Heaven is the certainty that you will be avenged I know I know the kingdom is not fair but it’s what I have a montage of red and a mitosis of knuckles I’m not sure how you could expect me to love anything Ain’t no question sadness is regal like that golden and replaceable once I wanted a lineage of identical men once a mouth soft and hot as the quickest way that gold can hurt you You see a pattern yet? I practice the want of nothing and fail I’ve been shown how ugly I can be when I am invisible I don’t believe in yesterdays The throat of loneliness? Straddled with my knife I press my hands to my face and the lament is a valley the light sags through What do you do when you have lost Everything? Rewrite the history of Everything I don’t like my smile because someone told me I didn’t like it Now I am gorgeous in all the languages I mothered Flex the antonym of Missing I avenge myself Stretch my hands I orphan my grief for the living and it is beauty ain’t no question I monarch the lonely I my own everything now I miss my love and it is an American grief I strike the smell from nostalgia cut my memory to spite my country What is the odor of nothing but my dominion in want of excess I grin and pillars of bone flower into sawed-off crowns say I flex the light and the light flexes heat shimmer unfurling like a bicep my lust a mirage where the body is merely a congealing of the river I can feel it slowly drifting away from me The world I knew is gone and getting more gone and my anthem populating my nose with an abundance of salt I slip the shroud over the life I named and forget I belonged to someone once My soverign's face is a riot of diamonds whining This will be a beautiful death and I am free and gorgeous and desperate to never have to miss anyone again I rock the jeweled shroud become the bride of my own sad light
Copyright © 2018 by Julian Randall. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 3, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Caliche. Great bird, woodsmoke, needle. Snake, owl. Nopal vibration.
Almost every day
of my life
I have wanted
to be filled.
a great bird, woodsmoke,
When I’m on my back,
can be a needle,
works as thread.
my feet bare their crooked
hoping to be entered.
I don’t own words
for every sound
I don’t own words
I stuff back into my body
& not being loved.
but Who isn’t
in love with at least one
seam, a sound:
of this world?
Ask any bolus of owls,
Ask the nopales
But who owns
any certainty, really?
& who still speaks
of víboras & caliche,
& who will reteach my body
of great birds & nopal?
Copyright © 2018 by Joe Jiménez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Before this day I loved like an animal loves a human, with no way to articulate how my bones felt in bed or how a telephone felt so strange in my paw. O papa— I called out to no one— but no one understood. I didn’t even. I wanted to be caught. Like let me walk beside you on my favorite leash, let my hair grow long and wild so you can comb it in the off-hours, be tender to me. Also let me eat the meals you do not finish so I can acclimate, climb into the way you claim this world. Once, I followed married men: eager for shelter, my fur curled, my lust freshly showered. I called out, Grief. They heard, Beauty. I called out, Why? They said, Because I can and will. One smile could sustain me for a week. I was that hungry. Lithe and giddy, my skin carried the ether of a so-so self-esteem. I felt fine. I was fine, but I was also looking for scraps; I wanted them all to pet me. You think because I am a woman, I cannot call myself a dog? Look at my sweet canine mind, my long, black tongue. I know what I’m doing. When you’re with the wrong person, you start barking. But with you, I am looking out this car window with a heightened sense I’ve always owned. Oh every animal knows when something is wrong. Of this sweet, tender feeling, I was wrong, and I was right, and I was wrong.
Copyright © 2018 by Analicia Sotelo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
makes me think plurality. Maybe I can love you
with many selves. Or. I love all the Porgys.
Even as a colloquialism: a queering of
love as singular. English is a strange
language because I loves
and He loves are not
both grammarly. I loves you,
Porgy. Better to ask what man is not,
The beauty of Nina’s Porgy distorts
gravity. Don’t let him take
me. The ceiling is in
the floor. There is one name
I cannot say.
Beauty, a proposal on
Nina’s eyes know
a fist too well. Not
Copyright © 2018 by Nabila Lovelace. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 6, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
When I woke for school the next day the sky was uniform & less than infinite
with the confusion of autumn & my father
as he became distant with disease the way a boy falls beneath the ice,
before the men that cannot save him—
the cold like a forever on his lips.
