I sit on the tracks, a hundred feet from earth, fifty from the water. Gerald is inching toward me as grim, slow, and determined as a season, because he has no trade and wants none. It's been nine months since I last listened to his fate, but I know what he will say: he's the fire hydrant of the underdog. When he reaches my point above the creek, he sits down without salutation, and spits profoundly out past the edge, and peeks for meaning in the ripple it brings. He scowls. He speaks: when you walk down any street you see nothing but coagulations of shit and vomit, and I'm sick of it. I suggest suicide; he prefers murder, and spits again for the sake of all the great devout losers. A conductor's horn concerto breaks the air, and we, two doomed pennies on the track, shove off and somersault like anesthetized fleas, ruffling the ideal locomotive poised on the water with our light, dry bodies. Gerald shouts terrifically as he sails downstream like a young man with a destination. I swim toward shore as fast as my boots will allow; as always, neglecting to drown.
From The Lost Pilot, published by Yale University Press, 1961. Copyright © 1961 by James Tate. Reprinted with permission.
To heat a sister House a burn adjust the replica body in the yesterday travel rain no sister locks the door at the highest temperature three hours still parked still comfortable to eat sugar by force only because each house keeps a burn together drinks the page An unseasoned tree chosen to go to the sea
Copyright © 2017 by Ching-In Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 1, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Still dark, my baby girl leaps out
the window to greet the rising sun.
I stand below ready to catch her,
but every time she takes off
without fail, her laughter calling
to the orioles, calling
to my shame that had I the choice,
I would have never taught her to fly.
Somewhere there is a man with a gun
who will take pleasure in seeing her
skin against the pure blue sky—
and shooting her down.
My own mother did not flinch
when I first raised my arms
and lifted my feet off the ground,
above her head.
She only said you better hope
bulletproof skin comes with that
gift. Years later I found out it did.
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 3, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Amber Flora Thomas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
This poem is in the public domain.
Copyright © 2017 by Catherine Barnett. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 16, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I am taken with the hot animal
of my skin, grateful to swing my limbs
and have them move as I intend, though
my knee, though my shoulder, though something
is torn or tearing. Today, a dozen squid, dead
on the harbor beach: one mostly buried,
one with skin empty as a shell and hollow
feeling, and, though the tentacles look soft,
I do not touch them. I imagine they
were startled to find themselves in the sun.
I imagine the tide simply went out
without them. I imagine they cannot
feel the black flies charting the raised hills
of their eyes. I write my name in the sand:
Donika Kelly. I watch eighteen seagulls
skim the sandbar and lift low in the sky.
I pick up a pebble that looks like a green egg.
To the ditch lily I say I am in love.
To the Jeep parked haphazardly on the narrow
street I am in love. To the roses, white
petals rimmed brown, to the yellow lined
pavement, to the house trimmed in gold I am
in love. I shout with the rough calculus
of walking. Just let me find my way back,
let me move like a tide come in.
Copyright © 2017 by Donika Kelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Mind was a prison, ruby lined
in its lipstick noir—everything woman
I was expected to be, trapped between
papered walls. What they said to do, I did not
but only levitated at the burning,
the body a water in which I drowned, the life
a windshield dirty with love. What they
said to think, I thought not but instead made
my mind into a birdcage with wings
(Title is from an Anne Sexton Poem.)
Copyright © 2017 by Melissa Studdard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 29, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
What does it mean to be so still? to glide along the ocean floor like some black-tongued electric eel, to burn through marbled gold and green of oceanic things like some compact mass deforming space, time, a void within voids, and then? It is easier to imagine amphibian, to know that blood, too, can change its temperament as quickly as salamanders change skin, as quickly as eyes of newt and tongues of dog become incantations, enchantments of art and life just as an animal submerged under water becomes unknown, just as respirations become primitive and breaths and motions cease as a lone fish in a dark pond arrives as an object of thought and becomes stone.
Copyright © 2017 by Rita Banerjee. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 30, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
This poem is in the public domain.
A man can’t die where there is no earth because there will be no place to bury him. His body is the sky and understands the language of birds. His body says the earth is made of everything that has fallen from Heaven while no one was looking. He promises to defy gravity and then return home. A man can’t reach for the sky and not feel he is falling. It goes on forever and the birds talk about the awesomeness of flight while the oxen labor in the fields, while the cows eat grass and dream of slaughter. A man can’t talk about flight because one day, there will be no sky, just the body covered in earth. And now the sky is empty of birds. And now the earth is covered in flowers.
Copyright © 2017 by W. Todd Kaneko. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I crawled into bed and closed my eyes and not long after heard the small hooves of the horses, the tiny ones that gallop in our dreams, or are they the dreams of our children, galloping through the black ruins. Everything we do is against the crippling light. To hear them cry at night is to know they are alive. When they are scared they come galloping down the long hall calling your name. Tonight, it is our oldest daughter, the red mare with her fiery mane, she snuggles in between us and falls back to sleep in your arms, to that secret place inside her, she barely moves, crossing over the river, through a grove of alders, through the black ruins, she is the one who once whispered, the grass it knows everything.
Copyright © 2017 by Sean Thomas Dougherty. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 18, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I didn’t know I was blue, until I heard her sing. I was never aware so much had been lost even before I was born. There was so much to lose even before I knew what it meant to choose. Born blue, living blue unconfessed, blue in concealment, I’ve lived all my life at the plinth of greater things than me. Morning is greater with its firstborn light and birdsong. Noon is taller, though a moment’s realm. Evening is ancient and immense, and night’s storied house more huge. But I had no idea. And would have died without a clue, except she began to sing. And I understood my soul is a bride enthralled by an unmet groom, or else the groom wholly spoken for, blue in ardor, happy in eternal waiting. I heard her sing and knew I would never hear the true name of each thing until I realized the abysmal ground of all things. Her singing touched that ground in me. Now, dying of my life, everything is made new. Now, my life is not my life. I have no life apart from all of life. And my death is not my death, but a pillow beneath my head, a rock propping the window open to admit the jasmine. I heard her sing, and I’m no longer afraid. Now that I know what she knows, I hope never to forget how giant the gone and immaculate the going. How much I’ve already lost. How much I go on losing. How much I’ve lived all one blue. O, how much I go on living.
"Spoken For" from The Undressing by Li-Young Lee. Copyright © 2018 Li-Young Lee. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
The doctor says it’s an empty room in there
And it is
A pale sack with no visitors
I have made it and surrounded it with my skin
To invite the baby in
But he did not enter
And dissolved himself into the sea so many moons ago
I wait to see
Will the giant bean be in there another day
The women of the world say
The men in the world say
I work and work but I am an empty sack
Until I bleed the food all over the floor
Then I am once again with everything
Until the gods say, you’ve done well, good sir
You may die now
And the people who were asking me for favors all along
Knock on the coffin door
But I am gone, gone
Copyright © 2017 by Dorothea Lasky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 19, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
A long night I spent
thinking that reality was the story
of the human species
the vanquished search for the vanquished
Sounds come by, ruffling my soul
I sense space’s elasticity,
go on reading the books she wrote on the
wars she’s seen
Why do seasons who regularly follow
their appointed time, deny their kind of energy
why is winter followed by a few
more days of winter?
We came to transmit the shimmering
from which we came; to name it
we deal with a permanent voyage,
the becoming of that which itself had
Copyright © 2017 by Etel Adnan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 28, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Where are you from?
Where are you headed?
What are you doing?
Little brother, we are all grieving
& galaxy & goodbye. Once, I climbed inside
the old clock tower of my hometown
& found a dead bird, bathed in broken light,
like a little christ.
Little christ of our hearts, I know
planets light-years away
are under our tongues. We’ve tasted them.
We’ve climbed the staircases saying, There, there.
Little brother, we are all praying. Every morning,
I read out loud but not loud enough
to alarm anyone. Once, my love said, Please
open the door. I can hear you talk. Open the door.
Little christ of our hearts, tell anyone
you've been talking to god & see
what happens. Every day,
I open the door. I do it by looking
at my daughter on a swing—
eyes closed & crinkled, teeth bare.
I say, Good morning good morning you
little beating thing.
Little brother, we are all humming.
More & more, as I read, I sound
like my father with his book of prayers,
turning pages in his bed—a hymn
for each day of the week, a gift
from his mother, who taught me
the ten of diamonds is a win, left me
her loose prayer clothes. Bismillah.
Little christ of our hearts, forgive me,
for I loved eating the birds with lemon,
& the sound of their tiny bones. But I couldn’t
stomach the eyes of the fried fish.
Little brother, we are always hungry.
Here, this watermelon. Here, some salt
for the tomatoes. Here, this song
for the dead birds in time boxes,
& the living. That day in the clock tower,
I saw the city too, below—
the merchants who call, the blue awnings,
the corn carts, the clotheslines, the heat,
the gears that turn, & the remembering.
Copyright © 2018 by Zeina Hashem Beck. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
You know how it pretends to have a broken wing to lure predators away from its nest, how it staggers just out of reach . . . if, at this moment, you’re feeling metaphorical, nest can be the whatever inside us that we think needs protection, the whatever that is small & hasn’t yet found its way. Like us it has lived so long on scraps, on what others have left behind, it thinks it could live on air, on words, forever almost, it thinks it would be better to let the predator kill it than to turn its back on that child again, forgetting that one lives inside the other.
Copyright © 2018 by Nick Flynn. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Because I did not have to smell the cow’s fear,
because I did not have to pin the man, watch his eyes
go feral, because I did not have to drag the stones
that formed in the child’s body, because I did not sheathe
my hands in dank soil, or skirt the machine’s battering, the needles
knitting my lower back, because when the factory collapsed
I smelled no smoke, and no one made me kneel at the cop’s boots
and count the pulse slowing beside me as every sound
soured, because my hands have never had to resist being comforted
by the warmth of blood, because the plastic-
wrapped meat and the mousetraps, because my job
was to stay clean and thankful and mostly imaginary, I have been stealing
what little I can:
onions. sandpaper. handfuls of skin.
the dumpster’s metal groan. hurried breath. hot knives.
Copyright © 2018 by Franny Choi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
A little called anything shows shudders.
Come and say what prints all day. A whole few watermelon. There is no pope.
No cut in pennies and little dressing and choose wide soles and little spats really little spices.
A little lace makes boils. This is not true.
Gracious of gracious and a stamp a blue green white bow a blue green lean, lean on the top.
If it is absurd then it is leadish and nearly set in where there is a tight head.
A peaceful life to arise her, noon and moon and moon. A letter a cold sleeve a blanket a shaving house and nearly the best and regular window.
Nearer in fairy sea, nearer and farther, show white has lime in sight, show a stitch of ten. Count, count more so that thicker and thicker is leaning.
