
trappings, a mine fire, a deposition. I want
something to put my body in, I want to feel the here-
and-now draw its tongue along my neck, carve

a cuneiform instruction manual in my shoulder blades, make me a carved
idol for this new century of cosmic meltdown. Write this on a Post-it
note and affix it to the future: “Here
lies the history of America, one big comic book
of medical interventions.” There’s a way to want
that’s simple as our minds. There’s an orange

sun fatter than the sky, an orange
demon on a blitzkrieg mission to barbeque oblivion. Carve
me a corner I might hole up in, give way to what you want
and want for nothing. All we have are postage
stamps from foreign places, an attic full of musty yarn. Strike a matchbook
to it all, flee the scene and we were never there.

I want so many things for us, post my hopes on a telephone pole like lost puppies
but the book is here, our names carved from its narrative—all lost, all devastation.
Peel and pith the orange holds its essence in its skin. Peel and pith its bitterness, too.

Copyright © 2020 by Marci Nelligan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 17, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Yesterday, at Shepherd and Gray, the parking lot was
filled with birds, black birds, actually grackles. It was a grackle
lot; instead of a bumper on a car, there were ten grackles, instead
of a sunroof, fifty grackles sat high, their bodies shimmers
under cheap strip mall lights as shoppers delayed their spending
to pull out phones and take shots, such spectators we were,
like that summer in July, when I was left again
to wonder who was the child and who the adult,
that Sunday evening that hung in the air like bug spray
when my father, the one who fed me and gave me his last name,
stood two stories on our family porch, every neighbor,
in all manner of dress, drawn from their homes, in the street watching.
Let me tell you how he spread his arms wide, like the man
he was before Vietnam, or before the schizophrenia.
Let me tell you how a child learns the alphabet by counting,
how she learns only 2 letters separate the words hero and heroin,
how he stood high on the ledge of a porch the child never much
liked because there was a crack in its wooden center as if the world
was waiting to open its jaws to swallow her body whole.
Let me tell you how that July evening didn’t hold death,
but instead was the preface to death. The point being he jumped.
Some will say there are worse songs to sing, others might believe it
a tragedy, but who are we to question the Gods when a man
unconcerned with the inconvenience of his presence shows up
in a parking lot winged as an army of himself? Eventually, lights
went dark in the shops and each watcher retraced their steps back home
to find their families, to rejoice over food, to laugh and settle the night;
and the birds, steadfast they stood, not quite ready for flight—

Copyright © 2020 by Niki Herd. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 20, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Like when, seventeen, I’d slide into your Beetle and you’d head
out of town, summer daylight, and parked among the furrows
of some field, you’d reach for the wool blanket. I knew you’d
maneuver then into the cramped quarters between passenger seat
and glove box, blanket over your head and my lap, where you’d
sweat and sweat until I cried out. Or further back, first winter
of our courtship, nearing curfew, when we’d “watched” Predator again
from the Braden’s lovers’ row, you’d slow to a halt at the last stop sign
before my house. I knew we’d linger under the streetlamp’s acid glow,
and you’d ask if I had to go home. Yes, I’d say, I better, soon—but I
knew you wouldn’t hit the gas, not for the longest time, three minutes,
five, and snow falling and the silent streets carless, I’d lift my top,
you’d unzip my jeans and treat the expanse of soft skin between shirt hem
and underwear like sex itself, your worshipful mouth, my whole body lit
from within and without. Or even further back, how I knew by the first
electric touch of our fingers in that dark theater, like a secret handshake—
I know you, I need you, like an exchange of life force between two
aliens from planets never before joined across the cold, airless terror
of space, that it was on, that it was on and on and on, forever.

Copyright © 2020 by Melissa Crowe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 21, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

         after Lucie Brock-Broido

winter crossing

bleak annulled

dulcimer damaged

choir miraculous

air &

monstrous ravishing

animal fallen

calls nightsky

ghost spectacle

again lynch

light loved

flint bliss

starfish tissue

shrouds lukewarm

sheathes everything

fanatic vanishing

Copyright © 2020 by Constance Merritt. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 22, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

chucking rocks at the wasps’ nest,
their gathered hum then sudden sting
at the nape of my neck. Oh, how I paid—
still pay—for the recklessness
of boys. Little Bretts. Little Jeffs.
Little knives to my breast. 
How lucky they were to never 
be held down, to never see
their voices crawl the air like fire!

How desperately I yearned to be them,
to storm the halls in macho gospel:
matching blue jackets, blood-filled
posture and made-you-flinch. 
How different would I be, 
how much bigger, if I had been
given room enough to be 
a country's golden terror? 

Copyright © 2020 by Rachel McKibbens. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 23, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

so whenever I hear a voice calling,
            I turn my head.

Unmake the bed
            open the window

When I returned from Paris
            burning behind me
I selected a single letter
            to tattoo upon my chest.

In the wind, my name sounds like a vowel.
            Everyone keeps asking what the baby will call me.

I find myself worrying about my nipples,
            how their textures will change.

It does not take long to recite the list of names
            of those who stay in touch.

I’m losing language in my sleep.
            I open my mouth, and words are plucked

from my tongue. Before I was broken,
            I planned to inherit the garden.

A guitar, dice, the scent of pipe smoke.
            We folded our legs beneath our dresses

and perched on the grass delicately.
            Back in the days when we knew our own names.

