White oaks thrash, moonlight drifts
the ceiling, as if I'm under water.
Propane coils, warms my bones.

Gone are the magics and songs,
all the things our grandmothers buried—
piles of feathers and angel bones,

inscribed by all who came before.
When I was twelve, my cousins
called me ugly, enough to make it last.

Tonight a celebrity on Oprah
imagines a future where features
can be removed and replaced

on a whim. A moth presses wings
thin as paper against my window,
more beautiful than I could ever be.

Ryegrass raise seedy heads
beyond the bull thistle and preen.
Everything alive aches for more.

Copyright © Kari Gunter-Seymour. This poem originally appeared in A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2020). Used with permission of the author.

I woke to rapid flapping, the air cold
the time unknown. The dog’s paws tapping
on chill hardwood floor. Sudden
commotion. Jumping to corral what was
assumed to be an animal fight, I find
a California Towhee in my dining room.
Frantic, frightened. Brisk movement in her
wings making the room that much more frigid.
I stammer to her. Follow her room to room
as she attempts to fly her way out of walls
until she finally calms, allowing me to cup her
into my hands. We sit together outside
on a frosty concrete step. My bare feet
settling on top of wet fall leaves, gathering
the taste of morning in my mouth, the scent
of rain and dirt. She catches her breath.
My thumb softly wrapped around her chest
feeling her heart rate regulating, her eyes opening,
her fear receding. Leaves rustle, wind and traffic
move along while she and I watch each other
in a place where time moves slower than the rest
of the world. Her eyelids the color of peach
and terracotta. Her body the rusty hue of autumn.
Her eyes the same shade as mine, dark as loam.
I flatten my hand. She doesn’t move. We sit
together for what seems like hours. What seems
like fate when safety is reciprocated. Ten minutes
later she flies, stops on a dog-eared picket
and looks back. The dog quietly watches me.
How I love and let go all at once.

Copyright © Georgina Marie Guardado. Used with permission of the author.

Usually, it’s the males. Maybe
they’ve gone out with buddies
in their leks, keeping their radar
tuned for female bees as they move
from sweet pea to mallow flower and
snapdragon, gathering pollen
in those hairy saddlebags called
corbiculae. Maybe they have
no place to return or are lost,
having gone too far from the nest.
Maybe the empty football fields
and elementary school playgrounds,
long unmowed since our common
isolation and teeming now
with yellow dandelions, proved
too much. Sweet alyssum,
phlox; wisteria cascading heavy
out of themselves. Honeysuckle
and evening-scented stock,
dianthus crowned with hint
of cinnamon and smoky clove.
Female bees will also burrow
deep inside the shade of a squash
flower: the closer to the source
of nectar, the warmer and more
quilt-like the air. In the cool
hours of morning, look closely
for the slight but tell-tale
trembling in each flower cup:
there, a body dropped mid-flight,
mid-thought. How we all retreat
behind some folded screen as work
or the world presses in too
soon, too close, too much.

Copyright © Luisa A. Igloria. This poem was originally published by Digging Press. Used with permission of the author.

I'm working on a poem that's so true, I can't show it to anyone.

I could never show it to anyone.

Because it says exactly what I think, and what I think scares me.

Sometimes it pleases me.

Usually it brings misery.

And this poem says exactly what I think.

What I think of myself, what I think of my friends, what I think about my lover.


Parts of it might please them, some of it might scare them.

Some of it might bring misery.

And I don't want to hurt them, I don't want to hurt them.

I don't want to hurt anybody.

I want everyone to love me.

Still, I keep working on it.


Why do I keep working on it? 

Nobody will ever see it. 

Nobody will ever see it.

I keep working on it even though I can never show it to anybody.

I keep working on it even though someone might get hurt.

Copyright © 2000 by Lloyd Schwartz. From Cairo Traffic (The University of Chicago Press, 2000). Appears courtesy of the author.