I hope she has her cow. Bidding a wedding, widening received treading, little leading mention nothing.
Cough out cough out in the leather and really feather it is not for.
Please could, please could, jam it not plus more sit in when.
From Tender Buttons (1914) by Gertrude Stein. This poem is in the public domain.
to talk to violets.
Tears fall into my soup
and I drink them.
Sooner or later
everyone donates something.
I carry wood, stone, and
hay in my head.
The eyes of the violets
grow very wide.
At the end of the day
I reglue the broken foot
of the china shepherd
who has put up with me.
Next door, in the house
of the clock-repairer,
a hundred clocks tick
at once. He and his wife
go about their business
sleeping peacefully at night.
Copyright © 2018 by Mary Ruefle. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 31, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
1. It bejins in Berlin A Historical Case Study In Disappearance + Cultural Theft: Exhibit YZ: Brinj back to me Nefertiti Her Bust Take her From behind the vitrine For I know where to find her missinj eye Then put a woman in charje of all antiquities. She-law: just because somethinj is beautiful doesnt mean it was meant to be consumed; just because there are tourists doesnt make it an attraction. 2. everywhere anytxme atm her vxolatxon: guaranteed. sxlence bought or your settlement money back. objectxfactxon xn the mxrror xs closer than xt appears. please mxnd the wage gap. cautxon: not chxld resxstant to open hold down and turn away squee geez use daxly, mornxng, and nxght supported by an aroma of certified organxc heavens: for every gxrl who grows xnto a woman who knows the best threat’s: one she never has to make she sublxmates your sublxmxnal even your affectxon has been xnfected 3. this poem cant go on without hex i mean hex heeee x hex hex and hex hex hej heq hez hex she was stolen bought sold lost put undex buxied alive at bixth she was dxagged in blue bxa duxing a xevolution with vixginity tests she waits then she doesnt she sh sh sh shh she left you she the best thing that happened to you then she lilililililiiii she intifada she moves with two kinds of gxace she ups the ante aging by candid defiant elegance she foxgets but nevex foxgives She-language complex she complex she so complex she complex got complex complex 4. she spends her time anxious because she knows she is better than you rang to say she died from being tired of your everything she knows she is fiyne; gorgeous but she hates it when she infuriates and when she jigs and is kind she minds her own business except when she is new and nervous though she is origin previous and impervious she wont stay quiet she is razor sharp and super tired she undarks, vets, wanes, and xeroxes; yaks and zzzzs the day she dreams 5. Me tooa B Me toob Me tooc R Me tood Me tooe I Me toof N Me toog G Me tooh them Me tooi B Me tooj A Me took C Me tool K Mem too Men too Me tooo Meep too Meq too Mer too Me too Me too Meu too Mev too Mew too Mex too Mey too Mez too Me ((too)) Me ((((((((((((too))))))))))))
Copyright © 2018 by Marwa Helal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 30, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
The joke is orange. which has never been funny.
For awhile I didn’t sleep on my bright side.
Many airplanes make it through sky.
The joke is present. dented and devil.
For awhile, yellow spots on the wall.
Obama on water skis, the hair in his armpits, free.
I thought the CIA was operative.
Across the alley, a woman named Mildred.
Above the clouds in a plane, a waistline of sliced white.
I don’t sound like TED Talk, or smart prose on Facebook.
These clouds are not God.
I keep thinking about Coltrane; how little he talked.
This is so little; I give so little.
Sometimes when I say something to white people, they say “I’m sorry?”
During Vietnam, Bob Kaufman stopped talking.
The CIA was very good at killing Panthers.
Mildred in a housecoat, calling across the fence, over her yard.
If I were grading this, I’d be muttering curses.
The joke is a color. a color for prison.
Is it me, or is the sentence, as structure, arrogant?
All snow, in here, this writing, departure.
All miles are valuable. all extension. all stretch.
I savor the air with both fingers, and tongue.
Mildred asks about the beats coming from my car.
I forgot to bring the poem comparing you to a garden.
Someone tell me what to say to my senators.
No one smokes here; in the rain, I duck away and smell piss.
I thought the CIA was. the constitution.
I feel like he left us, for water skis, for kitesurfing.
The sun will not always be so gracious.
From the garden poem, one line stands out.
Frank Ocean’s “Nights” is a study in the monostich.
Pace is not breathing, on and off. off.
Mildred never heard of Jneiro Jarel.
I’m afraid one day I’ll find myself remembering this air.
The last time I saw my mother, she begged for fried chicken.
My father still sitting there upright, a little high.
Melissa McCarthy could get it.
Sometimes, I forget how to touch.
In a parking garage, I wait for the toothache.
I watch what I say all the time now.
She said she loved my touch, she used the word love.
In 1984, I’d never been in the sky.
My mother walked a laundry cart a mile a day for groceries.
Betsy DeVos is confirmed. with a broken tie.
Mildred’s five goes way up, and my five reaches.
Copyright © 2018 by francine j. harris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
The vast waters flow past its back-yard. You can purchase a six-pack in bars! Tammy Wynette's on the marquee a block down. It's twenty-five years ago: you went to death, I to life, and which was luckier God only knows. There's this line in an unpublished poem of yours. The river is like that, a blind familiar. The wind will die down when I say so; the leaden and lessening light on the current. Then the moon will rise like the word reconciliation, like Walt Whitman examining the tear on a dead face.
From Wheeling Motel by Franz Wright. Copyright © 2009 by Franz Wright. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf.
Bob: Can I be your lazy eye, your wander- lust, your grave without a headstone, your bleeding gums, your buck teeth and your walk bowlegged at the knee? Can I be your fortune hunter, your glimpse of wild geese, your red russet shoes that poison the feet? Reckon this is the best of my seed. Been stripping cane and blind robbing the bees. Reckon you’ve thought of swimming the creek. Last night they came on horseback, white hoods like phantoms scanning the trees, burning torches, shattering sleep. I dragged the shotgun from the door and stepped squinting onto the porch.
Copyright © 2018 by Lauren Russell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 7, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
There is a time and place in the world for abstraction. When my mother left Puerto Rico for the first time, the year was 1968. Against my unknowing. We hesitate to say what intimacy is and whether or not we have it. I keep trying / to teach my students that / stream-of-consciousness is / this, not that / this / activity fails. We know it does because each of us leaves the room / feeling like barbed wire— snarling behind the barricade (because) at some point, we stopped feeling (like language could say). So we went without while some others embraced. Notice (after the emptiness) : a pain that is not private. In other words, focus not on the object, but rather, the light that bounces off of that object. Perforated. Estranged. Esa luz. Tómatela. Under that light° I felt my body try / to hold on (to the knot inside) your right hand; when did it become a fist? Remind me what it is again / what it is that you wish / to share (with others) >> when you’re on stage… °That light, this pain (what never translates).
Copyright © 2018 by Lara Mimosa Montes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 13, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
There are poets with history and poets without history, Tsvetsaeva claimed living
through the ruin of Russia.
Karina says disavow every time I see her. We, the daughters between countries,
wear our mean mothers like scarves around our necks.
Every visit, mine recounts all the wrongs done against her
ring sent for polishing returned with a lesser diamond, Years of never rest and,
she looks at me, of nothing to be proud of.
I am covered in welts and empty pockets so large sobs escape me in the backroom of
my Landlord's fabric shop. He moves to wipe my tears
as if I’m his daughter
or I’m no one’s daughter.
It’s true, I let him take my hand, I am a girl who needs something. I slow cook bone
grief, use a weak voice.
My mother calls me the girl with holes in her hands, every time I lose something.
All Russian daughters were snowflakes once, and in their hair a ribbon long
as their body knotted and knotted and knotted into a large translucent bow.
It happens, teachers said, that a child between countries will refuse to speak.
A girl with a hole in her throat, every day I opened the translation book.
Silent, I took my shoes off when I came home, I
put my house clothes on.
We had no songs, few rituals. On Yom Kippur, we lit a candle for the dead
and no one knew a prayer.
We kept the candle lit, that’s all.
The wave always returns, and always returns a different wave.
I was small. I built a self outside my self because a child needs shelter.
Not even you knew I was strange,
I ate the food my family ate, I answered to my name.
Copyright © 2018 by Gala Mukomolova. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 9, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Very quick. Very intense, like a wolf
at a live heart, the sun breaks down.
What is important is to avoid
the time allotted for disavowels
as the livid wound
leaves a trace leaves an abscess
takes its contraction for those clouds
that dip thunder & vanish
like rose leaves in closed jars.
Age approaches, slowly. But it cannot
crystal bone into thin air.
The small hours open their wounds for me.
This is a woman's confession:
I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me.
Sources: [Anne Sexton, Dylan Thomas, Larry Levis, Ingeborg Bachmann, Octavio Paz, Henri Michaux, Agnes Nemes Nagy, Joyce Mansour, William Burroughs, Meret Oppenheim, Mary Low, Adrienne Rich, Carl Sandburg]
Copyright © 2011 by Simone Muench. Used with permission of the author.
They are not real She said from the cellar And slowly unveiled The flat scope Lizards and their eggs That I hang around the neck You will break your legs He warned me And I believed him Ruby edgings around The mushroom-colored stones And the man who told me The women Are like pictures in a book They are not real And so I believed him Despite all the years Finally free In the end of an era She held her breasts On a golden platter Despite the pain And blessings everywhere Eat she said And they ate They did
Copyright © 2018 by Dorothea Lasky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
In the invitation, I tell them for the seventeenth time
(the fourth in writing), that I am gay.
In the invitation, I include a picture of my boyfriend
& write, You’ve met him two times. But this time,
you will ask him things other than can you pass the
whatever. You will ask him
about him. You will enjoy dinner. You will be
enjoyable. Please RSVP.
They RSVP. They come.
They sit at the table & ask my boyfriend
the first of the conversation starters I slip them
upon arrival: How is work going?
I’m like the kid in Home Alone, orchestrating
every movement of a proper family, as if a pair
of scary yet deeply incompetent burglars
is watching from the outside.
My boyfriend responds in his chipper way.
I pass my father a bowl of fish ball soup—So comforting,
isn’t it? My mother smiles her best
Sitting with Her Son’s Boyfriend
Who Is a Boy Smile. I smile my Hurray for Doing
a Little Better Smile.
Everyone eats soup.
Then, my mother turns
to me, whispers in Mandarin, Is he coming with you
for Thanksgiving? My good friend is & she wouldn’t like
this. I’m like the kid in Home Alone, pulling
on the string that makes my cardboard mother
more motherly, except she is
not cardboard, she is
already, exceedingly my mother. Waiting
for my answer.
