It was at first fire
Now the latest fear keeping
My daughter’s door open
Through the night
Is that of being afraid
Is there a narrator in this show
She asks as the authority
Of the voiceover in the cartoon
Loses what I imagine as credibility
In her six-year-old mind
It’s a creation myth
The one she’s watching
Because it was intentional
For months before her conception
I was afraid of having sex
As though there’s an answer
That would eclipse this
How can I not be scared
Of being scared she asks
Never trust the authority
Of the narrator I want
To tell her but I’d be lying
Copyright © 2019 by Noah Eli Gordon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 30, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
after Tina Takemoto
I will paint us together
in lemon and burnt shoyu.
I will squeeze us out of
flour, water, yeast
while you dress
behind the thin curtain
while you flatten
lapel, collar, slacks
in our tightly ironed
tar paper life.
Your tie clip, carved from
ancient wood and not
the real topaz you deserve.
Outside, we shuffle in dust
from between our feathers.
I used to be a swamp.
In this government aviary
dust storms can’t be predicted
unlike the government
which splits atoms
the way it did your chest.
on the ancient sea bed.
The mountains blow
their alien breath in you
while sleek muscle men
cactus across my humid eyes.
They don’t stop
to light my cigarette
or palm a slice of
fresh, warm bread.
Now bluebirds trill
from my cuffs
and it’s time to clock out.
Beyond the perfect
frame of this prison city
desert peaks buzz
the rich, rich song
of my hunger.
Copyright © 2019 by Kenji C. Liu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 17, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
And what, in fact, is dignity? In those
Who have it pure, it is the soul’s repose,
The base of character—no mere reserve
That springs from pride, or want of mental nerve.
The dignity that wealth, or station, breeds,
Or in the breast on base emotion feeds,
Is easy weighed, and easy to be sized—A bastard virtue, much to be despised.
True dignity is like a summer tree.
Beneath whose shade both beast, and bird, and bee,
When by the heated skies oppressed, may come,
And feel, in its magnificence, at home;
Or rather like a mountain which forgets
Itself in its own greatness, and so lets
Vast armies fuss and fight upon its sides,
While high in clouds its peaceful summit hides,
And from the voiceless crest of glistening snow,
Pours trickling fatness on the fields below;
Repellant force, that daunts obtrusive wrong,
And woos the timid steps of right along;
And hence a garb which magistrates prepare,
When called to judge, and really seem to wear.
In framing character on whate’er plan,
‘Tis always needed to complete the man,
The job quite done, and Dignity without,
Is like an apple pie, the fruit left out.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
By which a strip of land became a hole in time
Grandfather I cannot find,
flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone,
what country do you belong to:
where is your body buried,
where did your soul go
when the road led nowhere?
Grandfather I’ll never know,
the moment father last saw you
rips open a wormhole
that has no end: the hours
became years, the years
forever: and on the other side
lies a memory of a memory
or a dream of a dream of a dream
of another life, where what happened
never happened, what cannot come true
comes true: and neither erases
the other, or the other others,
world after world, to infinity—
If only I could cross the border
and find you there,
find you anywhere,
as if you could tell me who he is, or was,
or might have become:
no bloodshot eyes, or broken
bottles, or praying with cracked lips
because the past is past and was is not is—
give me back my father—
or not back, not back, give me the father
I might have had:
there, in the country that no longer exists,
on the other side of the war—
Copyright © 2019 by Suji Kwock Kim. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 6, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.