On the side of the road, white cardboard in the shape of a man, illegible script. A signpost with scrawl: Will pay cash for diabetes strips. A system under the system with its black box. Disability hearing? a billboard reads. Trouble with Social Security? Where does the riot begin? Spark of dry grass, Russian thistle in flames, or butterflies bobbing as if pulled by unseen strings through the alleyway. My mother’s riot would have been peace. A bicycle wheel chained to a concrete planter. What metaphor can I use to describe the children sleeping in cages in detention centers? Birds pushed fenceward by a breeze? A train of brake lights extending? Mesquite pods mill under our feet on a rainless sidewalk. What revolution will my daughter feed? A break-the-state twig-quick snap or a long divining as if for water? A cotton silence? A death? Who will read this in the next economy, the one that comes after the one that kills us? What lessons will we take from the side of the road? A wooden crucifix, a white bicycle, a pinwheel, a poem waiting to be redacted: Which would you cross out?
Copyright © 2018 by Susan Briante. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 3, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Out of albumen and blood, out of amniotic brine, placental sea-swell, trough, salt-spume and foam, you came to us infinitely far, little traveler, from the other world— skull-keel and heel-hull socketed to pelvic cradle, rib-rigging, bowsprit-spine, driftwood-bone, the ship of you scudding wave after wave of what-might-never-have-been. Memory, stay faithful to this moment, which will never return: may I never forget when we first saw you, there on the other side, still fish-gilled, water-lunged, your eelgrass-hair and seahorse-skeleton floating in the sonogram screen like a ghost from tomorrow, moth-breath quicksilver in snowy pixels, fists in sleep-twitch, not yet alive but not not, you who were and were not, a thunder of bloodbeats sutured in green jags on the ultrasound machine like hooves galloping from eternity to time, feet kicking bone-creel and womb-wall, while we waited, never to waken in that world again, the world without the shadow of your death, with no you or not-you, no is or was or might-have-been or never-were. May I never forget when we first saw you in your afterlife which was life, soaked otter-pelt and swan-down crowning, face cauled in blood and mucus-mud, eyes soldered shut, wet birth-cord rooting you from one world to the next, you who might not have lived, might never have been born, like all the others, as we looked at every pock and crook of your skull, every clotted hair, seal-slick on your blue-black scalp, every lash, every nail, every pore, every breath, with so much wonder that wonder is not the word—
Copyright © 2018 by Suji Kwock Kim. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
What’s left behind Is sometimes worse Than the taking I’ve gotten over The ick factor If flying mamas Need a dab of Blood for eggs Their lives Short and unfair Go for it Bite me You deserve it Live as long as u can Idc The lineage of Proboscis Soaks the rays Ok That’s kinda cool Actually DNA joining all Sorts of creatures In mothership bods Traveling through An even larger Cultural bod(ies) Hey yeah I know Diseases are passed Yes yes I know It’s a drag When a lack of Imagination Invites tiny welts But I’ll itch you In a distracted way And shove off But like I said Earlier It’s a passive act Of sustaining some Kind of life When the bites We leave behind Take 1000+ years To dismantle
Copyright © 2018 by Nikki Wallschlaeger. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
what I really mean. He paints my name
across the floral bed sheet and ties the bottom corners
to my ankles. Then he paints another
for himself. We walk into town and play the shadow game,
saying Oh! I’m sorry for stepping on your
shadow! and Please be careful! My shadow is caught in the wheels
of your shopping cart. It's all very polite.
Our shadows get dirty just like anyone’s, so we take
them to the Laundromat—the one with
the 1996 Olympics themed pinball machine—
and watch our shadows warm
against each other. We bring the shadow game home
and (this is my favorite part) when we
stretch our shadows across the bed, we get so tangled
my husband grips his own wrist,
certain it’s my wrist, and kisses it.
Copyright © 2018 by Paige Lewis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 6, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
and in each for such as fall to board
reduced to liquid dispute over sight
the term means and the term means
territory the term me- island budget,
its sole discretion reports instrument
pursuant to paragraph or subsection
session the public powers by section
data in the sunshine code; the board
shall secure a metadata government,
document electric metadata insights
with respect to Puerto Rico its budget
with respect to the budget the meaning
given to debtor. Trustee made means
operative under this operative section:
a wild refuge of solid waste to budget.
