Aging. Being in pain. Finishing. Rotting.
We feel we’ve contracted into very dim, very old white dwarf stars, not yet black holes. Wrinkled, but not quite withered. Dropped out of summer like a stone, we watch time fall. With the leaves. Into a deeper color. Wavelengths missing in the reflected light.
The road toward rotting has been so long. We forget where we are going. Like a child, I look amazed at a thistle. Or drink cheap wine and hug my knees. To shorten the shadow? To ward off letting go?
So much body now, to be cared for. What with the arrow, lost cartilage, skeleton within. Memory no longer holds up. A bridge to theory and dreams. Impervious to vertigo. Days are long and too spacious.
Though the sun is a mere eight light-minutes away elderly dust hangs. Over the long sentences I wrote in the last century. Now thoughts in purpose tremor, in lament, in search of. Not being too soon? Going to be? Unconformities separating strata of decay?
You say aimlessness has its virtues. Just as not fully understanding may be required for harmony. And blow your nose. You sing fast falls the eventide, damp on the skin, with bitter wind. And here it is again, the craving for happiness that night induces. Or the day of marriage.
The difference of our bodies makes for different velocities. But gravity is always attracting, and my higher speed. Cannot outrun the inner fright we seem made of. Though I gesticulate broadly. As in a silent movie. Running after the train, waving goodbye.
Distant galaxies are moving away from us. Friends, lovers, family. Even the sky shifts toward red. Where every clearness is only. A more welcoming slope of the night. And I don't remember why I opened the door.
Mouth full of moans, you believe the natural state. Is a body at rest. And close your eyes to the threat of your face disappearing. Without thought or emotion. Into its condition. And I thought I knew you.
Are the complications thinning to a final simplicity? The nearest thing to a straight path in curved space? Clouds of gas slowly collapsing? With only one possible outcome? But unlike a black hole I keep my hair on. As I move toward the unquestionable dark.
This dark, Mrs. Ramsay thinks, is perhaps the core of every self. The deep note of existence the ear finds, but cannot hold on to. Across the vicissities of the symphony. Or else this dark could be our shelter in the time of long dominion. And though we are not well suited to the perspectives it opens it is an awesome thing to see. Once you can see it.
Copyright © 2018 by Rosmarie Waldrop. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Lots of accidents stabilizing this tau- crossed room of adobe shade, spaced out with crumpled cars Upon the concrete seal float squares of light sun-thaw, snow unsealed
Copyright © 2018 by Jeffrey Yang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Ask me again how the story should go. How much the underbelly of my garden held to bring forth spring, how much hunger I had to devour to get the sweetness I wanted from it. Did this devouring frighten you? I frightened myself in how much I promised to tell you if you asked me again about the water the water the water. What errors I made calculating the downward trajectory of memory rattling loose in the inhale, sharp in the shoulder blades exhaling like wings or whales or swizzles of light. Ask me again what I offered as a sacrifice to the rooster crowing his betrayal of morning. Forgiveness, what a sharp blade I press my body hard against.
Copyright © 2018 by Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I am wasted on thought-so’s and photo-ops so-so’s and S-O-S cries and the lit flare I burn I intuit I follow your light look at the way you go into the tall grass into it you light you moth look at your shirtless body behind the tall grass look at me on my knees a poem is a lot like a grass stain I want to do what a grass stain does
Copyright © 2018 by Paul Cunningham. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 6, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
a love letter to traci akemi kato-kiriyama
does a voice have to be auditory to be a voice?
where in the body does hearing take place?
which are the questions that cannot be addressed in language?
which are the questions where promises lodge?
how do we hear what is outside our earshot?
when does distance look like closeness, feel like velvet sunrise cheek to cheek?
what are the objects, ideas, or experiences we drop beneath the more evident surfaces of our lives to the air or water or ground beneath? do we drop them purposefully? are they forgotten?
what word makes the body?
what body defies the word?
which figures, shapes, presences, haunts, methods, media, modes, ephemera, gestures, abandonments, models, anti-models, breaths, harmonics? which soil? which fields?
