I beg for invisible fire.
Every night I pray to love,
please invent yourself.
I imagine a place after this place
and I laugh quietly to no one
as the hair on my chin
weeds through old makeup.
When I go to sleep
I am vinegar inside clouded glass.
The world comes to an end
when I wake up and wonder
who will be next to me.
Police sirens and coyote howls
blend together in morning’s net.
Once, I walked out past the cars
and stood on a natural rock formation
that seemed placed there to be stood on.
I felt something like kinship.
It was the first time.
Once, I believed god
was a blanket of energy
stretched out around
our most vulnerable
she’s the sound
of a promise
Copyright © 2020 by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 14, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
translated by Babette Deutsch and Avrahm Yarmolinsky
(To My Mother)
A great star will fall into my lap. . .
We would hold vigil tonight,
Praying in languages
That are carven like harps.
We would be reconciled tonight—
So fully God overwhelms us.
Our hearts are only children,
Eager for weary-sweet slumber.
And our lips would kiss each other,
Why are you fearful?
Does not your heart border upon mine—
Your blood always dyes my cheeks red.
We would be reconciled tonight,
If we clasp each other, we shall not perish.
A great star will fall into my lap.
Es wird ein großer Stern in meinen Schoß fallen. . .
Wir wollen wachen die Nacht,
In den Sprachen beten,
Die wie Harfen eingeschnitten sind.
Wir wollen uns versöhnen die Nacht—
So viel Gott strömt über.
Kinder sind unsere Herzen,
Die möchten ruhen müdesüß.
Und unsere Lippen wollen sich küssen,
Was zagst du?
Grenzt nicht mein Herz an deins—
Immer färbt dein Blut meine Wangen rot.
Wir wollen uns versöhnen die Nacht,
Wenn wir uns herzen, sterben wir nicht.
Es wird ein großer Stern in meinen Schoß fallen.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 13, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
Circular breather, our dog can whine
without ceasing, his tail thumping the wall
beside the bed to call me up and out to the yard
instead. In moonlight, the hydrangeas’
white blossoms are a zodiac of branch-bound
constellations. Once, God called Abraham
out from his tent to the open field to count
the uncountable lights in the sky, promising
offspring bountiful as dust, numerous
as the stars. Like Abraham, I too left
my land, my birthplace, my father’s house.
But the closest I have to offspring
is lifting his leg at the azalea, nose busy
with the news the night air brings.
Mazel tov! we say at births and other
joyous occasions, the Jewish go-to
for Congratulations! Yet טוֹב tov means “good”
and מַזָּל mazel, “constellation” or “destiny,”
and sometimes, like Abraham, you must
leave the place that grew you to grow
toward better stars. In the house, my wife
is sleeping. Along the fence-top, a procession
of possums reminds that even in darkness
there are those who can see. Above,
trees, thick with summer, frame a porthole
of sky. Maybe, though, it’s not always the stars
that matter but the space between them,
the lines we draw to shape the absence,
the lives we forge around what goes missing.
From the deck, the cool breeze makes a festival
of the silver-lit leaves. Under my palm,
there’s the warmth of his fur, the rise
of his ribs. He doesn’t suspect his kidneys
are failing, that his muzzle is white
as the winter our vet has said he will
not live to see. Like all of us, he is
dying; like most of us, he doesn’t
know it. His chin on my leg, he trusts me
with the weight of his head. So, if I wish
you, mazel tov, know what I mean is,
May you find a reason to open
your door to the dark. I’ll mean,
May you live beneath good stars,
and take the time to notice.
From Unalone (Four Way Books, 2024) by Jessica Jacobs. First appeared in Southern Cultures (2021). Used with permission of the author.
A saturated meadow, Sun-shaped and jewel-small, A circle scarcely wider Than the trees around were tall; Where winds were quite excluded, And the air was stifling sweet With the breath of many flowers,— A temple of the heat. There we bowed us in the burning, As the sun’s right worship is, To pick where none could miss them A thousand orchises; For though the grass was scattered, Yet every second spear Seemed tipped with wings of color, That tinged the atmosphere. We raised a simple prayer Before we left the spot, That in the general mowing That place might be forgot; Or if not all is favoured, Obtain such grace of hours, That none should mow the grass there While so confused with flowers.
This poem is in the public domain.
His artfully unkempt strawberry blonde head sports outsized headphones. Like a contemporary bust. Behold the innocence of the freckles, ripe pout of cherry lips. As if the mere sight of the world hurts him, he squints greenly and applies saline drops. You dream him crying over you. For the duration of a subway ride you fall blindly in love. Until he exits. Or you exit, returning home to the one you truly love to ravish him.
Copyright © 2013 by Joseph O. Legaspi. From Subways (Thrush Press, 2013). Used with permission of the author.