Soon, he was never up before us & we’d jump on the bed,
wake up, wake up,
& my sister’s hair was still in curls then, & my favorite photograph still hung:
my father’s back to us, leading a bicycle uphill.
At the top, the roads vanish & turn—
the leaves leant yellow in a frozen sprint of light, & there, the forward motion.
The nights I laid in the crutch of my parents’ doorway & dreamt awake,
listened like a field of snow,
I heard no answer. Then sleepless slept in my own arms beneath the window
to the teacher’s blank & lull—
Mrs. Belmont’s lesson on Eden that year. Autumn: dusk:
my bicycle beside me in the withered & yet-to-be leaves,
& my eyes closed fast beneath the mystery of migration, the flock’s rippled wake:
Copyright © 2018 by Andrés Cerpa. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 7, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I stand behind a one-way mirror. My father sits in a room interrogating himself. Bright bulb shining like the idea of a daughter. — It looked just like the real thing. The helicopters, the fields, the smoke which rose in colors, the bullets blank, but too real. Coppola yells Action and we drag slowly across the back of the screen, miniature prisoners of war to Robert Duvall’s broad, naked chest. What you’ll never see written into the credits are our names. — Ghost of a daughter: specter, spectator, from a future we can only dream of. We never dreamt that one day, you’d be my age and too bitter to talk to me. I who gave every peso to your mother, who sewed coins into the linings of my pockets, so that you could eat enough food and grow taller than either one of us. I am asking you to look me in the face and say Father. I am asking you to see me. — Morning yawns and today, my father has deleted a daughter, today, he’s blessed with two sons who take after his fire and quicksilver. Today he may be haunted by the grip of a friend who died in his arms, but not the scent of a baby girl he held 37 years ago. Women, he says, and spits out a phlegm- colored ghost. There is plasm, he says, and shrugs–– and then, there is ectoplasm. What is a father who has two sons? Happy, he replies with a toothpick pressed between his thumb and forefinger. Happy, he says, looking into the mirror and seeing no reflection.
Copyright © 2018 by Cathy Linh Che. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
In the late eighties, in the middle of middle school we break from studying our ancestors, pass on the Phoenicians for a while, leave the terraced fields of Canaan and the hanging gardens of Babylon for European History. Miss Magda is our guide and she contextualizes the continent, intertwines it with our own lives, the shapes of our maps, the narrowing of our family names. She has no patience for girls who are charmed by France, even though a veil of Chanel No 5 unfurls over our heads as she enters the room, nor for adults who praise London’s museums. She narrates a list of our possessions housed there. Miss Magda speaks many languages: the queen’s English, impeccable French, some Greek, maybe others? Her Arabic an elegant Cairene, her eyeliner distinctly Cleopatran. She speaks مش فارقة معها her mind, she names conquerors, and the servile regimes they birthed. She liberates the word احتلال from its quotidian presentation, locates our current colonizers on a continuum of violence, sends us asking our grandparents for stories. She enacts her name as she towers over our desks and asks rhetorical questions كثر خير العرب who translated Aristotle? Who filled libraries with books that would later make الرينيساس بتاعهم possible? In the middle of middle school we are devotees of American pop songs, they trickle into our lives months after they top the charts, our childhoods are museums housing the no-longer hits of the Reagan era. Miss Magda’s class coincides with our Laura Branigan phase. Miss Magda barely tolerates our tastes. When she cannot find a way to escape playground duty and we are perfecting our hair flips, passing the Walkman around and singing “Gloria,” she raises a perfect eyebrow and turns toward us and I think maybe even smiles. In class, ever the historian, she remarks على فكرة that’s originally an Italian song. و كانت مش بطالة بس خربوها الأمريكان
Copyright © 2018 by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 11, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
—After Ana Mendieta Did you carry around the matin star? Did you hold forest-fire in one hand? Would you wake to radiate, shimmer, gleam lucero-light? Through the morning would you measure the wingspan of an idea taking off— & by night would you read by the light of your own torso? Did you hear through the curtains a voice, through folds & folds of fabric a lowdown voice—How are you fallen from—How are you cut down to the ground? * Would gunpowder flash up in the other hand? Were you the most beautiful of them—the most beauty, full bew, teful, bu wtie, full be out, i full, btfl? Did the sky flutter & flower like bridal shrouds? Did a dog rise in the East in it? Did a wolf set in the West? Were they a thirsty pair? And was there a meadow? How many flowers to pick? And when no flowers, were you gathering bone chips & feathers & mud? Was music a circle that spun? * Did you spin it in reverse? Was your singing a rushlight, pyre light, a conflagration of dragonflies rushing out from your fire-throat? Did you lie down in the snow? Did it soften & thaw into a pool of your shape? Did you whisper to the graven thing, whisper a many lowdown phrase: How are you fallen my btfl? Would they trek closer, the animals? A grand iridium thirst, each arriving with their soft velour mouths to drink your silhouette?
