“It’s all empty, empty,” he said to himself. “The sex and drugs. The violence, especially.” So he went down into the world to exercise his virtue, thinking maybe that would help. He taught a little kid to build a kite. He found a cure, and then he found a cure for his cure. He gave a woman at the mercy of the weather his umbrella, even though icy rain fell and he had pneumonia. He settled a revolution in Spain. Nothing worked. The world happens, the world changes, the world, it is written here, in the next line, is only its own membrane— and, oh yes, your compassionate nature, your compassion for our kind.
Copyright © 2018 by Vijay Seshadri. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
In the first place—I wanted him and said so
when I had only meant to say. His eyes
opened beyond open as if such force would unlock me
to the other side where daylight gave reason
for him to redress.
When he put on his shirt,
after I asked him to keep it off, to keep putting off
the night’s usual end, his face changed beneath
the shirt: surprise to grin, to how even the body
of another’s desire can be a cloak behind which
to change one’s power, to find it.
In the first place
he slept, he opened the tight heat of me that had been
the only haven he thought to give a name:
Is-it-mine? Why-you-running? Don’t-run-from-it—as though
through questions doubt would find its way away from me,
as though telling me what to do told me who I was.
Copyright © 2018 by Phillip B. Williams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 2, 2018, 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.
I O Ye young and thoughtless youth, Come seek the living God, The scriptures are a sacred truth, Ye must believe the word. Eccle. xii. 1. II Tis God alone can make you wise, His wisdom's from above, He fills the soul with sweet supplies By his redeeming love. Prov. iv. 7. III Remember youth the time is short, Improve the present day And pray that God may guide your thoughts, and teach your lips to pray. Psalm xxx. 9. IV To pray unto the most high God, and beg restraining grace, Then by the power of his word You'l see the Saviour's face. V Little children they may die, Turn to their native dust, Their souls shall leap beyond the skies, And live among the just. VI Like little worms they turn and crawl, and gasp for every breath, The blessed Jesus sends his call, and takes them to his rest. VII Thus the youth are born to die, The time is hastening on, The Blessed Jesus rends the sky, and makes his power known. Psalm ciii. 15. VIII Then ye shall hear the angels sing The trumpet give a sound, Glory, glory to our King, The Saviour's coming down. Matth. xxvi. 64. IX Start ye saints from dusty beds, and hear a Saviour call, Twas Jesus Christ that died and bled, and thus preserv'd thy soul. X This the portion of the just, Who lov'd to serve the Lord, Their bodies starting from the dust, Shall rest upon their God. XI They shall join that holy word, That angels constant sing, Glory, glory to the Lord, Hallelujahs to our King. XII Thus the Saviour will appear, With guards of heavenly host, Those blessed Saints, shall then declare, Tis Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Rev. i. 7, 8. XIII Then shall ye hear the trumpet sound, The graves give up their dead, Those blessed saints shall quick awake, and leave their dusty beds. Matth. xxvii. 51, 52. XIV Then shall you hear the trumpet sound, and rend the native sky, Those bodies starting from the ground, In the twinkling of an eye. I Cor. xv. 51, 52, 53, 54. XV There to sing the praise of God, and join the angelic train, And by the power of his word, Unite together again. XVI Where angels stand for to admit Their souls at the first word, Cast sceptres down at Jesus feet Crying holy holy Lord. XVII Now glory be unto our God all praise be justly given, Ye humble souls that love the Lord Come seek the joys of Heaven.
This poem is in the public domain.
when did we become friends?
it happened so gradual i didn't notice
maybe i had to get my run out first
take a big bite of the honky world and choke on it
maybe that's what has to happen with some uppity youngsters
if it happens at all
the thought stark and irrevocable
of being here without you
beyond love, fear, regret or anger
into that realm children go
who want to care for/protect their parents
as if they could
and sometimes the lucky ones do
into the realm of making every moment
laughing as though laughter wards off death
each word given
received like spanish eight
treasure to bury within
against that shadow day
when it will be the only coin i possess
with which to buy peace of mind
From Heavy Daughter Blues by Wanda Coleman. Copyright © 1987 by Wanda Coleman. Reprinted by permission of Black Sparrow Press, an imprint of David R. Godine, Publisher.