While my father opens up
a Boston Globe, when the invitation
clearly stated: No security
blankets. I’m like the kid
in Home Alone, except the home
is my apartment, & I’m much older, & not alone,
& not the one who needs
to learn, has to—Remind me
what’s in that recipe again, my boyfriend says
to my mother, as though they have always, easily
talked. As though no one has told him
many times, what a nonlinear slapstick meets
slasher flick meets psychological
pit he is now co-starring in.
Remind me, he says
to our family.
Copyright © 2018 by Chen Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Words are hoops Through which to leap upon meanings, Which are horses’ backs, Bare, moving.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
A second death in as many days and I succeed at being
Strong and contained, until the tweet
Where one young brother says I’m not scared of dying,
I’m scared of breaking my mother’s heart. I am flesh
Two rooms down the hall from my mother’s flesh
Holding in my hands the news which is not new and today, at last, I understand
How primal and intelligent her need
To be done with this—
Our sorrow, our joy, anything at all thought ours—
To be done with the almost unavoidable assertion
Of a self she refused
To let her body take on—and to be done
Permanently, by making
A useful choice, through a man made useful by her choosing,
A man of Irish-Scandinavian stock (the only criteria,
I have wondered, in angrier moments), so that
Her boys, my brothers and I, or at least our bodies
Emerged from hers looking Spanish, maybe Greek or Italian.
Three boys, each passing
Closer to her one True North.
When she tells me not to put forward that I am Black, she is saying I love you.
She is saying I want you to live. I see now. When she told my brother she wished
He’d just find a nice blonde girl and settle down, I took her by the face
And, staring into her even-keeled nonchalance,
Told her I love you and you are crazy. Today
I see: I am flesh, I am free
To inhabit my life: to stand, to sit, to breathe, to play tag
Or with a toy gun, to walk away, or to run, to put my hands up, to ask why.
Today on a walk I took to release
How it felt to be shut out—this time,
By the editor of the African diasporic journal
Who asked not me but someone who didn’t know me
Was I Black—
I cross 112th and Amsterdam and suddenly
Am 20 years-old again,
Drunk, out-of-control in pain without knowing
Why, trying to jump a taxi
Because I’d spent my money on booze, and the cop
Whose car pulled into the crosswalk to block me,
To stop me as I ran, gets out and says to me
If you don’t pay the man, I’ll arrest you.
I was underage. I jumped a taxi. I was incoherent and angry.
I did not have the money to pay the man. I was not arrested.
Turning from the news, I complain now to a friend
I don’t know why we (all of us) should want to live—
It’s all so futile and banal. It’s all so pointless, even when it’s good—
As my mother rests inside her safe and dusty room
Next to the man she crossed an ocean to find.
I have thought her wrong
To think that we would need saving. But what do I know
Of having to choose one violence over another? Asleep now
She rests inside her flesh, my father close beside her
On his back, his forearm across his eyes,
He who chose her, too,
And over his own family, he knew to tell us, having learned early
That you must cross whatever line you have to cross.
Copyright © 2018 by Charif Shanahan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
You might say fear is a predictable emotion & I might agree. Whenever my husband leaves for his graveyard shift, when he prepares to walk out into the abyss of black sky, I am afraid tonight will be the night I become a widow. I don't want to love like this. But here we are: walking hand in hand in our parkas down the avenues & he pulls away from me. I might be in some dreamy place, thinking of the roast chicken we just had, the coconut peas & rice he just cooked, & how the food has filled our bellies with delight. How many times can I speak about black men & an officer enters the scene? I don't want to love like this. But there is a gun in the holster & a hand on the gun in the holster & my husband's hands are no longer in his pockets because it is night & we are just trying to breathe in some fresh evening air, trying to be unpredictable, to forget fear for a moment & live in love & love.
Copyright © 2018 by DéLana R. A. Dameron. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
he said describing the fantasy novel he was reading as they walked the drizzled streets she was listening & laughing & realized she’d been walking through one city or another next to this man for more than twenty years longer of course than their kids were old their smart alecky sons who hadn’t yet met the person with whom they might walk through rain discussing ridiculous books with great sincerity & pleasure Seriously he said I can’t stop reading it but when they went upstairs to the good bed in the good hotel he did stop reading & found a place where her shoulder met her neck & touched it until her mind finally went away for a while & they became bedraggled & he went out like a light but not even the good bed at the good hotel after good sex could put her to sleep not the meditation app or the long online essay about the White Supremacy of Conceptual Poetry she missed her dead mother & her middle-aged cousin who’d died the summer before she wondered if miles away her youngest was whimpering was her oldest awake texting was her middle son worrying she wanted the husband to tell her the plot again but didn’t want to wake him he lay over the covers on his back his breath audible & regular folded hands rising & falling peaceful & fearless as if she’d never once meant him harm as if she’d always loved this warm animal as if this were not the same summer she’d said If that’s really how you feel this isn’t going to last & he hadn’t said anything anger sadness doubt & disappointment was a wave that slapped them down & under so many people had died & life felt shorter than how long they’d been together they had through so many omissions & commissions hurt & been hurt it was that same summer but she was alive & awake he was asleep & alive they were weak but still there
Copyright © 2018 by Rachel Zucker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
My handwriting is all over these woods.
No, my handwriting is these woods,
each tree a half-print, half-cursive scrawl,
each loop a limb. My house is somewhere
here, & I have scribbled myself inside it.
What is home but a book we write, then
read again & again, each time dog-earing
different pages. In the morning I wake
in time to pencil the sun high. How
fragile it is, the world—I almost wrote
the word but caught myself. Either one
could be erased. In these written woods,
branches smudge around me whenever
I take a deep breath. Still, written fawns
lie in the written sunlight that dapples
their backs. What is home but a passage
I’m writing & underlining every time I read it.
Copyright © 2018 by Maggie Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 8, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
and i was thinking about this while i was flying toward iowa and thinking about how everyone was going to be trying to locate the avant-garde and about how almost everyone was going to agree that it would involve either shocking or making it new and and that i was supposed to be talking about this too and i realized i was going to be confused because practically every role classically attributed to the avant-garde has been preempted by something else and i reflected that i myself have never really had a clear image of what it was to be avant-garde though ive been thrust into the role often enough to know what it feels like to be avant-garde a friend of mine had written a book marjorie perloff had written a book dealing with american poetry as a kind of french connection as opposed to the english connection which is conventionally supposed for it in the schools now i personally think there are many roots to contemporary american poetry certainly my poetry and the poetry i admire but i also know what writing a book means in a book you have to organize your ideas pretty much one thing at a time if its an important thing and you want to really get it done and this is a book designed to challenge what i have always thought of as the anglophiliac model of american poetry that is so dominant in those literary strongholds east of the mississippi or the connecticut river north of the monongahela that are so strongly devoted to an anglican passion that they give the impression of some kind of outpost in a novel by huxley or evelyn waugh where the people are sitting around on a veranda sipping their gin slings in the shade of the local textile factory or integrated circuit fabricating plant dreaming of playing polo or cricket or rugby in the greener older playing fields at eton or harrow which they may never have seen being often second generation eastern european jews from brooklyn or queens or lithuanians from indiana or lutherans from wisconsin and somehow there they are gathered on the veranda in new haven or manhattan in memory of the british empire of which they are among the last supports and several columns of which this book is probably intended to take away or maybe more precisely this books is only bringing the news to these outposts that the british empire has long since passed away and that the messages from england would no longer be coming and had not been coming for a long time and that there was a french connection as there is a russian connection and a spanish connection and for many a chinese connection or japanese connection there are lots of connections in this world but in a book you have to do one thing at a time the world may not happen one thing at a time but in a book you have to tell one thing at a time and my friend was invited to washington to be part of a discourse with some of these english emigres and refugees among whom were numbered harold bloom and john hollander and richard howard who are certainly distinguished members of the refugee community now marjorie was giving a talk based on the last chapter of her most recent book the poetics of indeterminacy the last chapter of which happens to deal with john cage and with me and whatever differences there may be between cage and me and these are considerable we were both obliterated by the righteous wrath of harold bloom who had hardly heard more than our names when he denounced the proceedings as ridiculous and us as nonpoets and stormed off the stage i was told about this performance of blooms and though it was wonderful and forgot about it but it was not long afterward that i was invited out to the very same place to do a talk performance on the folger librarys little shakespearean stage and it happened that when i came to do the performance i had something serious in mind because a friend of mine had died two or three days before after a sudden and unexpected hospitalization from which we had all hoped she would come out alive and i wanted to make my piece a kind of homage a mediation and speculation on the nature of her life and death so in the course of things i told her story or what i knew of it and i tried to consider the nature of the fit between the life we lead and the death we get and what i wanted to think about was whether there was such a fit and if there was what kind it was and i did the best i could under the circumstances of being there then which is my image of what an artist does and is somebody who does the best he can under the circumstances without worrying about making it new or shocking because the best you can do depends upon what you have to do and where and if you have to invent something new to do the work at hand you will but not if you have a ready-made that will work and is close at hand and you want to get on with the rest of the business then youll pick up the tool thats there a tool that somebody else has made that will work and youll lean on it and feel grateful when its good to you for somebody elses work and youll think of him as a friend who wold borrow as freely from you if he thought of it or needed to because there is a community of artists who dont recognize copyrights and patents or shouldnt except under unusual circumstances who send each other tools in the mail or exchange them in conversation in a bar though i had a couple of friends from whom i got a lot of things in the mail who got very nervous about exchanging things with each other because they had ileana sonnabend looking over their shoulders and one of them got so distressed because he had ileana looking over his shoulder forbidding him to collaborate with the other friend that when he wrote the text for the others installation performance he never put his name on it but this is an unusual situation and i only mention it because of that
From what it means to be avant-garde. Copyright © 1993 by David Antin. Reprinted with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Poem in which I have wisdom. Poem in which I have a father. Poem in which I care. Poem in which I am from another country. Poem in which I Spanish. Poem in which flowers are important. Poem in which I make pretty gestures. Poem in which I am a Deceptacon. Poem in which I am a novelist. Poem in which I use trash. Poem in which I am a baby. Poem in which I swaddle. Poem in which I bathe. Poem in which I am a box. Poem in which its face is everything. Poem in which faces are everywhere. Poem in which I swear. Poem in which I take an oath. Poem in which I make a joke. Poem in which I can’t move.
Copyright © 2018 by Paola Capó-García. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Say despite all the churches with their unlocked doors and outstretched strangers’ palmskin, I hungered still —squandered when, fell through like a crumb, I sat waiting for discovery or disintegration—something marvelous teething at the surface—a crumb, devotional, religious ecstatic closer to being worthy Desire me ruthless and naked but still in my Sunday dress you opened the window—we humid and slept open into dreaming, yes, conduit. Conduit or nothing. Conduit or bust. Nothing or busted. Hug the breakwater’s edge more the grit, my fingers—whorl, the inches of all concrete make miles of this low, walled city. Pretend expansive with me like ocean. River. Lake. Bodies.