No electricity, water, nothing to board
to pool the pool separate or cite sight
in violation of violation. Instrumental
in such noncompliance, the governor
deadlines instrum-, deadfreeze, mean
bankruptcy of public faith in oversight.
Privatization, redeem this Act, section
on behalf of debtor submits to board
no coven to plebiscite ‘cept budget
bond bond restructuring budget budget
certain lands exclude land instrument
in decline—body of waste overboard
nothing shall endanger species means
emergency of waterbody undersection.
an opportunity for privatization, sight
the insolvency, counterparty budgets
to reduce oil electric for island territory
island electric power authority means
transitioning to privatized government,
a cause to challenge unlawful board.
Copyright © 2018 by Joey De Jesus. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 7, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Cinders in clotted smoke stone of the war and its gleaming battle plans reduced to perfection the floors reappear in silent symphonic gestures, a folded paper calico window hung with tiger skins, knocking twice at night Jerusalem red lamps worn more as a garland than her smear turning trampled door breaking the fall scribbles under square jars, giants in long fits in hieroglyphics the painters weaned on bent reed pens drilled holes, blood ink of gorgons (violet) sample of the sirens hooked in delay over and underwater approaches replete faint bluish grey
Copyright © 2018 by Cedar sigo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
California is a desert and I am a woman inside it.
The road ahead bends sideways and I lurch within myself.
I’m full of ugly feelings, awful thoughts, bad dreams
of doom, and so much love left unspoken.
Is mercury in retrograde? someone asks.
Someone answers, No, it’s something else
like that though. Something else like that.
That should be my name.
When you ask me am I really a woman, a human being,
a coherent identity, I’ll say No, I’m something else
like that though.
A true citizen of planet earth closes their eyes
and says what they are before the mirror.
A good person gives and asks for nothing in return.
I give and I ask for only one thing—
Hear me. Hear me. Hear me. Hear me. Hear me.
Hear me. Bear the weight of my voice and don’t forget—
things haunt. Things exist long after they are killed.
Copyright © 2018 by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 11, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Which is to say that like a good theoretical objectified body, my identity was created not by me but by the various desires and beliefs of those around me. – Daniel Borzutzky My body is a small cave door it’s a slick whale a jubilant sea of tall grass that sways & makes its way across countries & lovers I love love-making I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in touch I have these breasts & some would want to come on hands & knees to worship them call me flower or desert Maybe I was only supposed to be stone or a baby eel long & layered a nun? I don’t remember ever saying yes just no I am searching for my own body not the one I was told is so I want to be always open like a canyon Maybe I was only supposed to be tree or temple In some circles I am just an open gate a sinful bauble Once someone said you are this & I never questioned it I am searching my own body for God or someone like her—
Copyright © 2018 by Yesenia Montilla. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
for Chinga La Migra
If a woman illegally crossing
The U.S.-Mexico border can sing
The Border Patrol agent’s favorite
Selena song, will he still detain her?
What if he does & later writes about
Her in the patrol vehicle’s back seat
Singing his favorite Selena song?
Will the Selena fans who read his book
Like it? What if that scene in Reservoir
Dogs where Mr. Blonde tortures a cop had
Been choreographed to "Bidi Bidi
Bom Bom," instead of "Stuck in the Middle
With You?" Would the Border Patrol agent
Be more or less likely to like that scene?