What still grows in winter?
Fingernails of witches and femmes,
green moss on river rocks,
lit with secrets... I let myself
go near the river but not
the railroad: this is my bargain.
Water boils in a kettle in the woods
and I can hear the train grow louder
but I also can’t, you know?
Then I’m shaving in front of an
unbreakable mirror while a nurse
watches over my shoulder.
Damn. What still grows in winter?
Lynda brought me basil I crushed
with my finger and thumb just to
smell the inside of a thing. So
I go to the river but not the rail-
road, think I’ll live another year.
The river rock dig into my shoulders
like a lover who knows I don’t want
power. I release every muscle against
the rock and I give it all my warmth.
onto my chest quick as table salt.
Branches above me full of pine needle
whips: when the river rock is done
with me, I could belong to the evergreen.
Safety is a rock I throw into the river.
My body, ready. Don’t even think
a train run through this town anymore.
Copyright © 2018 by Oliver Baez Bendorf. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 8, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Yesterday, the final petal curled its soft lure into bone. The flowerhead shed clean, I gathered up your spine and built you on a dark day. You are still missing some parts. Each morning, I curl red psalms into the shells in your chest. I have buried each slow light: cardinal’s yolk, live seawater, my trenza, a piece of my son’s umbilical cord, and still you don’t return. A failure fragrant as magic. Ascend the spirit into the design. My particular chiron: the record that your perfect feet ever graced this earth. Homing signal adrift among stars, our tender impossible longing. What have I made of your sacrifice. This bone: it is myself.
Copyright © 2018 by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 9, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
What is the point of travel For a DeafBlind person Other than the food the people the shops And all that * Part one young Question mother father Know right name Work some day * The mutant four-fingered carrot Is in the pot and growing Sweeter as it relaxes Its grip * When we say good morning In Japanese Sign Language We pull down a string To greet each other in a new light
Copyright © 2018 by John Lee Clark. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
* bring us to dark knots the black
eyes along white aspen skin to scrape
with a rock on surface where I press
I carve the initials of all and **
*** bring us to a returning no
an urning a vessel of corpse
ash in the active state of being
held by two hands positioned
gripping the sides to tip
and scatter my night dream
of an acquaintance who
presented me a ledger opened
to a page handwritten in pencil
dates names and meetings ****
***** I said I don’t want to
see it I don’t want to know
if my father betrayed me
as the words left
my dream mouth I woke I shook
to the bone a hot line notched
from heart to elbow throbbing
vein-ache in my body how
I’d replaced another man’s name
-a man I once loved I mean to say-
with the word father in a flash
the sleeping eye ripped me
from denial I’m not so complex
see my mind unclothed
is a crying newborn
aspen leaves in untimed
wind-filled rhythm my mother
turned eighty what at that age is left
to surprise though
the tone here shifts to listen
she said I don’t know if I ever said
when I was pregnant with you
I found out he’d cheated
I threw ****** into the yard
I locked him out
pregnant with you I cried
and I cried so long and hard
I thought I was going to
die yes she said it a heavy bass line
beneath aspen music and timbre
I sit on the patio to smoke I think
at night always at night maybe
cause I was born / at night or
my name means night God bless
my mother she believed
my name meant pure
spirit so it may be the darkest
hours are when I’m purest
when I am I I am fluid
a clear stream over rock or
as poetry goes ********
I think about a baby in utero I can’t help
but wonder what the baby knows
a study says babies and toddlers
through impression not specifics
I rummage the syllables and stress
of each line in *********
impression is a mark
on the surface
caused by pressure or
a quick undetailed sketch or
of someone / I
carried her nine months
beneath my own skin her small toes
relaxed her eyes shut
within me her fingertips
pressed into palms she made
or was it
for the Sun what rising
what of battle my child knows
scares me to the pure
the one I I burn in question
* may all the grief
** may all
*** the loss
**** all your misdeeds
***** love of my soul
****** all his things
******* spit in a cup
******** night is a womb
********* the definition
Copyright © 2018 by Layli Long Soldier. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 11, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Onliest man who lay hands on me. Pointer finger pad between my eyes.
