10. Here on my knees I look for the single animal: you left
ravaged at the edge of a meadow
9. Is everything accounted for? The fingers dipped
beneath the torso—to keep this body bright
8. Every breath we are desperate to take
sounds as if a war lost against a country of promise
7. Discarded halos: the light you remember
in your head—you feed on what is crushed between the teeth
6. America declares these dreams I have every night be re-
dreamed & pressed into names
5. Upended petals of qém’es
abandoned like torn butterfly wings—we’é I pray
4. I pray that nobody
ever hears us
3. An eye gone
bloodshot: I tear through the crisp apple of your throat & find—
2. myself: this—a boy beside a boy. An eyelash
fallen at the base of a valley, our dark bones bursting in-
1. to bloom. I stare into your beloved face & enter: yes,
yes, this nation, under god, its black sky we lay our nightmares to
0. where I am your animal: my Lamb—now eat
Copyright © 2019 by Michael Wasson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 1, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
The first deer had large teeth and no horns and
were not afraid.
The first deer did not have enough fear
for the men who needed them
A woman decided to let the men eat
a grandmother decided her deer shall have horns
and be afraid
someone’s mother decided the men shall eat
and shall be feared.
A man thought wolves should be used
to cull the herd.
And we who had been catching water
dripping through stone
in the homes we dug
out of the earth
we licked our long teeth clean
and set to work.
Copyright © 2019 by Abigail Chabitnoy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 4, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
She is a wood warbler
into madness. She
from milky shell earthen brown blotches
not Rorschach not robin but warbler.
Open-mouthed swallow of hard-
chipped notes, calls smothered
her smoke-gray chamber of throat.
Dis/appearing between branches
tail feathers and body dainty clawed toes
white lines half-circle her eyes
sense but can’t see
at the center of night movements
misreads the body
responds on its own.
Copyright © 2019 by Heather Cahoon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 5, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
After Kabir Carter, Bard College, 26 June 2018
Feeling knives the microphone to cauterize flesh it amplifies
Crackles the abrasive metal fabric
Blowtorches feedback hold and heel
Throttles and pauses the cord-pull
Lulls to lunge in transmission back seat pocket
Alones the sound crowd
Accumulates the solitary intention of hooded jacket front punch
Zippers the match stick ignite
Handcuffs the thick slide probe with plastic tie
Zones between foot and huddle
Shrills the retreat from acted upon or was it repeat
Tools the self animation
Insomuch as the metal scrim
On denim is able to inhale
Skin-howl blister swipe
Caresses and so abrogates as to grip therefore
Larynxes stride and light step
Dry touch enveloping to self anoint
Tag identify anatomy pulse
Whether pleasure or pain it collapses
Second human shell the cosmos
Automaton guest or X
Feeling that ligaments today in predation
It houses it afflicts it encircles
Copyright © 2019 by Roberto Tejada. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 6, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Haven’t taken it to the head for a minute on another
three day bender. Slept past sunrise. And then another.
The bed has softened over the years, the stoop steps chipped.
Shanties clog memory: was it your most recent love, or another?
Bangladesh is continually interrogated by floods, you tell me.
Your reflection a mist; the mist a shadow; the shadow some other.
Cracked clay riverbeds sound like a cross between square and
sawtooth waves. Always, we want the frequency to be another.
Late last night the house made a drawing of itself: bones, skin,
and a hat. It preferred famine over feast. Liar. It consumed another.
Dear Sound Wave, while sobriety arpeggiates, is reshaped by blurring
filters don’t think too much of any of us. This dissonance becomes another.
Copyright © 2019 by Bojan Louis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 7, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
The air is close by the sea and the glow from the pink moon
drapes low over a tamarind tree.
We hold hands, walk across a road rushing with traffic
to an abandoned building site on the bay, look out across the dark marina.
Sea cows sleep by the side of a splintered dock, a cluster of them
under the shallow water,
their wide backs covered in algae like mounds of bleached coral.
Every few minutes one floats up for air,
then drifts back down to the bottom,
without fully waking.