Copyright © 2018 by Wendy Trevino. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 13, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Still turnstiles framed by a window the red alders of Willapa Bay [ Then, a red squirrel, my notation of it as if it were an upheaval in daily drifting— ] the limbs dangled their catkins as I upswung to them from within [ A history of a wet afterbirth and held in the arms of my mother ovate my notation of it formative for me— ] The signal from branches in bright green coats, loud in the vivified hollow of the swale in a site of gladness (as this gaze would have had it) morning becoming excessively noon the gladness as I waded through it bathing in forest shinrin-yoku in Arashiyama with her in twenty-first century style and in other such claims of the bourgeois traveler [ Why will I not name her why will I not speak to her? I want to spare her no I want to feel I spared her this historicity and if I explain the gladness I will harvest it the new sustainability— ] also the throngs of phones in front of tourist faces [ Sudden emergency warble in the alder— ] [ Then, a robin panned into the plane of glass (my relentless notation of it) flailed off and submerged into the alder saplings— ] [ Then I shocked to a finchsong— ] And I was back to Blake (safe ground) from a near-linnet’s song ripped from itself into this alien, human, distanced, tribal ritual, convey it or to channel it vatic The composer near me said there were three forms of listening: the sensuous plane, the expressive plane, and the sheerly musical plane, but but we preferred it scaled into the diatonic with no chromatic alterations so that much was missed Blake said I’ll drink of the clear stream—he would not sing— and this was the grief: the fish of the sighers’ stream were fish caught within a thimble-sized drinking glass dumb fancies Or was it the decomposing fish of Agassiz, finally described? [ Then a green humming bird floated before me my notation of it— ] [ What is this false history? what I is this false history?— ] My alder leaves are serrated and here comes meta phor my use of the window as a frame my subjectivity spored into the air between our limbs lodging into evergreen porousness swelling through the rains into a soft blanketing moss-future We want time to have happened before we did but not after we did the forest was here for us to arrive within [we paid our admission we paid to feed the deer ] The red alders on the edge of the continent will hear the shallow breath outside the mouth of the creation without us, a bombast torn into the plane of silence as the shelf slips at last into the eustatic Pacific we distance ourselves from our bodies these storehouses of bloodless meat erected on feet and whatever is made of alder is alder Yes now unlatch the lock from this gland morning’s sap into an instant amber thought leaked onto the lichen bole hatched through the window
Copyright © 2018 by Richard Greenfield. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Arriving with throats like nipped roses, like a tiny
bloom fastened to each neck, nothing else
cuts the air quite like this thrum to make the small
dog at my feet whine and yelp. So we wait—no
excitement pinned to the sky so needled and our days open
full of rain for weeks. Nothing yet from the ground speaks
green except weeds. But soon you see a familiar shadow
hovering where the glass feeders you brought
inside used to hang because the ice might shatter the pollen
junk and leaf bits collected after this windiest, wildest of winters.
Kin across the ocean surely felt this little jump of blood, this
little heartbeat, perhaps brushed across my grandmother’s
mostly grey braid snaked down her brown
neck and back across the Indian and the widest part of the Pacific
ocean, across the Mississippi, and back underneath my
patio. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve been silent in my lungs,
quiet as a salamander. Those times I wanted to decipher the mutter
rolled off a stranger’s full and beautiful lips. I only knew they
spoke in Malayalam—my father’s language—and how
terrific it’d sound if I could make my own slow mouth
ululate like that in utter sorrow or joy. I’m certain I’d be
voracious with each light and peppered syllable
winged back to me in the form of this sort of faith, a gift like
xenia offered to me. And now I must give it back to this tiny bird, its
yield far greener and greater than I could ever repay—a light like
zirconia—hoping for something so simple and sweet to sip.
Copyright © 2018 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
you cannot read what you do not collect
the rain came in algidity after
suffocating heat still the ravaging of
marow is worth it tendons swollen &
seasoned with need madness is always
a hunger that i
am even able to eat is its own feat
i have learned to swallow charitably
cede my mouth to the gristle cede my tongue
a former fixation on writhing now what is
left? what is present when the flesh
when the spirit returns to the magnitude it
belongs? when my
told me truly
nothing had to
be left behind.
the bone. this
nothing is ever
Copyright © 2018 by jayy dodd. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 18, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
And those other females who managed to slip the collar
for a moment or two of life were branded “bad.”
–Clarrisa Pinkola Estés, from Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype
The secret nests in my marrow.
At the striptease I appear pirouette
I might show you
what it means to be consumed.
The pashadom and papacy come
to gush and forever satellite spatter,
in the end you will find them
covered in a fine mist,
tasting of me.
What they do not know— beyond the veil
I lay with the wolf
& the wolf
Find me in a forest of tupelo,
cypress & black gum,
lobe, and blade.
Even a leaf can have teeth.
Human acts can be cannibalistic.
I am here
picking all of the wildflowers.