Pinky knuckle cool on cheekbone. God of precision, blade at my throat,
for a half hour, you love me this way. Together we discover what I got
from my folks—widows peak, dandruff, hair growing fast in concentric O’s.
Claude, so damn beautiful, I can count on one hand the times I’ve looked
directly in your face, for fear I might never come back. You knower of me.
To get right I come to you. When I’m finna interview. When I’m finna banquet
or party. When I must stunt, I come to you—
It is mostly you, but, not always. After all you gotta eat too.
So sometimes it’s Percival, face like stones, except when he’s smiling.
Sometimes it’s Junior who sings the whole time he lines up the crown.
No matter how soft my body or how many eyes find it and peel
when I walk in the shop in the chair, I am of them.
Not brother. Not sister. When he wields the razor and takes me
low it’s like when a woman gets close to the mirror to slide the lipstick
on slow. Draws a line so perfect she cuts her own self from the clay.
Copyright © 2018 by Angel Nafis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
To think that my eyes once could draw your eyes down for a moment, From their lifting and straining up toward the opulent heights— To think that my face was the face you liked best once to look on, When fairer ones softened to pleading ’neath shimmering lights! Regret you? Not I! I am glad that your proud heart disowned me, The while it was lying so sullenly under my feet; Since Love was to you but a snare and a pain, and you knew not Its height and its depth, all unsounded, and soundless, and sweet. Too dark was the shadow that fell from your face bending over me— Too hot was the pant of your breath on the spring of my cheek! I but dimly divined, yet I shrank from the warring of passions So strong that they circled and shook me while leaving you weak. Acknowledge! You knew not aright if you loved me or hated; But you pushed me aside, since I hindered your seeing the heights. They were but the cold, barren peaks up which selfish sould clamber, And for which they surrender the gardens of scented delights. From where I am sitting I watch your lone steps going upward, And to-night I am back in those nights that we knew at the start. I think of your eyes dark with pain, full of thwarted caressings, And suddenly, after these years, from my hold slips my heart! But no matter! There’s too much between us—we cannot go back now I’m glad of it!—yes, I will say it right on to the end!— I’m glad that my once sore-reluctant, tempestuous lover Hasn’t leisure nor heart now to be my most leisurely friend! My lover! Why how you would fling me the word back in fury! Remembering you loved me at arms’ length, in spite of denial; That the protests were double: each went from the struggle unconquered: The hour of soft, silken compliance was not on our dial. You were angry for loving me, all in despite of your reasoning— I was angry because you were able to hold your love down; And jealous—because in the scales of your logic you weighed me, And slighted me for the dry bread of a sordid renown. So I laughed at your loving—I laughed in the teeth of your passion; And I made myself fair, but to stand in you light from sheer malice; Delighting to hold up the brim to the lips that were thirsting, While I scorned to let fall on their dryness one drop from the chalice! Alas, for the lips that are strange to the sweetness of kisses— The kisses we dream of, and cry for, and think on in dying! Alas, for unspoken endearments that stifle the breathing; Since such in the depths of two hearts, never wedded, are lying! You say, “It is best!” but I know that you catch your breath fiercely. I say, “It is best!” but a sob struggles up from my bosom; For out of a million of flowers that our fingers are free of, The one that we care for the most is the never-plucked blossom. Yet, O, my Unbroken, my strong one—too strong for my breaking!— I am glad of the hours when we warred with each other and Love: Though you never drew nearer than once when your hair swept my fingers And their touch flushed your cheek as you bent at my side for my glove. Never mind! I felt kisses that broke through the bitterest sayings. Never mind! since caresses were hid under looks that were proud. Shall we say there’s no moon when she leaves her dear earth in the shadow And hides all her light in the breast of some opportune cloud? Yet this germ of a love—could it ever have bourgeoned to fulness?— For us could there ever have been a sereneness of bliss, With the thorns overtopping our flowers, turning fondness to soreness? Ah, no! ’twas a thousand times better it ended like this! And yet, if I went to you now in the stress of your toiling— If we stood but one moment alone while I looked in your eyes— What a melting of ice there would be! What a quickening of currents! What thrills of despairing delight betwixt claspings and cries!