They will do this for hours, and for a while we try to match
our breath to theirs, and with each other’s.
In the morning, sitting in the garden beneath thatch palms,
we drink black coffee from white ceramic cups.
Lizards killed by feral cats are scattered on the footpath.
I sweep them into a pile with the ones from the night before.
Waves of heat rise from the asphalt,
and we sense a transparent gray fuzz lightly covering everything
as if there were no such thing as empty space,
that even a jar void of substance holds emptiness as if it were full.
After a stone and sand exhibit in Portland
A man is leading the animals.
A man is leading the ones that float on water.
A man is leading the winged ones.
A man is leading the ones that swim.
Maybe he’s St. Francis,
the long-robed man who calls the animals to him now.
Maybe he’s Noah,
the one who gathered the animals.
and sailed away with them, they say.
Who was there to witness their leaving?
To sing a song for their journey?
Where are they going?
their faces turned northward,
taking their songs,
taking their maps,
taking their languages.
Are they leaving with joy in their hearts?
Or is sadness eating at their star hearts?
In the wake of their leaving a small wind
stirs the empty hands of the tree branches above us.
What I will remember—
footsteps left like dinosaur tracks
pressed between Sky Woman and Mother Earth.
When they leave,
I will weep.
I will weep.
Copyright © 2019 by Laura Tohe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 11, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
We did not say much to each other but
because this love was so good you sucked the
and I licked my fingers like a cat.
omniscient. I’m going to skip past
parts that go on for a very long time. Here’s the
I laugh, because the pleasure was earned
and I made room for what was dead past and what
exist. I was not always kind, but I
Copyright © 2019 by Sandra Lim. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 12, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
In the hard shadow of the moon
when the recesses of light have gone
and the faint red of the hawk’s shoulder has disappeared from the sky
in the growing pulse of the praying mantis
when the city has come into its own new light
it is here where I often remember:
the weaving of ocean vines
the trails of history, cemented by touch
the small ridged blossom of the cowry shell
the indigo dye made radiant by the seller’s basket.
The way the long grass
emerges at the shore.
Something of that meeting.
These are memories both distant and near
traces of them lived and felt
laughing in the company of the ones who came
holding the silence of the moment, as we stare
with wonder, at the bubbling ruptures of a painter’s canvas,
pull, with care, the clinging skin of a stubborn fruit.
I recall these moments
not from the grand gesture
of a thing once known,
but from a small place
the place where my child’s hand
is hidden warmly inside my own.
Copyright © 2019 by Matthew Shenoda. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 13, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Strict and bound
as an analog watch,
calls for a probable
It is suicide season.
The calendar taunts
with year three’s death dance.
in my abdomen.
Long arrows of surgery
nudge under my ribs
trace my hipbones
garland my navel.
Along my lower back
divots of biopsy
freckle into sickles
when I bend over.
Driving over the city bridge
quirk or quark humming
I might be spared.
My grandmother loved
singing O What a Beautiful City
as she sorted her pills.
The anesthetic mask
shatters linear discipline:
Trotting the deep path by mosslight,
son is a dark-haired universe
in the crook of my right arm.
Five pound blood-hum
prayer and verse ripping
my skull pure off.
Time has me scalped
kissing the whorls of my brain
with frank red lips.
Rolling up from surgery
I look down to my wrist
where someone has clasped
my watch on loosely.
