What words can you wrap around
a dying brother, still dying, even now.
A man who has not eaten for a month
sips at water and says, even thirst is a gift.
He asks what other gifts God has given him.
I’m your gift, his daughter says from a corner.
And he smiles and rasps—
you can only unwrap a child once.
The rest is prayer and even more prayer.
You sing softly to him in a language
only the two of you speak and he
snores softly into your palm, breath and blood.
Copyright © 2018 by Chris Abani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 31, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
imagine your heart is just a ball you learned to dribble up
and down the length of your driveway back home. slow down
control it. plant your feet in the soft blue of your mat and release
it is hard but slowly you are unlearning the shallow pant
of your childhood. extend your body—do not reach
for someone but something fixed and fleshless and certain—
fold flatten then lift your head like a cobra sure of the sun
waiting and ready to caress the chill
from its scales. inhale—try not to remember how desperate
you’ve been for touch—yes ignore it—that hitch of your heart
you got from mornings you woke to find momma hysterical
or gone. try to give up the certainty she’d never return
recall only the return and not its coldness. imagine her arms
wide to receive you imagine you are not a thing that needs
escaping. it is hard and though at times you are sure
you will always be the abandoned girl trying to abandon herself
push up arch deep into your back exhale and remember—
when it is too late to pray the end of the flood
we pray instead to survive it.
Copyright © 2018 by Brionne Janae. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 22, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
We were stepping out of a reading
in October, the first cold night,
and we were following this couple,
were they at the reading? and because
we were lost, I called out to them,
“Are you going to the after party?”
The woman laughed and said no
and the man kept walking, and she
was holding his hand like I hold yours,
though not exactly, she did not
need him for balance. Then what
got into me? I said, “How long
have you been married?” and she said
“Almost 30 years” and because
we were walking in public, no secret,
tell everyone now it’s official,
I said, “How’s marriage?” The man
kept walking. The woman said,
“It gets better but then it gets different.”
The man kept walking.
Copyright © 2015 by Jillian Weise. Used with permission of the author.