This poem is in the public domain.
What will suffice for a true-love knot? Even the rain?
But he has bought grief’s lottery, bought even the rain.
“Our glosses / wanting in this world”—“Can you remember?”
Anyone!—“when we thought / the poets taught” even the rain?
After we died—That was it!—God left us in the dark.
And as we forgot the dark, we forgot even the rain.
Drought was over. Where was I? Drinks were on the house.
For mixers, my love, you’d poured—what?—even the rain.
Of this pear-shaped orange’s perfumed twist, I will say:
Extract Vermouth from the bergamot, even the rain.
How did the Enemy love you—with earth? air? and fire?
He held just one thing back till he got even: the rain.
This is God’s site for a new house of executions?
You swear by the Bible, Despot, even the rain?
After the bones—those flowers—this was found in the urn:
The lost river, ashes from the ghat, even the rain.
What was I to prophesy if not the end of the world?
A salt pillar for the lonely lot, even the rain.
How the air raged, desperate, streaming the earth with flames—
To help burn down my house, Fire sought even the rain.
He would raze the mountains, he would level the waves;
he would, to smooth his epic plot, even the rain.
New York belongs at daybreak to only me, just me—
To make this claim Memory’s brought even the rain.
They’ve found the knife that killed you, but whose prints are these?
No one has such small hands, Shahid, not even the rain.
From Call Me Ishmael Tonight by Agha Shahid Ali. Copyright © 2003 by the Agha Shahid Ali Literary Trust. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
Everybody Black is my hometown team. Everybody Black
dropped the hottest album of the year, easy. Everybody Black
is in this show, so I’m watching. Everybody Black is in this movie,
so I’m watching. Everybody Black wore it better, tell the truth.
Everybody Black’s new book was beautiful. How you don’t
know about Everybody Black?! Everybody Black mad
underrated. Everybody Black remind me of someone I know.
I love seeing Everybody Black succeed. I hope Everybody Black
get elected. Everybody Black deserves the promotion more than
anybody. I want Everybody Black to find somebody special.
Everybody Black is good peoples. Everybody Black been through
some things. Everybody Black don’t get the credit they’re due. I met
Everybody Black once and they were super chill and down-to-earth.
I believe in Everybody Black. There’s something about Everybody Black.
Copyright © 2018 by Cortney Lamar Charleston. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 15, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
which do you love more a feather or a rock to be good is to be ‘natural’ I mean to appear you are not good you are holding up though you are holding up you are getting a drink of water you are eating you are concealing your identities this is like a riotous wilderness but more like a persistent dread your ferocity, almost mycological mythological I said mycological oh god oh my god your laughter has undertones of oak and berries and martial law conceived, as it were, in a garden
Copyright © 2018 by Ellen Welcker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
bieng tran is a unique kinde off organe / i am speeching
materialie / i am speeching abot hereditie / a tran
entres thru the hole / the hole glomes inn the linden / a
tran entres eather lik a mothe / wile tran preceds esense
/ her forme is contingent on the feeld / the maner sits
cis with inn a feeld / wee speeche inn 2 the eather / wile
the mothe bloomes / the mothe bloomes inn the yuca
Copyright © 2018 by Jos Charles. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
for Octavio There's a book called "A Dictionary of Angels." No one has opened it in fifty years, I know, because when I did, The covers creaked, the pages Crumbled. There I discovered The angels were once as plentiful As species of flies. The sky at dusk Used to be thick with them. You had to wave both arms Just to keep them away. Now the sun is shining Through the tall windows. The library is a quiet place. Angels and gods huddled In dark unopened books. The great secret lies On some shelf Miss Jones Passes every day on her rounds. She's very tall, so she keeps Her head tipped as if listening. The books are whispering. I hear nothing, but she does.