Copyright © 2018 by Jerika Marchan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
&the shine in the small
to the boy
w you &
let me love
Copyright © 2018 by Eileen Myles. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 21, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
It turns out however that I was deeply Mistaken about the end of the world The body in flames will not be the body In flames but just a house fire ignored The black sails of that solitary burning Boat rubbing along the legs of lovers Flung into a Roman sky by a carousel The lovers too sick in their love To notice a man drenched in fire on a porch Or a child aflame mistaken for a dog Mistaken for a child running to tell of a bomb That did not knock before it entered In Gaza with its glad tidings of abundant joy In Kazimierz a god is weeping In a window one golden hand raised Above his head as if he’s slipped On the slick rag of the future our human Kindnesses unremarkable as the flies Rubbing their legs together while standing On a slice of cantaloupe Children You were never meant to be human You must be the grass You must grow wildly over the graves
Copyright © 2018 by Roger Reeves. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
with David Rothenberg, Nicola Hein, George Lewis, Dafna Naphtali, Andrew Drury, Tanya Kalmanovich, Hans Tammen, Sarah Weaver, David Grubbs, and Ally-Jane Grossan
Logistics sounds like a work song. The bottom anticipates and tills and then it’s time to turn over. This limbned, uncoordinated independence is anagnostic. Flesh touches. I am because we are is some bullshit. I ain’t because we sh
are air lore, more notes on Auto da Fé’s blacking of the presence of an absence. The abyss between frames, that dehiscence, indicates this refusal either to fuse or choose between tearing and binding, a careful preservation of wounding. The whole fade in a shuffle it projects and prepares, a soufflé of angles, a palimpsest of snares and rides, some continually hidden h, a heft of air, a thievish shift carnival, a tufted shear, a shhhh of whirr and bookfan. We wear a fan of books, page over other kissing inside lip to disappear into another outside in coming into view. We all come from nothing to hard tone row and that cool move, chafing against the new phasis of the history of displacement, sound like it got a three on it to me. Blackness is the revelation of that which makes a people uncertain, unclear and awry in its action and knowledge. I think I been thinking ‘bout that for ‘bout thirty years, Krupa become Krupskaya having lost their aura, but when I get a chance I ask Scott La Rock why I start to think and then I sink into the paper like I was ink, like I was a Chinese painter in the hold of the beholding. The zero degree is what he says; she says nothing in reply, a festival, irreparable. The age of quantum mechanical reproduction is giving tune away to rise. Collaborate elaboration, William. Infinite consanguinity, Dumbo. Fleeta Drum came with us, brought something with him, brought a swing with her to fold the document. Can improvisation be documented? Has it ever been? Lemme ask Scott when I see him—see if improvisation can be revised. Scott, can improvisation be revised? That’s an arctic jazz question, regarding whales and, further inland, elephants, and saxophone kids, non-expert users, autodidactic squirrels in task decomposition. Is there an analogy between improvisation and optimization, affirmation and ingardenation on improvisational gardening? What’s the Greek word for “reading”? Which is the point of all this rub and cyclone, when the eye falls into plenitude in a series of caressive abuse and kisses, oikopolitics and storms, good and bad time weather in a tore up propagation of clicks, which is when I realized you’d prepared the back of our throat for a speech about the tragic ship, the interminable line to it and the endless line from it, woodskin, wind’s skin, wound and drumbone, bowed, time to stay, string, till poise come back for poise, for our unsupported method and post-sculptural stuttering and non-purposive black massive hymn and sold, celebratory subcanadian scotchplain, plummets of bird patterning, the scotchirish hazarding of north ideas, habitually prenational birds, field recordings of syncrudescent birds flew down to tailing in the good and bad time weather, bird in the collective head of mama’nem at the blues university, Clyde’n’mama’nem and her and ask and think a digital conference of the birds, viola, ‘cause music is the fruit of love and earth and nobody gon’ buy it anyway, for there is nothing lost, that may be found in these findings, by these foundlings, driving ‘round vising and revisiting in the inescapable history of not being you. Our name is unnameable in this regard and miles ahead, feeling what you can’t see all incompletely. The half-fullness of your glasses makes you wanna make the word go away but you do have a capacity for massage that gives me hope. In the delicate evening software, I can understand Russell Westbrook. It’s ulmeric, oliveirian, in its unfirewalled all over the placelessness. We gig everywhere and it just makes me wanna giggle, or holler at you from way over here, party over there, if you can wait, we being behind the beat a little bit but right at the beguining, gynomonastically basic and maternal earth tones all out from the tone world, deep in the bass loom, twilight weaving morning in La Jolla/moonlight in Vermont someplace, some folks parking, some just getting dressed, everybody waiting with everybody for right now in right there, party over here. Well moled, old Grubbs! We all here in the ruins but we got something in our hands—an experimental bandcamp for news and flowers. And I appreciate y’all letting me sit in, being so far from virtuosity. I wanna be communicable from way back. I wanna be in your base community, grace abounding to the chief of sinners. Remember that song by the Spinners called “Sadie”? The one on Spinners Live! where he reverted—that contrapulsive, not just knee-deep conversioning he got caught up in? Soul Wynne was sewing that night. It was like he had a drum in his chest, just to let you know that nothing lasts forever. The improvisation of forgetting is redactive flow everyday with all these voices in our head. These are always revising herself. One said they told us to be Germanic so, with great surprise, we took a picture of your tech with yourself, our constraint, and it was undecidable between us but plantational, since we the police of different voices, to be your instrument in this sovereign fade. Go back and look at it again when we fade a little bit, when invention won’t let us come up on it from behind. I don’t know my own stuff well enough to mix it right now, but we been remixing it all along past the everyday fade. Mama’nem are the different voices in your head. Are you gon’ play me now? I wan be played with you. I wanna be down with you. My code voice is Stanley Clarke, rajautomatic mixive for the people’s quartet, no way to control it, can’t caul it, won’t be covered, some uncoverable cuvée, girl, some prekripkean cupcake, causally unnameable as that Krupa keep coming back, tense but casually anafrican. Scott says the Greek word for reading is writing. It could be, I don’t know. I’m undecidable between us but you can ring my bell. The night is young and full of possibilities, the only trace of which, when I go back, is how I sound for you from one diffusion to another, as if the room were our hijab, as if we were a roomful of people writing about Cecil Taylor, as if writing about Cecil were reading James Cone, as if I were Sharon Cone’s escort to Cecil’s going home, as if we were the temporary contemporary—air above mountains, buildings in our hands.
Copyright © 2018 by Fred Moten. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Dear Empire, I am confused each time I wake inside you.
You invent addictions.
Are you a high-end graveyard or a child?
I see your children dragging their brains along.
Why not a god who loves water and dancing
instead of mirrors that recite your pretty features only?
You wear a different face to each atrocity.
You are un-unified and tangled.
Are you just gluttony?
Are you civilization’s slow grenade?
I am confused each time I’m swallowed by your doors.
Copyright © 2018 by Jesús Castillo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
When you said people did you mean punish?
When you said friend did you mean fraud?
When you said thought did you mean terror?
When you said connection did you mean con?
When you said God did you mean greed?
When you said faith did you mean fanatic?
When you said hope did you mean hype?
When you said unity did you mean enmity?
When you said freedom did you mean forfeit?
When you said law did you mean lie?
When you said truth did you mean treason?
When you said feeling did you mean fool?
When you said together did you mean token?
When you said desire did you mean desert?
When you said sex did you mean savagery?
When you said need did you mean nought?
When you said blood did you mean bought?
When you said heart did you mean hard?
When you said head did you mean hide?
When you said health did you mean hurt?
When you said love did you mean loss?
When you said fate did you mean fight?
When you said destiny did you mean decimate?
When you said honor did you mean hunger?
When you said bread did you mean broke?
When you said feast did you mean fast?
When you said first did you mean forgotten?
When you said last did you mean least?
When you said woman did you mean wither?
When you said man did you mean master?
When you said mother did you mean smother?
When you said father did you mean fatal?
When you said sister did you mean surrender?
When you said brother did you mean brutal?
When you said fellow did you mean follow?
When you said couple did you mean capital?
When you said family did you mean failure?
When you said mankind did you mean market?
When you said society did you mean sickness?
When you said democracy did you mean indignity?
When you said equality did you mean empty?
When you said politics did you mean power?
When you said left did you mean lost?
When you said right did you mean might?
When you said republic did you mean rich?
When you said wealthy did you mean wall?
When you said poor did you mean prison?
When you said justice did you mean just us?
When you said immigrant did you mean enemy?
When you said refugee did you mean refusal?
When you said earth did you mean ownership?
When you said soil did you mean oil?
When you said community did you mean conflict?
When you said safety did you mean suspicion?
When you said security did you mean sabotage?
When you said army did you mean Armageddon?
When you said white did you mean welcome?
When you said black did you mean back?
When you said yellow did you mean yield?
When you said brown did you mean down?
When you said we did you mean war?
When you said you did you mean useless?
When you said she did you mean suffer?
When you said he did you mean horror?
When you said they did you mean threat?
When you said I did you mean island?
When you said tribe did you mean trouble?
When you said name did you mean nobody?
When you said news did you mean nonsense?
When you said media did you mean miasma?
When you said success did you mean sucker?
When you said fame did you mean game?
When you said ideal did you mean idol?
When you said yesterday did you mean travesty?
When you said today did you mean doomsday?
When you said tomorrow did you mean never?
When you said hear did you mean hush?
When you said listen did you mean limit?
When you said write did you mean wound?
When you said read did you mean retreat?
When you said literacy did you mean apathy?
When you said fiction did you mean forget?
When you said poetry did you mean passivity?
When you say art do you mean act?
Copyright © 2018 by John Keene. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I began to die, then. I think
I was asleep. Dreaming
of an afterlife that revised
my flesh into what
I had wanted. Why do
I think of Ronald Reagan
the way one recalls
the sick heart and terror
which is percussive.
Was this the year
I saw him at the airport.
Men grimly tested
my body for hidden death,
waving a wand up
and down. My left arm
and it was surgery
that put it right. Look,
if you want, at
the pale stippling of scar,
there. Some nights I wake
and everything hurts
a little. It is
amazing how long
a ruined thing
will burn. In the night,
there are words,
though often I've denied
their shape. Their sound.
My soul: whatever
it sings it is singing.