Copyright © 2018 by MK Chavez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
for my son I have ignored you for a year. I have not dwelt on the soft fur of your arms or the way you rubbed my cheek with your own starry cheek. I splintered your hands away from my heart when you exited me. Of the men who have claimed my body, only you reflect my exact goodness, tragic as a cotton field ripe with bloom, but I have not dwelt on this either. Not in one year or three— the way you break open your own throat, singing, sculpting one world, another, or kiss a girl in my kitchen, calling her, Love, My Love. No: I have ignored you for a year or six, maybe. Not touching your feet or your shoulders to dab them dry. Not humming in your ear as I did once. Not holding your head against my chest in the sad night. I have not dwelt on other women who speak sweetly to you, laugh with you, or hold your head against their chests in the sad night. I have ignored you for a year or ten, finally severing the root, purging, drying out the heart: go.
Copyright © 2018 by Laurie Ann Guerrero. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
The way I’m strapped into myself I can’t escape. Wake up and be a better person! Clip your toenails, and by sun-rise make sure you’re sitting at the table reading Arendt. With a little focus I could become everything I ever wished to be: level-headed and buoyed, a real (wo)man of conviction. But no, at night, I’m like an old towel on the line, tossing and turning in the wind of the dear leader’s words. What does it matter, if I grind my teeth for the old ladies of Puerto Rico? Or take a knee in the front yard every time I hear the national anthem in my head? The neighbor just thinks I’m weeding and waves.
Copyright © 2018 by Magdalena Zurawski. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 21, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Maybe silence adds to the pain and maybe pain adds to the sea and maybe the sea is only a reflection of a ruin today where the mind is unable to make out how things used to be for us: complete, with deities, a kind of order. Oh never mind the ATMs scattered throughout the medieval town or the street art sprayed into the air that says Destroy what destroys you But I destroy myself; I destroy myself.
Copyright © 2018 by Sandra Simonds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
there is always one more death to paint us an ochre without axle aiming us like a sunflower down a path a harp once followed to still the scythe before losing love against itself
Copyright © 2018 by J. Michael Martinez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 26, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2018 by giovanni singleton. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Yoked to what? To whom? Calibration. Checkmate. Thunderous blowhard, tiny tea kettle. Boom. Bastion at the market, flashlight mimicry. Look at my phrase making, batting eyes. Whose hand do you hold? Whose hand do you want? Enough of this, ruiner. What’s the gift of talk, talk, talk. Where’re your minions, battle stations. Take out your troubled photocopies and burn the Pilgrim’s kiss. There’s only one story. It always ends.
Copyright © 2018 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 28, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
for M 1. who conceived that ravine or the contour of those slopes Torbay —washing over him as he swims— is trying to say don’t let the barber shave below his collar 2. I love breathing him in my fingers raking his chest a cub wanders the forest after Andrés Montoya & Francisco X. Alarcón
Copyright © 2018 by Francisco Aragón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
before we became we flyfollowed / our homelands puzzle
clouds we / traced chamomile in
bags / door to door / steeped in mud of our / remaining trickle
of river/ though small we
sipped / they simply toured / sand & soil & steep concrete &
zinco they sold / our air to bases
down / (t)here & over there to east before that / & ever as ever
they souled / men up there in
miniature suits / crushed flesh bones & / or capillaries / down
there (in kitchens & streets &
silos) & we / became as we heard whispers of that / bile (t)here
& acid (t)here / discovered
(a)gain our faces low / in their potential of what we applied / to
our tender featherskin by
walking out / doors & a bridge wavering / under the weight of
bodies & we (be)came /
hydrogenated as ever / we cried & laughed & shouted & we
continued / & then we became
once again / & saw as (wo)men held close to children / perhaps
just then could it be that / a
spectacle stunt / seamless / into the cries of other birds & it was
machine framed & it became /
& we scattered / & then it was (un)done it was / & we
continued to as we flyfollowed / to
where they didn’t fool any / one back to center before they
caught up / with us as if anything
was (un)done & / they tried to flyfollow the sky / as if it knew
by heart eye / lashes mustaches
& fuzz & small prickly / nose hairs / if we = sparrows perhaps
here they / were deluded thinking
anything was just / or that / or merely for them / which is ours
as we cracked seeds between /
our beaks & we slept & we leapt & kept kneading / a little
Copyright © 2018 by Siwar Masannat. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 31, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.