“Oh, we had an intruder alert,”
said my fourth grade daughter
when I asked how school was.
She said this
after the usual shoulder shrug and mumble.
My kindergarten daughter sang in, “Yeah,
And I keep the car moving forward.
Even though it feels like a bird
just thwapped against a window in my chest
and this car should stop
Over the intercom, the same silver strainers in the ceilings as the school I went to a long
a voice will say, “Mr. Snow, please come to the office,”
and what is expected
is that the teacher will sharply walk to the door
and lock it, that every student in the room
will hide, will be unseeable from the block of glass targeted above the doorknob.
My fourth grader
says everyone tried to fit
in the prairie schooner the teacher and her husband built between the two bookcases,
but there wasn’t room so she tried to squeeze herself alone
behind the filing cabinet.
They tell me this
as no big thing.
They tell me this
like it’s line up, single file, quiet down,
hands to yourself, march outside.
They can’t say it
like I do now. They don’t think about it
like it’s a heartbreak
have no inclination to want to ask the NRA to give one actual moment of silence,
no inclination to know the name of the school secretary in Atlanta who
talked an AK-47 and a gym bag full of bullets
onto the floor, no inclination to think of grade school teachers
laying their bodies over students,
lungs pulling in so hard
they could make their backs
It’s my kindergartener.
It’s my fourth grader.
It’s another thing
Copyright © 2020 by Matt Mason. From I Have a Poem the Size of the Moon (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2020). Used with the permission of the poet.
Please tell me that I was a good child
And that I did everything right
And that the atmosphere was exactly certain
I want you to love me
In ways that you never have
So that I become a forgotten world
With rainbow sunrises over dark green trees
And the cooling of the day
Becomes normal again
We will sit and watch the body of water
That we once called a sort of death
You know even in my dreams
You say I’ll never get it right
This is not a dream
We are burning here with no escape
But no matter how many times
They talk about the moon
It does not take a poet
To know that the moon
Is still only an illusion
Only an illusion
The moon calls out to all of us
Come back, it says
But we don’t hear it
Already on our way
Copyright © 2023 by Dorothea Lasky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 31, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
a floating rib
an admirer’s shadow
ribs with grief
a taper hall
an empty street
a black hole
its low density
like clouds, dust, cosmic ray
at the center of the milky way
thousands of them
i bet it hurts
as air expands
tears through tissue
you inhale all the oxygen
from us in fifteen seconds
who can dust your bones?
time is infinite
i wish upon stars
not old enough for light to reach
wish upon a name
to leave your lips as print
even moon rocks crumble
zero point zero four inches
a million years
call it what it feels like
a dirty collision
a chain reaction
a thick cloud of debris
Copyright © 2022 by Boderra Joe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 11, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker
Anna the chair was overturned it’s after the end—whatever end—that we must readjust forgetting—paradise Anna sometimes has a taste of mouldy sun—when I think of the sun I want to think of Senac, of Amrouche, of Amrani—but when I think sun I want to think of the California sun, the one I’ve never seen—that mother-earth that nourishes you—and desire makes its place in what perhaps will happen, it doesn’t matter much if it happens—at the end paradise puts the chair back—I’m not saying the chair stands upright again—I’m not saying that it gets up—but isn’t there something that has to be put right and I think that it’s the idea of paradise itself that’s bothering me—in the Koran some remember especially the virgins offered to martyrs—there should be an end to such sacrifice, Anna—of course restore the virgins and the mothers—for the Marabout of Dakar, there was no point in going to Mecca because, he said, Mecca is your mother’s hip—honor your mother’s hip he said—he didn’t say strangle yourself with your umbilical cord—but your mother like Mecca is a promised land—you must go there only once—my mother’s land is a joyful cord—it’s a song in the bath—thawardets—the rose—my mother remembers the bath—all children are beautiful—and paradise, Anna, is a mother in whom you travel only once—a refrain that remains like a faraway pulse—we aren’t perfect, Anna—we aren’t imperfect either—
Anna la chaise est renversée c’est à partir de la fin—n’importe quelle fin—qu’il faudrait réajuster l’oubli—le paradis Anna a parfois un goût de soleil moisi—quand je pense au soleil je veux penser à Sénac à Amrouche à Amrani—mais quand je pense soleil je veux penser au soleil de la Californie—celui que je n’ai jamais vu—cette terre mère qui t’irrigue—le désir prend place dans ce qui adviendra peut-être—peu importe si ça advient—à la fin le paradis rétablit la chaise—je ne dis pas que la chaise redevient droite—je ne dis pas qu’elle se dresse—mais quelque chose n’est-ce pas doit être rétabli et je crois que c’est l’idée même du paradis qui m’inquiète—dans le Coran il ruisselle sous les pieds des mamans—dans le Coran certains retiennent les vierges offertes aux sacrifiés—il faut renverser le sacrifice Anna—sans doute rétablir les vierges et les mères—pour le Marabout de Dakar il ne sert à rien d’aller à la Mecque car dit-il la Mecque c’est le flanc de ta mère—honore le flanc de ta mère dit-il—il ne dit pas étrangle-toi avec ton cordon ombilical—mais ta mère comme une Mecque est une terre promise—il ne faut y voyager qu’une fois—la terre de ma mère est un cordon joyeux—c’est une chanson dans le bain—thawardets—la rose—ma mère se rappelle le bain—tous les enfants sont beaux—et le paradis Anna est une mère dans laquelle on ne voyage qu’une fois—un refrain qui reste comme un battement lointain—nous ne sommes pas parfaits Anna—nous ne sommes pas imparfaits non plus—
Copyright © 2022 by Samira Negrouche and Marilyn Hacker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 1, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.