From Sixty Poem by Charles Simic. Copyright © 2008 by Charles Simic. Reprinted by permission of Harcourt Trade Publishers. All rights reserved.
given his showing up to teach at the U disheveled, jittery cigarette and cigarette and probably the drink, losing the very way there over river, river of all song, all American story which starts way north of St. Paul quiet or undone wandering south, not enraged mostly, something stranger. That’s one epic shard of John Berryman anyway. Notorious. And par for the course in a classroom destined, struck-by-lightning in sacred retrospect, the kind those long-ago students now can’t believe themselves so accidentally chosen, grateful though one probably claimed the poet absolutely bonkers then, out of his tree toward the end, so went the parlance. Wasn’t he always late—Give them back, Weirdo!—with those brilliant papers they eked out, small dim-lit hours when a big fat beer would’ve been nice. Really nice. Fuck him, I hear that kid most definitely blurting were he young right now though the others— From the get-go their startle and reverence. But not even that malcontent did the damning I can’t believe they gave him tenure. Here’s where I think something else, think of course it’s the Dream Songs that rattled him until— as grandparents used to say—he couldn’t see straight. Like Dickinson’s bits of shock and light did her in between naps and those letters to some vague beloved unattainable. Or Plath, her meticulous crushing fog. Maybe closer to Milton working his blindness—literally blind rage, if you want to talk rage—into pages soaked through with triumphant failure and rhyme, always that high orchestration, that alpha/omega big voice thing. And Satan, after all, as wise guy and looming because for chrissake, Jack, get an interesting character in there! Someone must have lobbed that right. All along, Berryman: how those Dream Songs surely loosened a bolt or a wheel in his orderly scholar-head, must have come at him like Michael the Archangel, 77 days of winged flash searing him to genius, some kind of whack-a-mole version. Maybe like Gabriel cutting that starry celebrity deal for a most dubious conception in the desert, near a fig tree, no proper human mechanics required. At last Berryman’s rage wasn’t rage but sorrow turned back on itself. With teeth. Henry my hero of crankiness and feigned indifference, unspeakable industry, exhaustion and grief, half funny-crazy, half who-knows-what- that-line-means. A henry whole universe of Henry, of there ought to be a law against Henry—pause and pause—Mister Bones: there is. Will be! Was! Not to say poetry’s worth it or the most healthy fascination for the sane. I’m just, I mean—is this love? There’s break, as in lucky, as in shatter. There’s smitten and there’s smite.
Copyright © 2018 by Marianne Boruch. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Behold that Tree, in Autumn’s dim decay, Stript by the frequent, chill, and eddying Wind; Where yet some yellow, lonely leaves we find Lingering and trembling on the naked spray, Twenty, perchance, for millions whirl'd away! Emblem, alas! too just, of Humankind! Vain Man expects longevity, design'd For few indeed; and their protracted day What is it worth that Wisdom does not scorn? The blasts of Sickness, Care, and Grief appal, That laid the Friends in dust, whose natal morn Rose near their own;—and solemn is the call;— Yet, like those weak, deserted leaves forlorn, Shivering they cling to life, and fear to fall!