Copyright © 2018 by Carolina Ebeid. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
The pale sound of jilgueros trilling in the jungle. Abuelo rocks in his chair and maps the birds in his head, practiced in the geometry of sound. My uncle stokes the cabin’s ironblack stove with a short rod. The flames that come are his loves. I cook—chile panameño, coconut milk— a recipe I’d wanted to try. Abuelo eats, suppresses the color that builds in his cheek. To him the chile is a flash of snake in the mud. He asks for plain rice, beans. Tío hugs his father, kneels in front of the fire, whispers away the dying of his little flames. We soak rice until the water clouds. On the television, a fiesta… The person I am showing the poem to stops reading. He questions the TV, circles it with a felt pen. “This feels so out of place in a jungle to me. Can you explain to the reader why it’s there?” For a moment, I can’t believe. You don’t think we have 1930s technology? The poem was trying to talk about stereotype, gentleness instead of violence for once. But now I should fill the little room of my sonnet explaining how we own a TV? A shame, because I had a great last line— there was a parade in it, and a dancing horse like you wouldn’t believe.
Copyright © 2018 by Jacob Shores-Argüello. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 13, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
The swollen season gives birth to another police procedural, but who doesn’t love a good detective? A dead fall. A heater, angry to be awoken, burps up the summer’s burnt dust in my face. Before her cremation, the family swore they’d removed Nana’s wedding band, but all pockets turned up empty afterwards. It’s a miracle the ring hadn’t been lost sooner, dancing from finger to finger as her body’s bones made themselves known like a barn caving in a beam at a time. Infection spreads like fire across a small town. I’m passing through Logansport today, this Sunday in Ordinary Time. Barreling forward, forty-eight in a thirty to make Mass, when Mama says, why all this hurried death in your poetry? Bells at noon. I daydream of picking open a tabernacle with a wiry hair from my beard & a hairline sliver of silver to gorge on my crisp God, half-hoping Christ tries to intercede. The Bible tells me: “anyone who does evil hates the light,” & no matter how brightly I bite back, the Bible never changes its mind. Lord, help me to discern the difference between persistence & insistence, indulgence & rigor in every laugh, & the two chords my clavicles ring when plucked. Help me grin through their high pitch twangs, the way a good father listens to his child learn to play the violin. I’m still learning to pick up my feet when I walk, stumbling less through names of famous philosophers at smart parties & it’s Spring before anyone’s ready & I’m wondering how to build a case against the bees plotting to ball their queen to death without becoming a fanatic of my own. A death at the legs of so many lovers seems a difficult death to explain to children & this: if a button breaks your fall, it doesn’t make it luckier than other buttons. Listen: squint & it sings of simple addition. A kernel cooked in its own slick. & you, dear dear, forgive me when I take you for steak & say nothing after a second Sazerac, after you unwittingly spread horseradish on your bread instead of butter.