Copyright © 2019 by Laura Da'. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 14, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
I didn’t want to break my own heart
oh no you didn’t exist as a point on a plane
in a modern philosophy of time my new thing
nope not today in a world where transcendent
incompetence is easy to spot if that’s what you want to see
and efficiency is still the enemy of poetry and of love
oh no you didn’t write poems on forgetting fearsome leave-taking
or crypto-amnesia that act of forgetting to cite fierce attachment
nope today is a day to be free to transcend pedestrian realities
O ethical imperative dire as plagiarism nope
O emotional appropriation not today
one form of redress is if you write me a letter
I will write you back give and take means
no hearts broken if we concede to exist
as a sudden broken thing not fearful enemies of love
we grow fierce as yes transcendence yes
on a plane in the sky or in my mind
no you didn’t forget nor did I nope not today
Copyright © 2019 by Tina Cane. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 15, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
if the cotton crop fails
if the wheat crop fails
if Oklahomans wander forever
among the back lots of Hollywood
if the potato crops fail
if the corn crops fail
if the sun corrodes a copper
mirror our faces afloat
above a crib in Guadalajara where the ceiling fan
rends our voices
and the secret lives of aloe roots
confess to a window in feathers of ice
then the bluebells yawning up in ruts
of mining roads will measure the border wall
in the serene apotheosis of their sepals
and one drop of my blood
will freeze in the eye
of an old fox, and one drop
from your eye thaw
to feed the iris bulbs
three beads from our lungs
inhaled by a prisoner
in the electric chair a queen
in a fairy tale a farmer
planting mines east of her field if
the gears of the clouds say yes
if ants flow up and down the funnels
then time will prism into its possibles
and you’ll end up in a bar
in Alabama a cherry in your mouth
watching a hotel key
float toward you
or you’ll wake in a labyrinth
called Monday called Your Life
called The Things You Prayed For
and your intricate decisions
will lead you out and deeper in
your mirrors dissolving in ghost water
and your indecisions will go on
subtracting numbers from the garden
and building houses in the air
Copyright © 2019 by Chad Sweeney. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 18, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
The train axle still rests on the railway tracks
its solid metal wheels lodged in the dirt,
the dandelions and yellow weeds the color
of a yellow sweatshirt, push through the gravel
with the persistence of something not planted,
unplanned. I am trailed by the detritus,
the reminders in mute things,
by the needle oak and the green benches at Weaver,
and the railway car, now a bar, and the parking lot
where once I stopped you, and here I sit in silence.
Love gone, empties the world of brightness,
the trees are paper cut-outs propped on stands,
the green fields of Pessoa are dead and brown,
the flowery hue of a buttercup shirt, the squirrels,
in quiet industry, remind me of your hands.
I want to lie down in a field in North Carolina
and let the June bugs carry me,
let the stiff grass grow through me
let the weeds and dandelions feed from this sadness
and grow tall again, uncut, like the ones that still live
by this steel axle, the one left anchored
in the red earth and creosote of Carrboro Station.
Copyright © 2019 by Stephanos Papadopoulos. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 19, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
What if the submarine
is praying for a way
it can poison the air,
in which some of them have
leaped for a few seconds,
felt its suffocating
Something floats above their
known world leading a wake
of uncountable death.
What if they organized
into a rebellion?
Now scientists have found
a group of octopuses
who seem to have a sense
of community, who
live in dwellings made of
gathered pebbles and shells,
who cooperate, who
defend an apparent
border. Perhaps they’ll have
a plan for the planet
in a millennium
or two. After we’re gone.
Copyright © 2019 by Marilyn Nelson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2019 by Orlando White. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 21, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Desire is never one way. Black
snakes crawl through your throat. The divine longs
for human proximity to divinity. The divine longs
for touch. You have not wanted
a body. And you have
wanted. A careless
tongue can make chatter
but unrequited love
can make an avalanche.
Your teeth chatter and you know
somewhere a funeral parade is moving, one ant
after another marching. Your snake shed its skins as the curve of a pilgrimage
awaiting dawn. Heaven is too much a metaphor
to be of use to a lover weeping for
a false love. Every shaman needs a healer
and every God a devotee they can admire.
When God comes back from the pilgrimage, you are more
plump. Everyone can see your wisdoms
sprouting. This time — dangerous. Even women
will cast stones. Watch the people’s hands: they carry
shards of their half-spoken dreams. But you have
invented an embrace. In the first worship,
you make the one devoted to devotion devoted to you.
You bring the mountain
into your lips. Without
prayer, your mouth blooms.
