You thought I’d flipped the switch and I hadn’t
You thought I’d left the window open
And I wouldn’t
You thought I’d turn the dial up
But I didn’t
You thought I’d ring the sun the super
But I shouldn’t
You thought I’d unlock the beehive
But I wouldn’t
You thought I’d sing the dirge
But I couldn’t
You thought I’d cook the rabbit
And I hadn’t
You thought I’d come back that day
And I didn’t
You thought I’d tend the flowers
But I couldn’t
You thought I’d turn the lock
But I hadn’t
You thought I’d open the door
See you
But I couldn’t
You thought I’d lay down
But I couldn’t
It kills me still
I couldn’t
I couldn’t

From Milk​. Copyright © 2018 by Dorothea Lasky. Used with the permission of Wave Books and the author.

We shall have our little day.
Take my hand and travel still
Round and round the little way,
Up and down the little hill.

It is good to love again;
Scan the renovated skies,
Dip and drive the idling pen,
Sweetly tint the paling lies.

Trace the dripping, piercèd heart,
Speak the fair, insistent verse,
Vow to God, and slip apart,
Little better, little worse.

Would we need not know before
How shall end this prettiness;
One of us must love the more,
One of us shall love the less.

Thus it is, and so it goes;
We shall have our day, my dear.
Where, unwilling, dies the rose
Buds the new, another year.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 23, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

This is not a small voice
you hear               this is a large
voice coming out of these cities.
This is the voice of LaTanya.
Kadesha. Shaniqua. This
is the voice of Antoine.
Darryl. Shaquille.
Running over waters
navigating the hallways
of our schools spilling out
on the corners of our cities and
no epitaphs spill out of their river mouths.

This is not a small love
you hear               this is a large
love, a passion for kissing learning
on its face.
This is a love that crowns the feet with hands
that nourishes, conceives, feels the water sails
mends the children,
folds them inside our history where they
toast more than the flesh
where they suck the bones of the alphabet
and spit out closed vowels.
This is a love colored with iron and lace.
This is a love initialed Black Genius.

This is not a small voice
you hear.

From Wounded in the House of a Friend. Copyright © 1995 by Sonia Sanchez. Used with the permission of Beacon Press.

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.

“Remember.” Copyright © 1983 by Joy Harjo from She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip—
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

Copyright © 2011 by Elizabeth Bishop. Reprinted from Poems with the permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

On my front door stone, a dead frog.
It’s stretched out long,
its slender legs a mottled green,
its belly cream white,
a blossom of blood on the stone.

How did it get here? Why did it die?

It doesn’t take much to make me see
how little I know
about the simplest things.

I’ll tell you stories, of course—
that it was possibly a fisher cat,
or more likely
was dropped, accidentally by an owl
or a startled hawk,
or a heron.

Or is the dead frog an ambassador
sent from the wetland world?

I lift it gingerly, the frog still
limber, no rigor mortis,
not yet,
and I put it aside, in a paper bag,
to take out later for burial—
I have a dog with a keen nose.

But when I come for it, the paper bag
is rustling, is jumping—
alive!
             And so I carry the frog
far down to the pond’s edge
and settle it into the shade of the cattails.

When death arrives on your door stone,
you think about it.

When death turns out to be life, injured life,
you’re glad.
                     And turn back to your own.

Copyright © Margaret Gibson. Used with permission of the author.

"I cannot go to school today,"
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox
And there's one more—that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut—my eyes are blue—
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke—
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is—what?
What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!"

From Shel Silverstein: Poems and Drawings; originally appeared in Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Copyright © 2003 by HarperCollins Children's Books. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

              1
A moment of pleasure,
    An hour of pain,
A day of sunshine,
    A week of rain,
A fortnight of peace,
  A month of strife,
These taken together
  Make up life. 

              2
One real friend
    To a dozen foes,
Two open gates,
  ’Gainst twenty that’s closed,
Prosperity’s chair,
    Then adversity’s knife;
These my friends
    Make up life.

              3
At daybreak a blossom,
    At noontime a rose,
At twilight ’tis withered,
    At evening ’tis closed.
The din of confusion,
    The strain of the fife,
These with other things
    Make up life.

              4
A smile, then a tear,
    Like a mystic pearl,
A pause, then a rush
    Into the mad whirl,
A kiss, then a stab
  From a traitor’s knife;
I think that you’ll agree with me, 
    That this life.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 31, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

When she looked down from the kitchen window
into the back yard and the brown wicker
baby carriage in which she had tucked me
three months old to lie out in the fresh air
of my first January the carriage
was shaking she said and went on shaking
and she saw I was lying there laughing
she told me about it later it was
something that reassured her in a life
in which she had lost everyone she loved
before I was born and she had just begun
to believe that she might be able to
keep me as I lay there in the winter
laughing it was what she was thinking of
later when she told me that I had been
a happy child and she must have kept that
through the gray cloud of all her days and now
out of the horn of dreams of my own life
I wake again into the laughing child

W. S. Merwin, “The Laughing Child” from Garden Time. Copyright © 2016 by W. S. Merwin. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press,www.coppercanyonpress.org.