Copyright © 2018 by Paul Guest. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
In a dream I spoke with the Cyprus-born, And said to her, "Mother of beauty, mother of joy, Why hast thou given to men "This thing called love, like the ache of a wound In beauty's side, To burn and throb and be quelled for an hour And never wholly depart?" And the daughter of Cyprus said to me, "Child of the earth, Behold, all things are born and attain, But only as they desire,— "The sun that is strong, the gods that are wise, The loving heart, Deeds and knowledge and beauty and joy,— But before all else was desire."
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 7, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
1. lush field of shadows, static hush and radial itch, primordial 2. goo of the sonogram’s wand gliding across my belly 3. my daughter blooming into focus, feathered 4. and fluttering across the stormy screen, the way it rained 5. so hard one night in April driving home from the café in Queens 6. where we’d eaten sweet tamales I thought we might drown 7. in the flooded streets but we didn’t and I want to say 8. that was the night she was conceived: husk and sugar, 9. an apartment filled with music, hiss of damp clothes 10. drying on the radiator, a prayer made with a record’s broken needle 11. to become beaming and undone.
Copyright © 2018 by Kendra DeColo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
What can I say to cheer you up? This afternoon the sky is like five portholes between the clouds. The unidentifiable weeds are tall and still unidentifiable and I miss the cows in the field, where have they gone? Sometimes one would wander then stand in the middle of the road and I’d have to stop my car and wait for it to decide to finish crossing. I am drinking seltzer through a straw because of my injury and I have inexplicable bruises on the side of my thigh and I just spent the last five minutes watching a bird through my window sitting in the small crotch where two phone lines x together though it flew off before I could take a picture of it. In the urgent care waiting room this morning there was a magazine with a proven neuroscience article on rituals that will make us happy and the first was practicing gratitude but when I tried to think of something right there next to the guy with the walker and the woman with gauze held to her cheek I came up blank. Because I am a terrible person I will tell you that my neighbor does this thing I hate with her kids called heart-bread, where they’re forced each night before bed to go around one by one and come up with a moment of gratitude and I want to tell her that we can thank anything—the crushed cans in recycling, my wristwatch for keeping time, the rainstorm yesterday that had water pouring from the gutters. I mean, we all overflow; we all feel an abundance of something but sometimes it’s just emptiness: vacant page, busy signal, radio static, implacable repeat rut where the tone arm reaches across a spinning vinyl record to play it again, rest its delicate needle in a groove and caress forever the same sound from the same body. Which is to say that the opposite of ennui is excitement and I’m not feeling it either today even a little. Not in the CVS while browsing the shiny electric rainbow nail-polish display indefinitely while waiting for my prescription. And probably not on my run later no matter how bucolic the mountains seem in the 5pm heat. The second ritual in that article was to touch people, which is easy if you’re with people you can touch but I’m in too loud a solitude and can only touch myself which reminds me of that old Divinyls’ song and I’m pretty sure that’s not what the article meant. Buber says you has no borders but he’s talking about god I think since this is not true of us because we all have bodies which make us small countries or maybe islands. If summer means our bodies are more porous perhaps we’re also more open to this inexplicable sadness that hangs here from the cinderblocks, drags itself across the barbed wire fence. What I’m trying to tell you is that I’m not cheered up either. That bird, before it flew off, I like to think of the crossed wires, the impenetrable conversations rushing under its feet.
Copyright © 2018 by Erika Meitner. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
meaning that the moon will pass over the sun and blank it out. in that moment the corona will appear to become brighter. it “appears” because it does not actually become brighter; it “appears” to be so in that moment grasses will whisper and the stars will turn red, blue, green and maybe even speak—what will they say? SETI will pick up a message from beyond newly discovered possibly planetary bodies. there will be a low beeping and crunching sound that seems to emanate from all over, but most likely from three blocks away where men are directing a bulldozer to tear up the street and it sounds so omnipresent, we were all talking about it this morning. it is small yet momentous, how molecules jostle one another to carry the sound of their jostling over often enormous distances. in that moment of eclipse the phone rings, have you seen it, are you seeing it, I finally understand what we’re doing, in this moment of glowing darkness I understand what I put in the water I drink the water and if together we are all getting hot we are making it hot and I must find my way to the water from the bed through all the squares of darkness and back again through treachery of light
Copyright © 2018 by Marcella Durand. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
3. (Jeong Seon’s Album of Mount Geumgang)
Jeong Seon began his career
in the low-ranking position
of adjunct professor
of administrative iconography.
Breaking with convention,
he diligently studied the birth of a brushstroke
by gazing at
the surviving itinerary of an unrealistic river, at the
rippling rapport of vegetation and rain.
He preferred to observe and preserve
the essential concerns of a superfluous calligraphy
and thus did not succeed
in his civil exams.
When he was thirty-six years old,
northern border of poetry and astronomy,
repeatedly painted a series of eccentric circles
and so gained access
to the crystal bridge
between ink and atmosphere.
His artist name became
Magistrate of Waterfalls, and
Jeong was said to have annotated
the nine-bend stream of time.
Analysis of Jeong’s preeminent painting,
The Four Horsemen at Big Dipper Pavilion
wished for figures in revolutionary mansions—
a remembrance external to its style.
is a spiked and turquoise perspective
and a diagonal
dismemberment of silk.
The painting was able to route
Jeong’s identity around
a dominant focal point, along wavy and uncertain patterns,
through environmental conditions of blue.
One can grasp
his aesthetics of juxtaposition
as long as one is covered in mist, or enriched
by hemp-fiber clouds, but
horizontally in the heart of the sea.
In Transmitting the Vertical Immensity of Coniferous Light, characteristic
of his more mature style,
Jeong’s command of a
rhythmically surging semicircle
evokes the overwhelming
how a higher philosophical plane could be
so astounded by the mundane.
Here, the twelve thousand pillars of basalt
do not overwhelm the composition;
rather, they commemorate
that sunrise is a landscape’s subsidiary entryway into the
verdant flow of the visible.
A yangban painter once
“According to where he sits, Jeong Seon
resembles a rugged jar-shaped diamond,
an arrangement of Mi dots,
or a panoramic dichotomy in detail.
Now at age seventy-two he is
much more than an amplification of the massiveness of soil.”
beautiful example of Jeong’s expansive style
is today known as
A Documentary Record of Aristocratic Time Travel,
the reinterpreted bodies
of a great-great-grandfather
and his great-great-grandchild
listening to the collision of dark energy.
Jeong’s strong lines here
impart a wide-angle awe
that connects the flow of inner color
to outer air, a sense that even hawks could survive
in our world
of dissimilar forms.
Literati writing under a predated nom de plume
compiled ninety-six poems about the painting
and published them in the Album of
By the time the colophon was written,
the appended poems
had been vicariously exaggerating
their own images
—as if they were looking
through the zoom lens of a camera
at a human eye.
Copyright © 2018 by Michael Leong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 7, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
O God, my dream! I dreamed that you were dead; Your mother hung above the couch and wept Whereon you lay all white, and garlanded With blooms of waxen whiteness. I had crept Up to your chamber-door, which stood ajar, And in the doorway watched you from afar, Nor dared advance to kiss your lips and brow. I had no part nor lot in you, as now; Death had not broken between us the old bar; Nor torn from out my heart the old, cold sense Of your misprision and my impotence.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
On TV, someone is selling the idea of buying by way of a happy family by way of a cleaning product. I want—, I say. Then your mouth on my mouth. Your mouth on my belly. And then. I was never good at being a girl. All those hands made dirty work. Once, my grandmother scooped the Tennessee soil, put it in my mouth. It tasted true. I wanted more. In my steepled city steeped in song, I pitied that christian god his labor. He made marrow and astonishment of us. We made bludgeon of him, bland bread of his son. My neighbor used to be a missionary. Now he spends days painting a bird pecking at the eyeballs of a dead girl. In the painting, you can only see the bird. See how the artist probes the light so the feathers shimmer. Beautiful, the TV mother says to each guest as the house burns down. She sashays through the parlor, stopping to nibble on a stuffed mushroom, dab sweat from the brow of a dignitary. Everything is a metaphor until the body abuts it. Even then. Metaphor with blood. Metaphor with teeth. Metaphor with epinephrine. I name each blow desire. Look how your hand revises my form. Extraordinary ability. Prodigal child. You leave and take your weather with you. I take your language to polish my wound, but rarely do I dare to mean anything at all. A poem is evidence of nothing. You cannot prosecute with a poem. I thought your violence made me good. I thought your desire made me beautiful though the signs chirping wanted all had your face. Maybe you’ve named me innocent after living so long in my mouth. I, for one, always fall in love with the person holding the pen. What will you bring me when I tell you what I’ve done? Lobster, slant of light, doilied petition, blond girl playing scales on the violin? Oh, I will reach right through her. I will extract her best music.
Copyright © 2018 by Claire Schwartz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
from an inherited notebook (I) How many teeth does the snail have? tens of thousands upon the tongue. thousands those who fell loose from within my home. a flesh so soft so full of bite. I molar– EXCEPTION––you the fangs. (II) How many words does English have? tens of thous- ands & tens of thousands obsolete.–––EXCEPTION FOR you I earned –– a credential in what was said to break in the mo uth. (III) Who are the candid
entsates for president of the USA? contra. crisis. turning point: . نقطھ عطف on the contrary. ca da paso que das. civil. The ali en must establish–––.good ness. In good faith. in case you wonder. admissible. Marr red. marriage. EXCEPTION ––. I feel like––to:–– I’m in the mud to doing s. thing. an anniversary. flow. fire fourth of july. (IV) What happened at the how do you mean.–– all those days for mastery & yet money is–– EXCEPTION––. invisible & power. to make a living. for your teeth I ghost wrote a letter so that they would un derstand. every one fallen meant new ones that I would someday give to you. flow ship. restoration. what should i do if i want to continue.–– the future. what we take as return. precious common porcelain. (V) What color of the earth from out of it home is the faint brown of a martyr’s soil. bend your head before it. salat.––sal t. it is possible that––it is– is both? alien. citizen snail. IN GENERAL––. if it is holy then one must bend before its purity. like our flesh so soft. so full. so much for repair.