This poem is in the public domain.
here among them the americans this baffling
multi people extremes and variegations their
noise restlessness their almost frightening
energy how best describe these aliens in my
reports to The Counselors
disguise myself in order to study them unobserved
adapting their varied pigmentations white black
red brown yellow the imprecise and strangering
distinctions by which they live by which they
justify their cruelties to one another
charming savages enlightened primitives brash
new comers lately sprung up in our galaxy how
describe them do they indeed know what or who
they are do not seem to yet no other beings
in the universe make more extravagant claims
for their importance and identity
like us they have created a veritable populace
of machines that serve and soothe and pamper
and entertain we have seen their flags and
foot prints on the moon also the intricate
rubbish left behind a wastefully ingenious
people many it appears worship the Unknowable
Essence the same for them as for us but are
more faithful to their machine made gods
technologists their shamans
oceans deserts mountains grain fields canyons
forests variousness of landscapes weathers
sun light moon light as at home much here is
beautiful dream like vistas reminding me of
home item have seen the rock place known
as garden of the gods and sacred to the first
indigenes red monoliths of home despite
the tensions i breathe in i am attracted to
the vigorous americans disturbing sensuous
appeal of so many never to be admitted
something they call the american dream sure
we still believe in it i guess an earth man
in the tavern said irregardless of the some
times night mare facts we always try to double
talk our way around and its okay the dreams
okay and means whats good could be a damn sight
better means every body in the good old u s a
should have the chance to get ahead or at least
should have three squares a day as for myself
i do okay not crying hunger with a loaf of
bread tucked under my arm you understand i
fear one does not clearly follow i replied
notice you got a funny accent pal like where
you from he asked far from here i mumbled
he stared hard i left
must be more careful item learn to use okay
their pass word okay
crowds gathering in the streets today for some
reason obscure to me noise and violent motion
repulsive physical contact sentinels pigs
i heard them called with flailing clubs rage
and bleeding and frenzy and screaming machines
wailing unbearable decibels i fled lest
vibrations of the brutal scene do further harm
to my metabolism already over taxed
The Counselors would never permit such barbarous
confusion they know what is best for our sereni
ty we are an ancient race and have outgrown
illusions cherished here item their vaunted
liberty no body pushes me around i have heard
them say land of the free they sing what do
they fear mistrust betray more than the freedom
they boast of in their ignorant pride have seen
the squalid ghettoes in their violent cities
paradox on paradox how have the americans
managed to survive
parades fireworks displays video spectacles
much grandiloquence much buying and selling
they are celebrating their history earth men
in antique uniforms play at the carnage whereby
the americans achieved identity we too recall
that struggle as enterprise of suffering and
faith uniquely theirs blonde miss teen age
america waving from a red white and blue flower
float as the goddess of liberty a divided
people seeking reassurance from a past few under
stand and many scorn why should we sanction
old hypocrisies thus dissenters The Counse
lors would silence them
a decadent people The Counselors believe i
do not find them decadent a refutation not
permitted me but for all their knowledge
power and inventiveness not yet more than raw
crude neophytes like earthlings everywhere
though i have easily passed for an american in
bankers grey afro and dashiki long hair and jeans
hard hat yarmulka mini skirt describe in some
detail for the amusement of The Counselors and
though my skill in mimicry is impeccable as
indeed The Counselors are aware some thing
eludes me some constant amid the variables
defies analysis and imitation will i be judged
america as much a problem in metaphysics as
it is a nation earthly entity an iota in our
galaxy an organism that changes even as i
examine it fact and fantasy never twice the
same so many variables
exert greater caution twice have aroused
suspicion returned to the ship until rumors
of humanoids from outer space so their scoff
ing media voices termed us had been laughed
away my crew and i laughed too of course
confess i am curiously drawn unmentionable to
the americans doubt i could exist among them for
long however psychic demands far too severe
much violence much that repels i am attracted
none the less their variousness their ingenuity
their elan vital and that some thing essence
quiddity i cannot penetrate or name
Copyright © 1978, 1982 by Robert Hayden, from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.
You must not think that what I have accomplished through you could have been accomplished by any other means. Each of us is to himself indelible. I had to become that which could not be, by time, from human memory, erased. I had to burn my hungry, unappeasable furious spirit so inconsolably into you you would without cease write to bring me rest. Bring us rest. Guilt is fecund. I knew nothing I made myself had enough steel in it to survive. I tried: I made beautiful paintings, beautiful poems. Fluff. Garbage. The inextricability of love and hate? If I had merely made you love me you could not have saved me.