what does beginning sound like? what body does continuing form? what note does perseverance hum?
is a word a body?
which apertures? which hinges?
where does a body stand without settling?
through which holes does history break into our day?
where in the past does the future excavate?
where in the future does the past propel?
what are the distinctions between proximity and simultaneity?
where does a body resist without refusal?
can borders be exceeded? can borders be disintegrated?
where in the body does hearing take place?
where in the body does loving take place?
how do we make family with someone we do not know?
what do we carry with us and where in the body do we carry it?
might we be permitted a we this evening?
may I hold your hand? to feel your hand as its actual shape, clothed in its papery useful unequivocal skin, bones stacked like tiny branches, the balancing act of a bird, joints unlocking, span from thumb to pinky octaving out toward unfamiliar harmonics?
what space does the body occupy despite everything?
what does despitesound like? what does withsound like?
where does attake place? where does respite take place?
Copyright © 2018 by Jen Hofer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 7, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
for Aja Sherrard at 20 The portent may itself be memory. —Wallace Stevens How hard to carry scores of adults on your back, not look at them as carrions of need, the distress of what loyalty requires. This pain is human, formed from plunges and positions, misjudged from various heights. For your love is of a practicalist tucked under purple quilts, sad conundrums, under the dearth of too much identity mixed with middle-class signifiers. And then some from all other signifiers like two magicians in someone else’s window. How ceremony for you was linked to desire, and not to a lie. What you had is that writing came from the same plumed pen as your father’s. And when you were writing we took note. For so long the diary contained a seal depicting a wayward sense, descriptions for the sake of describing: for what? for whom? Now you’re growing—writing is skyward, a future tense. There is a mountainous place. It’s where my crusty poetry lives, and where my impulses reach across the divide to a charted, snowy place. There is still bewilderment set between our conversations. Because we wanted you to mature. Because you see it as our permanent discontent. Nonetheless, we are close to the stitches where perfect boundaries darken us to you. We hope willfully that we are close to the expiration of seemingly endless agitation. Or we are in for years and years of its wild growth. How encumbered-now memories existed before the truth of a portent, which I have always taken to mean a warning.
Copyright © 2018 by Prageeta Sharma. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 8, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
New moon in midheaven, in Libra. The hermit wields two swords. Temptation overcomes the star. The chariot travails with weakend strength. Death rises to meet every face you meet. Ten wands whittled from prickly ash. Fall in love with a teacher. Build a home on the moon. Grow twinberry and gentian. The chart culminates in a stellium of ginger coins and wild yam discs.
Copyright © 2018 by Sade LaNay. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 9, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Had I been raised by doves wouldn’t I have learned to fly By wolves to hunt in packs Had I been raised by gods wouldn’t I too be godlike In the movies the orphan is the killer not loved enough unwanted But wasn’t I most wanted My mother fish goddess dove into the sea for the sin of loving a mortal man I love a mortal man too At night I coax him from sleep rousing him with my mouth By day we build high brick walls around us our Babylon Had my mother lived to see me rise from this boundless deep would she recognize me as I have grown large and my arms have become the long arms of the sea reaching over and over for the shore
Copyright © 2018 by Mary-Kim Arnold. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I’m the matron-king of hell In yoga pants and a disused bra for a laurel & shatter the scene inside your simmering year Like a ransom scene filmed through shattered transom I smear in my glamour I make as if to justify the ways of God to man That’s my ticket in That’s why God lets me speak here Crystostoma’d on his couch Even though I’m derived from Hell Hellish Helenish Hellenic I’m the hanged man in this version pegged up in mine pegged jeans by mine ancles, an inversion mine manacles are monocoles I spit out the key and squinny through the keyhole back at the unquittable world In my rainment of gummy sunglasses and crows wings for epaulets I delicately squawk from the edges of things balance unsteadily on the bust of the goddess squawk: Aeschelus Euphorion Aeschelus Euphorion &: I’m going to tell you something so bad that when you hear it you’re gonna know it’s true. Like all the worst stories It comes from the heart & it goes there too. Back here in St. Joseph County a struck duck flies crown first into the asphalt and is stuck there with its brains for adhesive like someone licked the pavement and sealed it a postalette with its cartoon feet in the air and its Jeff Koon wings that’s roadkill for you: realer than real and the cars mill by with their wheels in reverse heavy as chariots in a dealership commercial and I am walking my dog by the river a matron from hell look on me and despise I am like the river: thick as beer and with a sudsy crown there polyethylene bags drape the banks like herons and a plastic jug rides a current with something like the determination that creases mine own brow as I attempt to burn my lunch off the determination of garbage riding for its drain hey-nonny it’s spring and everything wears a crown as it rides its thick doom to its noplace gently brushed by pollen by the wings of hymenoptera like a helicoptera performing its opera all above Indiana bearing the babes away from their births to their berths in the NICU in Indie-un-apple-us Unapple us, moron God, You’ve turned me Deophobic the greasy tracks you leave all over the internet the slicey DNA in the scramblechondria the torn jeans panicked like space invaders in an arcane video game oh spittle-pink blossom the tree don’t need nomore shook down to slick the pavement like a payslip you disused killer app each thought strikes my brain like the spirals in a ham pink pink for easter sliced by something machinic each thought zeros in flies hapless and demented festooned like a lawn dart finds its bit of eye spills its champagne split of pain then we come to our senses suddenly alone in the endzone
Copyright © 2018 by Joyelle McSweeney. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 13, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
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.
1 Muddled stillness All summer Sun Punched the yellow jacket nest Cavernous paper Valved like a parched heart Over and over I let it Beat outside My body No dark to cradle The living part 2 The glare sears seeing Something moves out of the corner Often it is more nothing Tumbling From its silk sack. This stillness Shifts. Streak Of tiny particulars Pained in relation: the experience still So still It is invisible? It will settle, I will tell you Where the edges belong 3 River That bare aspiring edge That killing arrow Feathered from its Own wing Then the third River forms When pain’s lit Taper Drips Soft lip Of my vision Effacing, radiates A late, silty light My life Slowly bottoming Into thought
Copyright © 2018 by Michelle Gil-Montero. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 15, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Everything in the beginning is the same.
Clouds let us look at the sun.
Words let us watch a man about to be killed.
The eye-hollows of his skull see home.
When they stone him,
he knows what a stone is—each word, a stone:
The hole of his nose
as dark as the door I pass through.
I wander the halls numerously.
He’s no longer my grandfather in weight.
Among old bodies piled high, they aim.
Living can tranquilize you.
Copyright © 2018 by E. J. Koh. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
—or rhubarb? Scant difference between some flowers and the heads of cauliflowers the fingers get herbaceous rubbing against. If I could get ecstatic I would by the low soft weeds, the hard oracular orifices of tree bark. Some landscapes under duress predict this atonal sky. Scant difference between flowers. The canned cool metal slightly curves, of trash receptacles, meadow interregna, strange fanciful flights, toward toward. Where the rhubarb field is not so bright red as you would think, not so precise or fulminating, too much green sticks out, stems and leaves like a fuzz of voices, watery incarnadine, here where the sounds so simplify the milieu into that wetness there, here I stumble to approximate the durations of others, to appear of the same time as though of space, I worry terribly, I hesitate, I lose my measure, a juice trickles down my side, रस ರಸ. Like I get I’m out of tune.
Copyright © 2018 by Aditi Machado. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
it ends my sleep to want my story about
my skin melting in the sun that day of
summer and a doctor who tells me i am dying,
that thing i hide under my nails like dirt
scratched from summer skin.
so i pick up a pencil and begin to erase myself.
erasure is sometimes editing.
immigration is always editing.
my father with the heart that chokes
him in his sleep, in his shorter and shorter
walks around concrete and glass sculptures,
around mother who keeps leaning one
way then the other at the precipice of fall
as he yells promises at her to keep her alive.