Copyright © 2018 by Maryam Ivette Parhizkar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
(from Negro Mountain)
Wolves came up the driveway and through the side yard of the old house—this was in kindergarten time—and I stood still though I was frightened to be in their midst and they took note of me but did not bite or threaten me. The light was light I had known—by then— having seen it in the hour before a thunderstorm: dull, bitter light, and everywhere though without apparent source. The wolves had ragged gray pelts—bad fur, tufts of it—and their hindquarters were skinny in comparison to their very big shoulders. They’d come in apparently from the street, Liscum Drive, and onto the property (which was nearly an acre and had once been a farmstead), and they parted around where I was standing. It was almost literally a wave of them, those wolves, as though they’d come up the hill from West Third Street or somehow got through the chain-link fence of the V.A. cemetery that traced the hill on Liscum Drive. A white friend wrote to me, the human figure passes through the animal pack unharmed. And she said that she saw the dream as being not about the wolves as much as passing through adversity, this exchange decades after the dream itself, which had been a thing of moment—visual, tinctured with obvious anxiety—and current in my memory for that time before the year she and I met. Make no mistake, dear and articulate friends, I knew it was an unstable moment. My thumbs were different, I’d seen, from one another. Beyond the driveway had been pear and walnut trees. One passes through a wood, or a track does. A dull feeling overtakes you in the field. There had been a gate at the driveway but only the posts remained, grown through by the hedges that stopped on either side of the entrance from the street. What do hills summarize? Origin stories? Right and left separated long before this. Bait me, love —I can pass until I speak.
Copyright © 2018 by C. S. Giscombe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
(the passports curled up) (it was so humid in our rented room) (travel to forget the criminal element) (in my bad blood) (Nothing very significant at the cemetery) (an unremarkable lunch salad) (The thrift shop closed six months ago) ((We lit candles for a man who died) (rusted cellar grate)) (near to home) (I was afraid (and I made my friend afraid too)) (another woman altogether said they may be (murderers)) ((I'm more worried about) being backed over by construction vehicles) (in other places) (I do pray for my family's safety) (mother says it isn't working)
Copyright © 2018 by Krystal Languell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 21, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
But my loyalty
But my economies
of scale, my digital
compression :: companionship.
But my all-
loneliness, my rail-
But my market-
handles, my accrued
But my taste
But my choice
of protein, of pit-baked
avarice, of indulgences.
as does CAESAR.]
But my supply
side floods, my O’
so buoyant home
staked and sandbagged
on striving’s pebbly shore.
But my internal
combustion, my miles,
Kingdom Come. Nothing.
But my fast casual
wrapped in a bank
But my user-friendly
righteousness, my Gross
In place of the old wants …
we finds new wants.
But my comfort,
my tariffed aches,
prerogatives. I made
you didn’t. Right, Ted?
But my ability to believe
that what I’ve paid for,
I have made. Nothing
to lose, except ownership
of this wallet-sized tomb—
these six crisp walls.
Copyright © 2018 by Kyle Dargan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Turns out lots of lines prove blurry I once thought sharp. Some blur from further away, some from closer in. Plant/animal, for instance. On which side, and why, the sessile polyps, corals and sea anemones? Same problem saying why my self must be internal. Where do I see those finches glinting at the feeder? To experience the is-ness of what is, I’d need to locate the here-ness of what’s here. Or be located by it. Or share location with it. There’s a line I want to blur: between my senses and my self. And another: between my senses and the world. That anemone looks more like a lily than an appaloosa. Looks, and acts. I feel that fizz of finches sparkle on my tongue, the back of my throat. I don’t say these words until I hear them. My voice visits. Is visitation. I would choose the role of visitor over visited, if I got to choose. Those finches trill and warble in sequences of phrases. I can tell there’s pattern, but not what the pattern is. I can say I hear them (I do hear them) in my sleep, but I can’t say what that means. Their twitters and chirps start early, before I wake. I can say they chatter all day (they do), when I’m hearing them and when I’m not, but I can’t say how I know that. The back of my hand always feels as if it’s just been lightly touched.
Copyright © 2018 by H. L. Hix. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Sometimes you don’t die
when you’re supposed to
& now I have a choice
repair a world or build
a new one inside my body
a white door opens
into a place queerly brimming
gold light so velvet-gold
it is like the world
when I call out
all my friends are there
everyone we love
is still alive gathered
at the lakeside
my honeyed kin
beneath the sky
a garden blue stalks
white buds the moon’s
marble glow the fire
distant & flickering
the body whole bright-
with the hours
of the day beautiful
nameless planet. Oh
friends, my friends—
bloom how you must, wild
until we are free.
Copyright © 2018 by Cameron Awkward-Rich. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 30, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Before this day I loved like an animal loves a human, with no way to articulate how my bones felt in bed or how a telephone felt so strange in my paw. O papa— I called out to no one— but no one understood. I didn’t even. I wanted to be caught. Like let me walk beside you on my favorite leash, let my hair grow long and wild so you can comb it in the off-hours, be tender to me. Also let me eat the meals you do not finish so I can acclimate, climb into the way you claim this world. Once, I followed married men: eager for shelter, my fur curled, my lust freshly showered. I called out, Grief. They heard, Beauty. I called out, Why? They said, Because I can and will. One smile could sustain me for a week. I was that hungry. Lithe and giddy, my skin carried the ether of a so-so self-esteem. I felt fine. I was fine, but I was also looking for scraps; I wanted them all to pet me. You think because I am a woman, I cannot call myself a dog? Look at my sweet canine mind, my long, black tongue. I know what I’m doing. When you’re with the wrong person, you start barking. But with you, I am looking out this car window with a heightened sense I’ve always owned. Oh every animal knows when something is wrong. Of this sweet, tender feeling, I was wrong, and I was right, and I was wrong.
Copyright © 2018 by Analicia Sotelo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
—After Ana Mendieta Did you carry around the matin star? Did you hold forest-fire in one hand? Would you wake to radiate, shimmer, gleam lucero-light? Through the morning would you measure the wingspan of an idea taking off— & by night would you read by the light of your own torso? Did you hear through the curtains a voice, through folds & folds of fabric a lowdown voice—How are you fallen from—How are you cut down to the ground? * Would gunpowder flash up in the other hand? Were you the most beautiful of them—the most beauty, full bew, teful, bu wtie, full be out, i full, btfl? Did the sky flutter & flower like bridal shrouds? Did a dog rise in the East in it? Did a wolf set in the West? Were they a thirsty pair? And was there a meadow? How many flowers to pick? And when no flowers, were you gathering bone chips & feathers & mud? Was music a circle that spun? * Did you spin it in reverse? Was your singing a rushlight, pyre light, a conflagration of dragonflies rushing out from your fire-throat? Did you lie down in the snow? Did it soften & thaw into a pool of your shape? Did you whisper to the graven thing, whisper a many lowdown phrase: How are you fallen my btfl? Would they trek closer, the animals? A grand iridium thirst, each arriving with their soft velour mouths to drink your silhouette?
Copyright © 2018 by Carolina Ebeid. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Her eyes were mostly shut. She didn’t speak.
The sun’s slow exile crossed the wall above the bed.
But once, when I bent to feed her a drop
of morphine from the little plastic beak,
her hand shot up and gripped my arm. She looked right at me.
When she said the words, it sounded like she meant: Don't leave me.
From the very first, we love like this: our heads turning
toward whatever mothers us, our mouths urgent
for the taste of our name.
Copyright © 2018 by Jenny George. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I wrote hard
at the bottom
of a pool
near a canyon
where the stars
slid onto their bellies
I went through
through the leaves
of La Puente
to see the moon
but it was too late
too long ago
to walk on glass.
Near those years
when the house fell on me
my father told me
in bed with
From a plum tree
the sound of branches
fall like fruit
no longer afraid
my voice like water
pulled from the well
where the wind had been buried
where someone was always
running into my room
asking, what’s wrong?
Copyright © 2018 by Diana Marie Delgado. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
& anyway, what good is the metronomic one-note canon two house sparrows cant aloft, between, the pine privacy fence, if not to simulate estrangement? Watching them watching me, I think, First impressions are so medieval. O, to be the provincial drawbridge damming a ramshackle interior, or the alligator- green moat babbling sparsely beneath it— all the unknowable utterances one cheeps forth to be peripherally endeared. A chorus which, at the moment, I take to mean Friend, you look well from this distance, from my vantage, perched over here.
Copyright © 2018 by Marcus Wicker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
You will transcend your ancestor’s suffering You will pick a blue ball. You will throw it to yourself. You will be on the other side to receive. Green leaves grow around your face. Hair stands on your body. You look at old photographs that say: The bread is warm! A child is a blessing! That’s what I said! I meant it! You could say this is a poem. Like the great halves of the roof that caved and carved together. Found us before words and tender-footing. Before wrongdoing and the octaves of blue above us all.
Copyright © 2018 by Sarah Gambito. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I will wade out till my thighs are steeped in burn- ing flowers I will take the sun in my mouth and leap into the ripe air Alive with closed eyes to dash against darkness in the sleeping curves of my body Shall enter fingers of smooth mastery with chasteness of sea-girls Will I complete the mystery of my flesh I will rise After a thousand years lipping flowers And set my teeth in the silver of the moon
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
The time of birds died sometime between When Robert Kennedy, Jr. disappeared and the Berlin Wall came down. Hope was pro forma then. We’d begun to talk about shelf-life. Parents Thought they’d gotten somewhere. I can’t tell you What to make of this now without also saying that when I was 19 and read in a poem that the pure products of America go crazy I felt betrayed. My father told me not to whistle because I Was a girl. He gave me my first knife and said to keep it in my right Hand and to keep my right hand in my right pocket when I walked at night. He showed me the proper kind of fist and the sweet spot on the jaw To leverage my shorter height and upper-cut someone down. There were probably birds on the long walk home but I don’t Remember them because pastoral is not meant for someone With a fist in each pocket waiting for a reason.
Copyright © 2018 by Ruth Ellen Kocher. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
O what a life is the eye! what a strange and inscrutable essence! Him, that is utterly blind, nor glimpses the fire that warms him; Him that never beheld the swelling breast of his mother; Him that smiled in his gladness as a babe that smiles in its slumber; Even for him it exists! It moves and stirs in its prison! Lives with a separate life: and—“Is it a spirit!” he murmurs: “Sure, it has thoughts of its own, and to see is only a language!”
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 21, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
The Blue Dress—died on August 6,
2015, along with the little blue flowers,
all silent. Once the petals looked up.
Now small pieces of dust. I wonder
whether they burned the dress or just
the body? I wonder who lifted her up
into the fire? I wonder if her hair
brushed his cheek before it grew into a
bonfire? I wonder what sound the body
made as it burned? They dyed her hair
for the funeral, too black. She looked
like a comic character. I waited for the
next comic panel, to see the speech
bubble and what she might say. But her
words never came and we were left
with the stillness of blown glass. The
irreversibility of rain. And millions of
little blue flowers. Imagination is having
to live in a dead person’s future. Grief is
wearing a dead person’s dress forever.