Copyright © 2019 by Purvi Shah. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 22, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
rooftopping myself into the arms of the hottest June
Seattle can give I remind myself that I’m a seed
of desert drought my first language other landscaped
languages may thrill but will remain
foreign wearing my body bold I try to stop
myself from giving it
the side-eye when there is no one to witness my slip of a dress and
where my arms stretch into marks lines mapping where
I’m coming from and going I study
my scarred topography roughed bumped skin and fat each line
a curve manifesting me visible I’m reminded
of my adolescent ache for dissipation no whiteness—
I slathered my grainy arms with doctor prescribed chemicals
stayed out of the sun and waited for my skin to peel
an unspooling of
thread into momentary ocean
but between burning and
gathered compliments for my new delicate dermis
this here is always uneasy terrain
a whipped up regret the family nose too thick for desirability
that teenage mirror would not reveal the good side of bone
or fat or the brown of this expanse I call body
each day since is worked reflection a tending to my own geography—
a sharp bloom of prickly spine.
Copyright © 2019 by Casandra López. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 25, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Forget each slight, each head that turned
Toward something more intriguing—
Red flash of wing beyond the window,
The woman brightly chiming
About the suffering of the world. Forget
The way your best friend told the story
Of that heroic road trip, forgetting that you drove
From Tulsa to Poughkeepsie while he
Slumped dozing under headphones. Forget
The honors handed out, the lists of winners.
Forget the certificates, bright trophies you
Could have, should have, maybe won.
Remind yourself you never wanted them.
When the spotlight briefly shone on you,
You stepped back into darkness,
Let the empty stage receive the light,
The black floor suddenly less black—
Scuff-marks, dust, blue tape—the cone
Of light so perfect, slicing silently that perfect
Silent darkness, and you, hidden in that wider dark,
Your refusal a kind of gratitude at last.
Copyright © 2019 by Jon Davis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 26, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
I see my dead father's face in your face.
My furled eyebrow, these puffed cheeks
weep into a pillow of inherited hands.
Tío, I still don't know what to do
with this buffalo body. I crush tea cups
every time I raise them to my pursed lips.
How do I tenderize the meat on my bones?
This morning, I dry heaved a vat of foam
into a toilet in Tampa and found no art in it.
Who tells us we deserve to die?
Tío, you, the one with a brown beret,
who saw the hydrogen bomb blow
from an aircraft carrier at Bikini Island,
the one with Hep C and a quiet wife,
I don't know if you're still alive,
but I pray this world has softened
you with its firm kneading hands,
that you are still able to ride you bike
up Homsy to the liquor store on Cedar
and can still reach the oranges in the yard.
Tío, mi tío, when you wet the bed,
is it still my tia's job to change the sheets?
From the kitchen, I see the twelve foot spear
over the maguey. I see its fresh blooms
and know it is about to die. I wonder
if it is better to disappear into Aztlán
or Mazatlán or Mazapan the way you did
or stay in Prather or Marysville and slowly fade
into a sofa chair and reruns of Bonanza.
Is there honor in being shot and skinned? like Ruben?
Hacked up in a hospital for lymphoma research?
Poked and drained with the swollen face of a failed liver?
How many more fists will be raised until we can no longer,
or better yet, don't have to? I'm tired of thinking these things.
Come back, Tio, or whatever. My mom saved you a plate.
The street dump came by and I got rid of Grandpa's clothes.
I found your mesh t-shirt here and I've been wearing it.
Copyright © 2019 by Joseph Rios. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 27, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
The people believed in a future
with her face—
stars’ dull hatchets
behind the black bark of the moon
and the whole forest grew
when they uttered
the ancestors’ old notion
that those who have been buried
with a little honey
after marshaling a mournful sound
thrown in circular waves to the west
can appropriate similar words
for Creek, like
the flower which expresses the fruit.
Copyright © 2019 by Jennifer Foerster. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 28, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
It is easy to erase it—a touch of the delete key on this keyboard. Barely moving my finger. Versus how much intention it took to use the eraser on a pencil, to flip the pencil around my thumb and scrub out the lead etched on the paper.
Stone and rain laugh at me. The amount of time it takes to get marks out of stone (gouges, rough edges, grooves) by rubbing them with water.
Copyright © 2019 by Todd Fredson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 29, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.