Copyright © 2018 by Peter Twal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Her eyes were mostly shut. She didn’t speak.
The sun’s slow exile crossed the wall above the bed.
But once, when I bent to feed her a drop
of morphine from the little plastic beak,
her hand shot up and gripped my arm. She looked right at me.
When she said the words, it sounded like she meant: Don't leave me.
From the very first, we love like this: our heads turning
toward whatever mothers us, our mouths urgent
for the taste of our name.
Copyright © 2018 by Jenny George. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
You should never put the new antlers of a deer to your nose and smell them. They have little insects that crawl into the nose and devour the brain. —Kenkō, Essays in Idleness Consider that the insects might be metaphor. That the antlers’ wet velvet scent might be Proust’s madeleine dipped into a cup of tea adorned with centrifugal patterns of azalea and willow—those fleshing the hill behind this room, walls wreathed in smoke and iron, musk of the deer head above the mantle. He was nailed in place before I was me. Through the floorboards, a caterpillar, stripped from its chrysalis by red ants, wakes, as if to a house aflame. Silk frays like silver horns, like thoughts branching from a brain. After the MRI, my father’s chosen father squinted at the wormholes raveling the screen and said, Be good to one another. Love, how inelegantly we leave. How insistent we are to return in one form or another. I wish all of this and none of it for us: more sun, more tempest, more fear and fearlessness—more of that which is tempered, carved, and worn, creased into overlapping planes. The way I feel the world’s aperture enlarge in each morning’s patchwork blur of light and colour while I fumble for my glasses beside the bed—lenses smudged by both our hands. When they were alive, those antlers held up the sky. Now what do they hold?
Copyright © 2018 by Michael Prior. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 18, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I wrote hard
at the bottom
of a pool
near a canyon
where the stars
slid onto their bellies
I went through
through the leaves
of La Puente
to see the moon
but it was too late
too long ago
to walk on glass.
Near those years
when the house fell on me
my father told me
in bed with
From a plum tree
the sound of branches
fall like fruit
no longer afraid
my voice like water
pulled from the well
where the wind had been buried
where someone was always
running into my room
asking, what’s wrong?
Copyright © 2018 by Diana Marie Delgado. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
& anyway, what good is the metronomic one-note canon two house sparrows cant aloft, between, the pine privacy fence, if not to simulate estrangement? Watching them watching me, I think, First impressions are so medieval. O, to be the provincial drawbridge damming a ramshackle interior, or the alligator- green moat babbling sparsely beneath it— all the unknowable utterances one cheeps forth to be peripherally endeared. A chorus which, at the moment, I take to mean Friend, you look well from this distance, from my vantage, perched over here.
Copyright © 2018 by Marcus Wicker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
When they first
glimpsed Creation, it was only
as in, only half-clear—
that night, they discerned
In the mind’s waters,
a blurring, a refraction.
There, we were brimming,
we were multitudes,
but they saw our darkness
and named us Dark.
Copyright © 2018 by Adeeba Shahid Talukder. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 21, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
A shipping container of rubber duckies made in China for the US washed overboard in 1992, and some of them traveled and washed ashore over 17,000 miles over 15 years. Let’s go ahead and assume it’s yellow. What little of science I know: its plastic skin invincible against salt water, but not the sun– we can only ask so much. Will it fade or brown? What I mean to say is I would want one of these for my daughter: its internal clock set to the mercy of the currents that have been predictable for centuries, but mercy is not the word anyone would choose. Sometimes not making sense and floating are the same. Each wave is its own beginning and ending. Through international waters, you could have caused an incident: no one knowing you, never reaching the hands that hoped for you. Rough immigrant, or free refugee– floating flagless, fading border, stamped with words but not your name.