Copyright © 2018 by Victoria Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 15, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Orchids are sprouting from the floorboards. Orchids are gushing out from the faucets. The cat mews orchids from his mouth. His whiskers are also orchids. The grass is sprouting orchids. It is becoming mostly orchids. The trees are filled with orchids. The tire swing is twirling with orchids. The sunlight on the wet cement is a white orchid. The car’s tires leave a trail of orchids. A bouquet of orchids lifts from its tailpipe. Teenagers are texting each other pictures of orchids on their phones, which are also orchids. Old men in orchid penny loafers furiously trade orchids. Mothers fill bottles with warm orchids to feed their infants, who are orchids themselves. Their coos are a kind of orchid. The clouds are all orchids. They are raining orchids. The walls are all orchids, the teapot is an orchid, the blank easel is an orchid, and this cold is an orchid. Oh, Lydia, we miss you terribly.
Copyright © 2017 by Kaveh Akbar. From Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James Books, 2017). Used with permission of the author.
everyone knows about the woman who fell in love with the bridge
but no one cares how the bridge felt after.
everyone knows about the poet who leapt from the deck of a ship
but not how the boat lifted & bloated in his wake like a white infant
spread over the bed of a lake.
we leave our objects behind us. we collect our dead’s leavings & listen
for their breathing in the soft mouths of gloves. we believe them.
i care too much & still have the dead boy’s red sweater. i tongue
the wound. i tender this mule. i unravel quick my flesh debt.
every word an object in my dark wet house. everyone asks after
the living but no one cares how the cotton sobs in my mouth.
i am become warehouse : i am destroy speech.
everyone knows the poet fell from the bridge because he jumped.
no one cares there’s nothing left for us but his poems
not even a simple plaque drilled into the bridge’s throat reads :
this is where the man lived
this is where the man broke
this is the man
this is the man stretched
between two cold cities
you are standing
on his back.
Copyright © 2016 by sam sax. “Objectophile” originally appeared in Meridian. Reprinted with permission of the author.
It was like this:
you were happy, then you were sad,
then happy again, then not.
It went on.
You were innocent or you were guilty.
Actions were taken, or not.
At times you spoke, at other times you were silent.
Mostly, it seems you were silent—what could you say?
Now it is almost over.
Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.
It does this not in forgiveness—
between you, there is nothing to forgive—
but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment
he sees the bread is finished with transformation.
Eating, too, is a thing now only for others.
It doesn’t matter what they will make of you
or your days: they will be wrong,
they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man,
all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention.
Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad,
you slept, you awakened.
Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts, sometimes persimmons.
Originally published in After (HarperCollins, 2006); all rights reserved. Copyright © by Jane Hirshfield. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
She’s in the desert
releasing the ashes of her father,
the ashes of her child,
or the ashes of the world. She is not
what she observes. The rare spinystar.
It does not belong to her. Bright needle threading
a cloud through the sky. There’s sun enough,
there’s afterlife. Her own body, a pillar of ash.
I fall to pieces, she says. Faithless
nimbus, faithless thought. In my life,
I have lost two men. One by death,
by error: a waste. He wept
from a northern state,
hunger too cold
for human knowledge.
Once I was a woman with nothing to say.
Never did I say ash to ash.
Never has the desert woken me up.
who releases whom?
Inevitably, all have known
what the desert knows. No one
will count the lupine when I’m gone.
No one looks to the sun
for meaning. For meat
I’ve done so much less.
Cattle in the far basin, sagebrush, sage.
I live in the city where I loved that man.
The ash of him, the self’s argument.
Now and then, I think of his weeping,
how my body betrays me:
I am not done with releasing.
Copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 11, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
I buried my father in the sky. Since then, the birds clean and comb him every morning and pull the blanket up to his chin every night. I buried my father underground. Since then, my ladders only climb down, and all the earth has become a house whose rooms are the hours, whose doors stand open at evening, receiving guest after guest. Sometimes I see past them to the tables spread for a wedding feast. I buried my father in my heart. Now he grows in me, my strange son, my little root who won’t drink milk, little pale foot sunk in unheard-of night, little clock spring newly wet in the fire, little grape, parent to the future wine, a son the fruit of his own son, little father I ransom with my life.
Li-Young Lee, "Little Father" from Book of My Nights. Copyright © 2001 by Li-Young Lee. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., boaeditions.org.
Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking through bare rooms over my head, opening and closing doors. What could he be looking for in an empty house? What could he possibly need there in heaven? Does he remember his earth, his birthplace set to torches? His love for me feels like spilled water running back to its vessel. At this hour, what is dead is restless and what is living is burning. Someone tell him he should sleep now. My father keeps a light on by our bed and readies for our journey. He mends ten holes in the knees of five pairs of boy's pants. His love for me is like sewing: various colors and too much thread, the stitching uneven. But the needle pierces clean through with each stroke of his hand. At this hour, what is dead is worried and what is living is fugitive. Someone tell him he should sleep now. God, that old furnace, keeps talking with his mouth of teeth, a beard stained at feasts, and his breath of gasoline, airplane, human ash. His love for me feels like fire, feels like doves, feels like river-water. At this hour, what is dead is helpless, kind and helpless. While the Lord lives. Someone tell the Lord to leave me alone. I've had enough of his love that feels like burning and flight and running away.
From The City In Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee. Copyright © 1990 by Li-Young Lee. Reprinted with permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. All rights reserved.
It wasn’t the bright hems of the Lord’s skirts that brushed my face and I opened my eyes to see from a cleft in rock His backside; it’s a wasp perched on my left cheek. I keep my eyes closed and stand perfectly still in the garden till it leaves me alone, not to contemplate how this century ends and the next begins with no one I know having seen God, but to wonder why I get through most days unscathed, though I live in a time when it might be otherwise, and I grow more fatherless each day. For years now I have come to conclusions without my father’s help, discovering on my own what I know, what I don’t know, and seeing how one cancels the other. I've become a scholar of cancellations. Here, I stand among my father’s roses and see that what punctures outnumbers what consoles, the cruel and the tender never make peace, though one climbs, though one descends petal by petal to the hidden ground no one owns. I see that which is taken away by violence or persuasion. The rose announces on earth the kingdom of gravity. A bird cancels it. My eyelids cancel the bird. Anything might cancel my eyes: distance, time, war. My father said, Never take your both eyes off of the world, before he rocked me. All night we waited for the knock that would have signalled, All clear, come now; it would have meant escape; it never came. I didn’t make the world I leave you with, he said, and then, being poor, he left me only this world, in which there is always a family waiting in terror before they’re rended, this world wherein a man might arise, go down, and walk along a path and pause and bow to roses, roses his father raised, and admire them, for one moment unable, thank God, to see in each and every flower the world cancelling itself.
Li-Young Lee, "Arise, Go Down" from The City In Which I Love You. Copyright © 1990 by Li-Young Lee. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., a ahref="http://www.boaeditions.org" target=_blank>boaeditions.org.
Through predictive analytics I understood the inevitability of the caged-up babies They keep coffins at the border for when the refugees get too far from home How many thousands of bodies can we fit in a tent or a swimming pool We can live without the unknown in front of us if we keep enough babies in cages The cardboard box sleeps one kid comfortably Two is snug efficient recommended in times of austerity Relational values change in relation to market sentiments This is the danger of having too much access to illegal bodies Let’s pretend the illegal bodies are bankers Let’s stick all the bankers in cages Let’s shove shit in their mouths Let’s pretend they are eating cryptocurrency Let’s create a crisis let’s induce inflation Let’s undervalue the cost of their bodies I dream of an economy where one arrested immigrant is replaced with one dead banker I am not responsible for my dreams rather I am responsible for what I do with my dreams When the sleep medication wears off I am alone with the machines that watch me The global economy brightens my room with the surveillance of my rotten assets
Copyright © 2018 by Daniel Borzutzky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions
back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you
with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is
From Migration: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Copyright © 1988 by W. S. Merwin. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
From the island he saw the castle and from the castle he saw the island. Some people live this way—wife/ mistress/wife/mistress. But this story isn’t the one I’m telling. From the island he saw the castle and that made him distant from power and from the castle he saw the island and that made him distant from imagining what power can do. The story I’m telling is the war coming. How can you go from island to castle to island to castle and not give birth to a war? No. I still can’t explain it.
Copyright © 2018 by Jennifer Kronovet. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 23, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Why don’t more animals pass through here? Dale asked
There were none
shifting in thick oil
behind the cement wall
that kept precisely those animals out
the moon was rising
a bruise was rakish on the moon’s right brain
A coyote to the southwest on the roof of the hotel
birds, nightbirds a dog
Why didn’t more animals pass through
The strangulation of the self
to alert the family by way of torched skin
and a thin buoy of breathing
to one’s individuality
as a service
to extinction personal in-fruition
Is Jupiter red? One star was the question
meeting itself in the atom-sphere
Animals were parading eating the mustards
and ants fallen fruits
a grapefruit? I asked.
a pear, Dale said.
We were in the sly suburbs, sitting by a swimming pool
The lack of animals was the consequence
of enforcement the prospectus of looking
at oneself and seeing an end the end
when the ark has been sent off
depleted in the mirage of heat
curling the horizon
to the contemplation of the human
on the shore
the contemplation is impatient
Why stammer animals are on the roof
in the trees the wall that starts at the ground
hedgerows, motion lights
gates, kitchen windows,
animals are abundant
Why don’t more humans pass through here?
Copyright © 2018 by Brandon Shimoda. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
The larval aura makes summer sense to me who’s alone with my aftermath and the teeth have been torn out of the mask that represents mimicry nobody wants to tell me with summer-breaths where it hurts or who was injured when I broke into a toxic garble with a hissing snake for a heart when I was sweaty and tired I learned to kiss in the underworld with my mother tongue and my hymn to inflation already sung in a dazzling killer language I learned to speak in the most toxic state with my father tongue while the war was at war with a war and a mother war took place between summer and my virgin arms I know the emergency state of being alive has little to do with my tongue it has to do with the lies I tell my children with my father tongue I’m interviewing them for roles in lilac antigone it’s beautiful but it’s also a joke I have a dead child in summer I have trashed summer eyes with a million nightingales because I’m reading the plays of Eva Kristina Olsson
Copyright © 2018 by Johannes Göransson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 28, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
what I really mean. He paints my name across the floral bed sheet and ties the bottom corners to my ankles. Then he paints another for himself. We walk into town and play the shadow game, saying Oh! I’m sorry for stepping on your shadow! and Please be careful! My shadow is caught in the wheels of your shopping cart. It's all very polite. Our shadows get dirty just like anyone’s, so we take them to the Laundromat—the one with the 1996 Olympics themed pinball machine— and watch our shadows warm against each other. We bring the shadow game home and (this is my favorite part) when we stretch our shadows across the bed, we get so tangled my husband grips his own wrist, certain it’s my wrist, and kisses it.