Copyright © 2018 by Frank Bidart. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 22, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I have waited all my life to find me find you perched around my black neck in repose songing of me in repose your black legs songing of me in repose your black legs a dangle around me I have waited to find you find your black toes to find them sundering at the base your black toes your black toe- nails hale and bright your black feet a straddle around me around my black waist a straddle I finding I was born I was born who operated in the white was born who was born who operated in the white chapel who found your black thighs in repose songing to each other in repose across my chest an extended black for blocks a neighborhood song in repose your crotch an extended black at my neck your black groin a straddle around me in repose what life what there it is there I had been looked at there o lord sucked His black thorax which spanned as a fracture spanned as I who grow up in you there as a fracture find your black breast o lord quiescing atop my head your other black breast o lord hale and bright around me o lord a pendulum o lord to my black ear my black ear that finds you songing of me in repose in your stature toppling to one side of my one side find your black shoulders a gaping around me death your body armless around me death none can skirt it in your mother's way o lord is finding black fingers there your black neck is finding lord is rising past the cumulus-line an extended black o lord is an extended black o lord is thinking of self and thinking of self is finding you there so that when I entered I entered the pulpit I entered.
Copyright © 2018 by Anaïs Duplan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 23, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets
after Gerald Stern
The insect was yellow with crumpled-black banded legs
and shellacked back that would outlast us
and wistful eyes from what I could discern on that trail
and we laid him out in the open air under a sky fast-blue with
a leaf beneath his triple-belted belly so he didn’t rest on
and we placed two cloverblooms by his head and he was old
you said, could tell by how definite the stripes were, how
the patterns bold and dark, almost engraved,
and he was beautiful in that pasture of thirty-three cows and we
milk in the blaring heat and ate the cake you’d made. We
the only humans there—unholy-seeming things with two
legs, dismal histories—
drinking and eating around his elegant husk,
and from the furze, fellow insects rose, a frenzied static
around our bodies,
while he remained in situ an unremitting yellow, the color more
vivid, louder now that he was a remnant. Was color the
Yellow had alerted us to him, and we took care
with leaf and clover to make his bed.
The insect’s gold our togetherness, its death from which we fed.
Copyright © 2018 by Alessandra Lynch. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
A rose by any other name could be Miguel or Tiffany Could be David or Vashti Why not Aya which means beautiful flower but also verse and miracle and a bird that flies away quickly You see where this is going That is you could look at a rose and call it You See Where This Is Going or I Knew This Would Happen or even Why Wasn’t I Told I'm told of a man who does portraits for money on the beach He paints them with one arm the other he left behind in a war and so he tucks a rose into his cuff always yellow and people stare at it pinned to his shoulder while he works Call the rose Panos because I think that's his name or call it A Chair By The Sea Point from the window to the garden and say Look a bed of Painter’s Hands And this is a good place to remember the rose already has many names because language is old and can't agree with itself In Albania you say Trëndafil In Somalia say Kacay In American poetry it's the flower you must never name And now you see where this is going out the window across water to a rose shaped island that can't exist but you’re counting on to be there unmapped unmentioned till now The green place you imagine hiding when the world finds out you're not who you've said
Copyright © 2018 by Brendan Constantine. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
On balconies, sunlight. On poplars, sunlight on our lips.
Today no one is shooting.
A girl cuts her hair with imaginary scissors—
the scissors in sunlight, her hair in sunlight.
Another girl steals a pair of shoes from a sleeping soldier, skewered with light.
As soldier wakes and looks at us looking at them
what do they see?
Tonight they shot fifty women at Lerna St.,
I sit down to write and tell you what I know:
a child learns the world by putting it in her mouth,
a girl becomes a woman and a woman, earth.
Body, they blame you for all things and they
seek in the body what does not live in the body.
Copyright © 2018 by Ilya Kaminsky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 26, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.