Up until this sore minute, you could turn the key, pivot away.
But mine is the only medicine now
wherever you go or follow.
The past is so far away, but it flickers,
then cleaves the night. The bones
of the past splinter between our teeth.
This is our life, love. Why did I think
it would be anything less than too much
of everything? I know you remember that cheap motel
on the coast where we drank red wine,
the sea flashing its gold scales as sun
soaked our skin. You said, This must be
what people mean when they say
I could die now. Now
we’re so much closer
to death than we were then. Who isn’t crushed,
stubbed out beneath a clumsy heel?
Who hasn’t stood at the open window,
sleepless, for the solace of the damp air?
I had to get old to carry both buckets
yoked on my shoulders. Sweet
and bitter waters I drink from.
Let me know you, ox you.
I want your scent in my hair.
I want your jokes.
Hang your kisses on all my branches, please.
Sink your fingers into the darkness of my fur.
Copyright © 2020 by Ellen Bass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 13, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
Were it possible, I would be naked. Of the nude philosophy:
consider the globalization of the expensive american sound.
Should we worry? We should work. I believe you’re right.
I distrust the word “white.” It’s sanctified propaganda.
Repetition is my language of origin, the highest technology. Anyway
the body is only mine provisionally. For reasons that I’m not sure of,
I am convinced that before becoming music, music was only a word.
I prefer to destroy the composer, renew the concept.
Extraordinary limitation playing freedom.
Copyright © 2019 by Taylor Johnson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 26, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Really nice meeting you sorry
I have to hurry off there’s this thing
happening this thing I must do
you too yes dying is the thing
everyone is not talking about it
why ruin karaoke night why discolor
the air between you and the bartender
hello what can I get for you
it’s miraculous we’re here and then
the world is yanked from us and then
time dismantles our bodies to dust
okay um can I help the next customer
see it would be awkward
let’s not bring it up mum’s the word
come on now we’ve still got
some living to do pick up that trumpet
I’ve got mine already never mind
we can’t play any instruments
the point is to make a sound
any sound in this endless parade
shimmering toward silence.
Copyright © 2018 David Hernandez. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2018.
What you did wasn’t so bad.
You stood in a small room, waiting for the sun.
At least you told yourself that.
I know it was small,
but there was something, a kind of pulped lemon,
at the low edge of the sky.
No, you’re right, it was terrible.
Terrible to live without love
in small rooms with vinyl blinds
listening to music secretly,
the secret music of one’s head
which can’t be shared.
A dream is the only way to breathe.
But you must
find a more useful way to live.
I suppose you’re right
this was a failure: to stand there
so still, waiting for—what?
When I think about this life,
the life you led, I think of England,
of secret gardens that never open,
and novels sliding off the bed
at night where the small handkerchief
of darkness settles over
Reprinted from Sun in Days by Meghan O'Rourke. Copyright © 2017 by Meghan O'Rourke. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.