Copyright © 2018 by Bao Phi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I believe that white lady meant well, but she took liberties with my story. There was a pint, and I am a woman, but I never did bear thirteen young. There was an audience, and I did stand. At first, hesitant, but then, speaking God’s clear consonants in a voice that all might hear, not with apostrophes feeding on the ends of my words. And I am six feet tall, and some might say, broader than any man. And I was a slave. And my child was taken from me, though I fought to get him back. And I did work hard. And I did suffer long. And I did find the Lord and He did keep me in His bony-chested embrace. And if I showed you my hands, instead of hiding them in my sleeves or in a ball of yarn, you could see my scars, the surgery of bondage. And I have traveled to and fro to speak my Gospel-talk— surely, I’ve got the ear of Jesus. But I forgive that lying woman, because craving is a natural sin. She needed somebody like me to speak for her, and behave the way she imagined I did, so she could imagine herself as a northern mistress. And there I was, dark and old, soon to fold my life into Death’s greedy hand. And in this land, and in this time, somebody who could never shout her down.
Copyright © 2018 by Honorée Fannone Jeffers. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
A woman has a window in her face: that is the truth. I look like my mother: that is the truth. I want to tell you I am not like her: that is the truth. I am ashamed walking in a woman’s body: that is the truth. I wish to take back everything I say: that is the truth. A window can be a mirror. It can also be a door: that is the truth. As a girl, my mother slept in a shack with no windows and one door: that is the truth. My grandma would slam windows: truth. A mother’s hands are stronger than God: truth. We often use fruit to describe a bruise, like plum or blackberry: truth. My mother’s window blackberried: truth. My mother’s door peached: truth. She loves peaches: that is the truth. My father could not stand them in our house: that is the truth. We had three doors and nine windows in our house: that is the truth. A woman has a face in her window: truth. A father has a window but I don’t know where it is: truth. What burrows is the peach fuzz, he said: that is the truth. I have never been close enough to a peach to eat one: truth. The worst things last on the skin: truth. I don’t like not having things: truth. My father has one door but I can’t find it: truth. Not all windows open: that is the truth. One night I see my father crying in the yard, head in his hands: that is the truth. I make things up that I want for myself: that is the truth.
Copyright © 2018 by Sara Borjas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 26, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
1. Santa Ana, California, 3 a.m. in my cousin’s basement, lights out, television volume spun low. We are huddled around the screen, a small congregation of forgotten children, brown faces illuminated by a five-foot-two Black man, decked out in lace, eyeliner, Spandex and the gutsiest high-heeled boots big enough to fit only a mannequin. This Minnesota royalty freaks and splits his body biblical. Throat raw with screeching doves, he pirouettes with his truest love: a pale pawn shop guitar we daydream of buying some day with our lunch money. 2. 1984. What planet is this? A third-grade heartbreak apostle, I got a butch haircut my father calls a “Dorothy Hamill.” Naw, pops. Watch me pin the girls against the handball courts. Bold. Answering their tongues with my tongue. My forbidden schoolyard brides. My makeshift Apollonias. Once they’re in love, I pull away, bite my lower lip, wink, then walk away. I am not yet a king, but I got moxie and I move like I know I’ll die young. 3. Boys will be boys, unless they aren't 4. This is what it sounds like to praise our heavenly bodies in spite of the hells that singed us into current form. For the permission you granted in sweat and swagger, for the mascara’d tears you shed on-screen, for the juicy curls that hung over your right eye like dangerous fruit, for the studded shoulder pad realness and how your falsetto gospel rang our young, queer souls awake, we say amen.
Copyright © 2018 by Rachel McKibbens. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
my parents were born from a car. they climbed out & kissed the car on its cheek. my grandmother. to be a first generation person. 23 and Me reports i am descendant of pistons & drive trains. 33% irrigation tools. you are what you do. my first job was in a lunch meat factory. now i’m bologna. it’s not so bad being a person. the front seat of a car is more comfortable than the trunk. when they were babies my parents dreamt of being Lamborghinis. not people. you are what your children grow up to do. if i put my parents' names on papers, what happens? the answer is no comment. the answer is quién sabe. the answer is yo no sé, pero no es abogado. people are overrated. give me avocados.
Copyright © 2018 by José Olivarez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 28, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.