Copyright © 2018 by Paige Lewis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 6, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Cinders in clotted smoke stone of the war and its gleaming battle plans reduced to perfection the floors reappear in silent symphonic gestures, a folded paper calico window hung with tiger skins, knocking twice at night Jerusalem red lamps worn more as a garland than her smear turning trampled door breaking the fall scribbles under square jars, giants in long fits in hieroglyphics the painters weaned on bent reed pens drilled holes, blood ink of gorgons (violet) sample of the sirens hooked in delay over and underwater approaches replete faint bluish grey
Copyright © 2018 by Cedar sigo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
for M 1. who conceived that ravine or the contour of those slopes Torbay —washing over him as he swims— is trying to say don’t let the barber shave below his collar 2. I love breathing him in my fingers raking his chest a cub wanders the forest after Andrés Montoya & Francisco X. Alarcón
Copyright © 2018 by Francisco Aragón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
7. Letters arrived in intervals, as with everything else one might come, one might not regardless of whether there’d been a response. We prepared at all times. Bent over. We dreamed things would be different. Every time the door opened we each smiled in a way to make clear we’d never seen our own face. 8. An appendix washed up, pages current-smoothed, leaning funny. We stood and watched the skin stretched and sewn. The so-called imaginary, so-called interior, so-called paradoxical private sphere. 13. Dailiness was the anxiety through which we waited. Buttons undone, like clearance. Not what we wanted but what we didn’t know we had to have. Private acts to attempt in public. Productive relationships to sites of violence. Lace-fronts. A dollar to run to the store. 19. However useful, the language was degrading, incompatible and lacked necessary verbs. The ability to compress, overflow and alter the landscape through a low swollen hum. To smell strongly in the morning, at the grocery or over the phone. 24. There were moments we were incapable of decision. An opening through which to register an image pungent through its own material law. A body pulled inward, door unlocked. Irresponsible to. That this moment would return. Return us. That this, and only this, would be the day.
Copyright © 2019 by Saretta Morgan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 2, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
In the mercy of the more hollow sister A serene fog of moons sprinkled with plum the vexed haint of Quasimoto is patient her tongue leaps from her mouth like a tombstone three times Smooth as ash her favorite word is ‘apothecary’ the bliss in me like the interior of a melting fear as she moves time with an even glance the boorish anvil of rain as she leads me into a gully farther into the hollow sister’s carny lungs teaching me to hear in silence as hearts do
Copyright © 2019 by manuel arturo abreu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 1, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
before we became we flyfollowed / our homelands puzzle
clouds we / traced chamomile in
bags / door to door / steeped in mud of our / remaining trickle
of river/ though small we
sipped / they simply toured / sand & soil & steep concrete &
zinco they sold / our air to bases
down / (t)here & over there to east before that / & ever as ever
they souled / men up there in
miniature suits / crushed flesh bones & / or capillaries / down
there (in kitchens & streets &
silos) & we / became as we heard whispers of that / bile (t)here
& acid (t)here / discovered
(a)gain our faces low / in their potential of what we applied / to
our tender featherskin by
walking out / doors & a bridge wavering / under the weight of
bodies & we (be)came /
hydrogenated as ever / we cried & laughed & shouted & we
continued / & then we became
once again / & saw as (wo)men held close to children / perhaps
just then could it be that / a
spectacle stunt / seamless / into the cries of other birds & it was
machine framed & it became /
& we scattered / & then it was (un)done it was / & we
continued to as we flyfollowed / to
where they didn’t fool any / one back to center before they
caught up / with us as if anything
was (un)done & / they tried to flyfollow the sky / as if it knew
by heart eye / lashes mustaches
& fuzz & small prickly / nose hairs / if we = sparrows perhaps
here they / were deluded thinking
anything was just / or that / or merely for them / which is ours
as we cracked seeds between /
our beaks & we slept & we leapt & kept kneading / a little
Copyright © 2018 by Siwar Masannat. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 31, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I'm few deja-vus from repeating my whole life I need to study the shapes of things before death Before declaring myself a better failure: waiting mostly for files to get uploaded or downloaded. My movements are by the book. I will remember history, all of it, before uttering the next sentence And in its silence, I will navigate my headache “something is not what it is" And we are lost several worlds over Exploring the art of other civilizations After we subjugate them And leave the trees behind To carry on the sensitive task Of clearing the air Stop and think of the pointlessness of desire We keep going, wasting days between orgasms And thousands of poems To keep the pleasantness of clothes We are all implicated In the father's death, The mother’s death etc.
Copyright © 2018 by Maged Zaher. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2019 by Omotara James. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 23, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
[arabic the in as left to right from read be To]
impossible are اسم/س
like bodies are so +
one having ugh what
supposed i am fuck the
day it with do to
wake i day after
try + it into up
way the all it fill to
know i like energy my up
many so for here i
wake i names but things
it into up
half on it put +
wanting lineage half / cocked
sharp—peak each—letterform the
expansive—wideness overall its fierce +
all-caps—go/od so looks it
it way the love i powerful fucking
name + bars search internet glitches
in glitches it f(x) like fields
obvious it’s + way race a
does hacking + stealth not—
no but way gender a in glitch
ledger the that tracks one
*generous of son connotes name my of part
god name my of part casual the +
drag perpetual in
unfortunate how thinking without genders
are vowels where construct this
see people— soft so just
see to want they what
timbre—contact eye them give
soft two or one just even
casing back come they + vowels
you over all gender rigid
light blue awful in
Copyright © 2019 by Andrea Abi-Karam. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 24, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Every day you sink into her To make room for me. When I die, I sink into you, When Xing dies, she sinks Into me, her child dies & Sinks into Xing & the Earth, Who is always ravenous, Swallows us. I don’t know where you’re buried. I don’t know your sons’ names, Only their numbers & fates: #2 was murdered, #3 went to jail, #4 hung himself, #5, who did the cooking & cleaning, is alive. #1, my father, died of pancreatic cancer. Of bacon & lunch meat & Napoleons. Your husband died young, of Double Happiness, unfiltered. You died of Time, Of motherhood, Of being the boss, Of working in a sock factory, Of an everyday ailment For which there is no cure. I am alone, like a number. #1 writes me a letter: My dearest Jenny, Do you know Rigoberta Menchú, this name? There were also silences about Chinese girls, Oriental women. In field of literature, you must be strong enough to bear all these. An ivory tower writer can never be successful. You are almost living like a hermit. Are you coming home soon? He doesn’t mention you. Perfect defect. Hidden flaw in the cloth, Yellow bead in the family regalia. Bidden to be understory, Silences, pored & poured over. You are almost living. You say hello to me quietly. What is success? Meat? Pastries? Cigarettes? The cessation of Communion with self? I want to be eaten By an ivory tower, Devoured by the power Of my own solitude. We’re alone together. I read the letter every day before death. Where are you buried, Nainai? I’m coming home soon.
Copyright © 2019 by Jennifer Tseng. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 25, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
When the bottle of hot sauce shattered in the kitchen
he stood in the doorframe, shook his head at the mess.
Not worried if I was injured,
mostly curious at what else it was I’d broken.
You are so clumsy with the things you hold,
he never said.
The red stain on my chest bloomed pungent,
soaked any apology.
I used his shirt, the one I slept in,
to wipe the counter and pale-colored kitchen floor.
That night and the next for a straight week
as he prepared boxes to leave
I hunched and scrubbed the tiles. Couldn’t rid myself
of the things that I’d sullied, of the look he left behind.
Copyright © 2019 by Elizabeth Acevedo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 4, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Love me stupid.
Love me terrible.
And when I am no
mountain but rather
a monsoon of imperfect
thunder love me. When
I am blue in my face
from swallowing myself
yet wearing my best heart
even if my best heart
is a century of hunger
an angry mule breathing
hard or perhaps even
hopeful. A small sun.
Little & bright.
Copyright © 2019 by Anis Mojgani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 14, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Spawn of fantasies Sitting the appraisable Pig Cupid his rosy snout Rooting erotic garbage “Once upon a time” Pulls a weed white star-topped Among wild oats sown in mucous membrane I would an eye in a Bengal light Eternity in a sky-rocket Constellations in an ocean Whose rivers run no fresher Than a trickle of saliva There are suspect places I must live in my lantern Trimming subliminal flicker Virginal to the bellows Of experience Colored glass.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Moons on the upper visual field. I replay many springs for their ripening heat. Five limb in me: Ornate, Greased, Codling, Luna, Death’s-head. Two supernatural, three balance need. I feed on fat apples, pears: Tunnel toward center, a heaven in the core. Instinct attempts to correct with a turn toward light. My dress a brief darkness. Flits there. Another set of wings to tear. Spiral me in the silk of my tongue. Farm what is economical in me: Blood for blood, heart for snare. Scent, sweet air: My cedar, hung juniper, lavender cross: What holds the body keeps the body blesses the body’s lack. Is that not a blessing? What blooms in me: Trouble. Trouble. Trouble. So I consume. So I feed what festers. When navigating artificial light, the angle changes noticeably. Angle strict, beloved: My head a mess of moon.
Copyright © 2019 by Carly Joy Miller. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 6, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
3 cicadas exist; chicory, chromium citrus trees; cicadas exist; cicadas, cedars, cypresses, the cere- bellum 4 doves exist, dreamers, and dolls; killers exist, and doves, and doves; haze, dioxin, and days; days exist, days and death; and poems exist; poems, days, death
An excerpt from alphabet by Inger Christensen, translated by Susanna Nied. Copyright © 2000 Inger Christensen; Translation Copyright © 2000 Susanna Nied; Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
The inky-garmented, truth-dead Cloud—woven by dumb ghost alone in the darkness of
phantasmal mountain-mouth—kidnapped the maiden Moon, silence-faced,
love-mannered, mirroring her golden breast in silvery rivulets:
The Wind, her lover, grey-haired in one moment, crazes around the Universe, hunting
her dewy love-letters, strewn secretly upon the oat-carpets of the open field.
O, drama! never performed, never gossiped, never rhymed!
Behold—to the blind beast, ever tearless, iron-hearted, the Heaven has no mouth to interpret these tidings!
Ah, where is the man who lives out of himself?—the poet inspired often to chronicle these
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 19, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
I looked at all the trees and didn't know what to do. A box made out of leaves. What else was in the woods? A heart, closing. Nevertheless. Everyone needs a place. It shouldn't be inside of someone else. I kept my mind on the moon. Cold moon, long nights moon. From the landscape: a sense of scale. From the dead: a sense of scale. I turned my back on the story. A sense of superiority. Everything casts a shadow. Your body told me in a dream it's never been afraid of anything.
Copyright © 2011 by Richard Siken. Used with permission of the author.