Copyright © 2020 by Valerie Wetlaufer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 24, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The exoskeleton dries by the radiator. What is the usefulness of shells, as in putting them up to one’s ear to detect the poem? Isn’t it infringeable that we carry our mating rituals into teleology? Isn’t it lately that our mates don’t often insert parts? The problem, as if splashed onto canvas in a never-drying medium, isn’t it that we can be hurt from without as if by wifi, by rumor? By cell tower? By stork? Thanks for caring. The storks along the beach stand on one leg, and then slowly generously fly away, including me, like a teacher who warns against trying to make absent things present. What do all these little knobs on the console do? This one flies us straight into battle with a petroleum coating. This one parodies the last erotic feeling. This one entices us to have babies with the reader, sitting lax on a conveyor belt that suddenly falls off at the end into someplace decent. In your guest room, draped with necklaces, we feel thinner than a Mobius strip, real wolf fur rug inside and out, real antler chandelier. In your guest room we peel an alien tangerine.

Copyright © 2020 by Trace Peterson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 27, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I had the passion 
but not the stamina
nor the discipline, 
no one knew how
to discipline me so 
they just let me be,

Let me play along,
let me think I was
somebody, I could
be somebody, even
without the no-how.

Never cared one bit 
when my bow didn’t
match the rest of the 
orchestra, I could get 
their notes right but 
always a little beyond,

sawing my bow across
the strings, cuttin it up
even if I wasn’t valuable
even if I lacked respect
for rules of European
thought and composure.

A crescendo of trying
to be somebody,
a decrescendo of trying 
to belong, I played along
o yes, I play along. 


Copyright © 2020 by Nikki Wallschlaeger. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 28, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Before the wick rejects
the flame; before the glass salts
the waters, or the rental en route
to your funeral stalls, I worry

the dog isn’t getting enough sun,
& it is midnight but we step out
anyway onto summer’s chow

tongue. Clouds extend the glare
of lightning far off. Before phlox
heads drop, the dog sinks
the anthill gathered full & quick
at the ceiba’s trunk. Nothing swarms

his leg or the river he pisses
into the heart like a god, no arthropod
island, no insect bridge of grappled
spurs. Before sunrise, I turn

a burner high in anticipation, olive oil
dollop ready to smother the pan,
when a moth plummets to the blushing
element. Wings immediately

charred. Let me tell you,
more than once in a parked car
I’ve held the searing buckle
to my chest—before drivethrus,
before driveways, drivel down

philtrum; before the beach, crushing
indistinguishable mounds
in bare feet, a horse conch’s crown

tearing skin. Even anaphora
can’t coax the future. You said, Ay mija,
are you crying again? before dusk
revealed the hook in the pelican’s beak.

Copyright © 2020 by Jessica Guzman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 29, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

He runs the gun down my sternum 
wrists pressed against my breasts
the ink sharp from the lip of the gun’s hum.
Exhale only when he loosens. Carrie captures
all of this on film. Photos failing to 
snap my ancestors guiding his hand
down my chest.

I ask him about Rihanna,
and he tells me his friend was pressured
into doing it. She makes a new tattoo appointment
once she returns to America, to cover up 
the indigenous ink she received here
and I’m reminded of my own unworthiness
that I sometimes throw in the backseat 
of my pride. She didn’t deserve that tatau. 
I get that. 

I plan to get my malu one day, but I just don’t feel 
like I deserve it yet, I tell him
as his body is still pressed against mine,
his precision below my chin, steady and solemn.
I find it interesting, he says, when people say 
they don’t feel like they     ‘deserve’ their malu.
To me, your malu feels like your birthright   no? 
I swallow without speaking. 
My breath held captive 
in his indigenous hands.
Between each buzz of the gun’s mouth 
on my indigenous skin. 


Copyright © 2020 by Terisa Siagatonu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 30, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

for CJ Rosenquist

               In the current, secretly intentional, house
          there is: cope
     with condition itself (cannot be
underestimated). There is

               Barrier. There is encountering
          Barrier. There is struggle
     to negotiate Barrier, while being
watched. There is kindly-meant offer

               to help (almost always
          appreciated). There is kindly-meant, but
     no-asking first “help”
that often involves non-consensual

               touch. There is hyper-visibility     of Body
          and in-visibility of person-
     hood (a neat paradox
conjured by inaccessibility). There

               is: don’t observably feel anything,
          about any piece, which equals choke
     down snake of shame, muscle
grown in the jungle of un-

               intentionality. There is, during all:
          cheerfully, patiently, what is apparently un-
     fruitfully educate, while “performing”
Disability in public.

Go ten clicks, repeat. But

when the roof, walls, windows,
when the floor, floorboards, foundation,
when the cup of land
that holds house is
love, is welcome, when the nakedly
intentional shelter
is access, for body,
disability, and/or Black, Brown,
Trans, Nonbinary,
Queer, Muslim, fat,
elder, child, carbon-based
and breathing, valued simply
for being, and never demand
for government document,

there is no Barrier,
no encounter of
it, no being watched,
only aid, consent,
no shame, never blame.
Visibility, right-sized, equals
neighbor, not snake,
repeat of this life is clean
skate on frozen lake.

Imagine, the beloved who needs
assistance vacuuming saliva
from her mouth always
has a willing hand
holding hose, back-up
heart, whose intention is
set on weatherproof

This is the house,
the land, the world
of access, of welcome,
of here, you belong here.

Copyright © 2020 by Tara Hardy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 31, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.