in this journey that began with his misstep
across waters and languages and his
hands on my face teaching me to long
how did he mean to rewrite me—
what will i say to the sky and the soil
neither foreign or home when they are
all gone leaving me to hold our name up
alone when i am neither tree nor
in the mirror i look for my head that
has begun to shake, the weight of how
much i am afraid, how it makes me look
like mother when i was a boy—seeing
it for the first time in her, demanding
she make it stop—
this fear of sleep has kept me up for years
did you know? because in dreams there is always
a point when your mother dies while
you are traveling through space searching
for your lost child and other such
i spent the day moving my body, guided
by a stranger’s voice and somewhere
on the floor my bones recognized pain
told me that in this too / (that is my body)
there are borders to cross
there are borders not meant to cross
interstitial—it’s a new word i learned
something about the space between
things, but it is obvious like my body that
wants to break, that space is the thing not
the between, the mass that cannot be occupied
a space between spaces that tell me
i am a child of none
i capture my hand grasping at the sky outside
the window of another plane in mid-flight.
it was orange. it wasn’t anything.
and the hand belonged to no one.
there was only the reaching.
Copyright © 2018 by Chiwan Choi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
There is one atop each of the Girls’ heads. Clearly they have been playing this game for a while. There is only one girl whose turkey is still full of air, and that girl is Girl D. The game is called Duck, Duck, Turkey. They go through the motions of having an “it,” and having that “it” walk around the outside of the circle of sitting girls, tapping them on their turkey heads while saying, “duck, duck, duck, duck...” until they say “turkey!” while hitting the turkey on the head of a girl and then running around the circle, trying to sit down in the open spot in the circle before getting tagged. The general stance over here is based on the unshakeable belief that playing this game is going to lead to a better, more just society for all, once everybody’s turkey is equally deflated. And although most of the turkeys are, indeed, mostly deflated, none of the girls can keep themselves from glancing furtively at the head of Girl D, her hair positively radiant in the light bouncing off of the almost fully inflated rubber turkey on her head. How can this be? What is wrong with everyone else’s turkey? Did Girl D get a refill? Or more air than others to begin with? Is that really a turkey? Maybe Girl D’s turkey is not made out of rubber like the rest. What if the rubber turkey of Girl D was filled with turkey?
Copyright © 2018 by Sawako Nakayasu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 21, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
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.
The human brain wants to complete—
The poem too easy? Bored. The poem too hard?
Angry. What’s this one about? Around the block
the easy summer weather, the picture-puff clouds
adrift in the blue sky that’s no paint-by-numbers.
In the corner garden, the cabbage butterfly
bothers the big leafy heads, trying to complete
its life cycle by hatching a horned monster to
chew holes in the green cloth manufactured so
laboriously by seed germ from air, water,
light, dirt. There’s no end to this, yes, no end.
Even when we want to stop, stop, stop! Even
when someone else calls us monster. Even when
we fear and hope that we will not have the final
Copyright © 2018 by Minnie Bruce Pratt. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 26, 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.
The crown of it was fire: a stolen wish, this city of bridges valving the heart, ancient and scarred, tongues of stone, this haughty sister, matronly and jeweled, who straightened her skirts, looked me down in the eye. Girl, are you sure you’re ready to rise? Question mark of candles, waiting for breath. This vision, a pistil of wavery bloom, a man before me, the first refused: a bite off our plates, an outdoor café, the privilege to witness him, fierce and poor, thrust forth his heart, douse his body with oil, purse his lips and blow out tongues of flame. Utterance of desire and gasoline, a presage of future, some of it mine. In the distance, iron stippled with light.
Copyright © 2018 by Gabrielle Civil. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
So torn by my tides, I do not know I can read them. Hour book, our book. “H” in Italian is a tool, not a sound. My mother slips the “h” in only where it doesn’t belong. Our book, our book. How events just accumulate in time. Who will we lose in the duration of this writing. The promise of future children named for our beloved dead. Whispered at caskets. An hour dead. How many hours.
In our village the streets empty at appointed times. If life were a time-lapse video, lingering would be more visible than slipping away. Invisible motions the more pronounced. Once I stood akimbo, 8PM mid-street, waiting for everyone to go. I am astonished, in memory, by the boldness of it. Did everyone go?
How many ours.
Copyright © 2018 by Stefania Heim. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 30, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.