What a thing to trust your life to, a scenic
veneer of solid safety, slashed with blades.
Give me four cubes in a gin and tonic.
Give me salt for sidewalks and lacquered roads.
In London, 1867, the ice
gave way in Regent’s Park, and hundreds fell
into the faithless lake. In a trice
Victorian coats and heavy skirts swelled
with water; boots and skates pulled them down.
They clawed at branches, each other, the frozen shelf,
mad to regain the land. Forty drowned.
So cold it was, the ice resealed itself
and kept them for days, preserved like florists’ wares
under glass, reaching toward the air.

Copyright © 2019 Juliana Gray. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2019.

In haste one evening while making dinner
I threw away a potato that was spoiled
on one end. The rest would have been

redeemable. In the yellow garbage pail
it became the consort of coffee grounds,
banana skins, carrot peelings.
I pitched it onto the compost
where steaming scraps and leaves
return, like bodies over time, to earth.

When I flipped the fetid layers with a hay
fork to air the pile, the potato turned up
unfailingly, as if to revile me—

looking plumper, firmer, resurrected
instead of disassembling. It seemed to grow
until I might have made shepherd’s pie
for a whole hamlet, people who pass the day
dropping trees, pumping gas, pinning
hand-me-down clothes on the line.

From Collected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2007). Copyright © 2007 by Jane Kenyon. Used with the permission of Graywolf Press.

Is there a place where black men can go
to be beautiful? Is there light there? Touch?

Is there comfort or room to raise their black
sons as anything other than a future asterisk,

at risk to be asteroid or rogue planet but not
comet—to be studded with awe and clamor

and admired for radial trajectories across
a dark sky made of asphalt and moonshine

to be celebs and deemed a magnificent sight?

Copyright © 2020 by Enzo Silon Surin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

I thought it was the neighbor’s cat back
to clean the clock of the fledgling robins low
in their nest stuck in the dense hedge by the house
but what came was much stranger, a liquidity
moving all muscle and bristle. A groundhog
slippery and waddle thieving my tomatoes still
green in the morning’s shade. I watched her
munch and stand on her haunches taking such
pleasure in the watery bites. Why am I not allowed
delight? A stranger writes to request my thoughts
on suffering. Barbed wire pulled out of the mouth,
as if demanding that I kneel to the trap of coiled
spikes used in warfare and fencing. Instead,
I watch the groundhog closer and a sound escapes
me, a small spasm of joy I did not imagine
when I woke. She is a funny creature and earnest,
and she is doing what she can to survive.

Copyright © 2020 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

‘Twas the new moon! 
Since then I waited—
And lo! to-night!
[I have my reward!]

 

 

 

                                              —Translation by William George Aston