His fisherman’s cap 
is gray as is the sea 
where he stares. He once 
saw a mermaid 

there     near
the shore tangled 
in kelp. She wanted him 
to not see her. She wasn’t 

a gift. He wasn’t. Yet 
he stared. Keeps returning 
to stare at the now
nothing he sees. Nothing 

as in not her.
He once said he loved 
her     sea life.
He’s captured     capturer.

Blame agony.  
Blame perpetual 
return to the kelp 
stuck to his feet     for 

the wind over 
ears     in canals.
She’s singing 
a water hymn  

not to him
but to the air.  
This is where 
he dissolves.  

Copyright © 2024 by Myronn Hardy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 23, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

They’re not like peaches or squash.
Plumpness isn’t for them. They like
being lean, as if for the narrow
path. The beans themselves sit qui-
etly inside their green pods. In-
stinctively one picks with care, 
never tearing down the fine vine,
never noticing their crisp bod-
ies, or feeling their willingness for
the pot, for the fire.

I have thought sometimes that
something—I can’t name it—
watches as I walk the rows, accept-
ing the gift of their lives to assist
mine.

I know what you think: this is fool-
ishness. They’re only vegetables.
Even the blossoms with which they
begin are small and pale, hardly sig-
nificant Our hands, or minds, our
feet hold more intelligence. With
this I have no quarrel. 

But, what about virtue?

“Beans” by Mary Oliver. Reprinted by the permission of The Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency as agent for the author. Copyright © Mary Oliver 2004 with permission of Bill Reichblum 
 

I have folded my sorrows into the mantle of summer night,
Assigning each brief storm its allotted space in time,
Quietly pursuing catastrophic histories buried in my eyes.
And yes, the world is not some unplayed Cosmic Game,
And the sun is still ninety-three million miles from me,
And in the imaginary forest, the shingled hippo becomes the gray unicorn.
No, my traffic is not with addled keepers of yesterday’s disasters,
Seekers of manifest disembowelment on shafts of yesterday’s pains.
Blues come dressed like introspective echoes of a journey.
And yes, I have searched the rooms of the moon on cold summer nights.
And yes, I have refought those unfinished encounters.
      Still, they remain unfinished.
And yes, I have at times wished myself something different.

The tragedies are sung nightly at the funerals of the poet;
The revisited soul is wrapped in the aura of familiarity. 

“I Have Folded My Sorrows,” by Robert Kaufman, from SOLITUDES CROWDED WITH LONELINESS, copyright © 1965 by Bob Kaufman. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. 

          He stole forsythia.
He lived for love.
          He never got caught.

Copyright © 2014 Jim Moore. This poem originally appeared in Underground: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2014). Used with permission of the author.

 


          A young mother on a motor scooter stopped at a traffic light, her little son perched 
on the ledge between her legs; she in a gleaming helmet, he in a replica of it, smaller, but 
the same color and just as shiny.  His visor is swung shut, hers is open.
          As I pull up beside them on my bike, the mother is leaning over to embrace the child, 
whispering something in his ear, and I’m shaken, truly shaken, by the wish, the need, to 
have those slim strong arms contain me in their sanctuary of affection.   
          Though they call this regression, though that implies a going back to some other 
state and this has never left me, this fundamental pang of being too soon torn from a bliss 
that promises more bliss, no matter that the scooter’s fenders are dented, nor that as it 
idles it pops, clears its throat, growls.

Copyright © 2013 by C. K. Williams. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on December 11, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.