it’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don’t like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn’t know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn’t worked the earth love it
I’ve never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I’ve loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can’t wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you'll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
                         and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
                         and will be said after me

I didn’t know I loved the sky
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard
the guards are beating someone again
I didn’t know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish
“the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
                         lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high”
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief
                                        to a pine bough for luck

I never knew I loved roads
even the asphalt kind
Vera's behind the wheel we're driving from Moscow to the Crimea
                                                          Koktebele
                               formerly “Goktepé ili” in Turkish
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
                                        when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn’t have anything in the wagon they could take
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I’ve written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I'm going to the shadow play
Ramazan night
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
                                       going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather’s hand
   his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
      with a sable collar over his robe
   and there’s a lantern in the servant’s hand
   and I can’t contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky
I didn’t know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison

I just remembered the stars
I love them too
whether I’m floored watching them from below
or whether I'm flying at their side

I have some questions for the cosmonauts
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
                             or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don’t
   be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
   well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
   say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad
I never knew I loved the cosmos

snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind
I didn’t know I liked snow

I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
but you aren’t about to paint it that way
I didn’t know I loved the sea
                             except the Sea of Azov
or how much

I didn’t know I loved clouds
whether I’m under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois
strikes me
I like it

I didn’t know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
   heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
   and takes off for uncharted countries I didn’t know I loved
   rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
   by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I’m half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn’t know I loved sparks
I didn’t know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
   to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
   watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

                                                     19 April 1962
                                                     Moscow

From Selected Poetry by Nazim Hikmet. Translation copyright © 1986 by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk. Reprinted by permission of Persea Books, Inc.

It was snowing on the monuments
My dead father’s name next to my living mothers

You went further back into the cemetery
There where so many lies remain lost to winter

There with the named and the nameless
It was snowing on the monuments

All horizons packed with cloud cover
bodies
Some of us left in the vehicles
We came in

Some became some final gesture
Of departure’s sun borne reflect
behind auto glass
heat blowing feeling back into a face

It was snowing on the monuments
Even in the warmth of an engine turning over
You must forget how we came to this place
How we leave

A procession of memory
an immersion in going away
music

Voices of older songs already
In the broken gone
As some wheel turns us back
Onto a gray road

Copyright © 2020 by Gordon Henry. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Writing poems about writing poems
is like rolling bales of hay in Texas.
Nothing but the horizon to stop you.

But consider the railroad's edge of metal trash;
bird perches, miles of telephone wires.
What is so innocent as grazing cattle?
If you think about it, it turns into words.

Trash is so cheerful; flying up
like grasshoppers in front of the reaper.
The dust devil whirls it aloft; bronze candy wrappers,
squares of clear plastic—windows on a house of air.

Below the weedy edge in last year's mat,
red and silver beer cans.
In bits blown equally everywhere,
the gaiety of flying paper
and the black high flung patterns of flocking birds.

From This Art: Poems on Poetry edited by Michael Wiegers. Copyright © 2003 by Ruth Stone. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All right reserved.

The internal organs were growling
According to them
They did all of the work while
Skin got all of the attention
He’s an organ just like us
They groused
Even the heart, which, a
Century ago, was the Queen
Of metaphors, but now
Was reduced to the greetings
Cards section of CVS,
Chimed in

They decided to call skin
On the carpet.
Skin arrived from Cannes
Where he’d been the subject
Of much fuss as actresses
Fed him luxurious skin
Food prepared by Max Factor
Estée Lauder, L’Oreal,
And Chanel
They
Caressed him daily
Sometimes for hours before
They made the red carpet
Shine

He was petted
And preened

Others
Pleaded with him
To erase wrinkles to
Make them look younger
To tighten their chins

Skin tried to appease the
Critics, greeting them with
His familiar “give me some skin”
But his gesture went unheeded

Brain did all the talking
Brain said, “Here’s the skinny
Why do you get
All of the press
Your color
Your texture discussed
Endlessly
Nicole Kidman never

Did an ad about us

Cole Porter never
Wrote a song about us
Nor were we mentioned
In a Thornton Wilder novel
You’ve given us no
Skin in the game”

“What about the nasty
Things they say about
Me,” skin replied
“What about skin deep
For superficiality
Or
Skin trade
To denote something
Unsavory

How would you
Like acne rashes
Eczema

Boils
Pellagra
Leprosy
And
Conditions
That astonish
Even dermatologists

I wear my blemishes
In public while you guys
Hide yours”

“Without me and heart
You’d be nothing,” the brain said
“That’s not true,” protested
The liver, “without me he’d
Be nothing”
“No,” the kidney said
“It’s me who keeps the
Body functioning”
The bladder and
The kidney began
To quarrel with
Gallbladder
The lung twins spoke
Up
“Without us
He couldn’t breathe”
Even the esophagus
And the thyroid
And the pancreas
Joined the outbreak
“What about us?”

The eyes said
“Without eyes you
Can’t see”

Their squabble distracted
Them
When they looked
Up from their dust up
Skin’s
Helicopter was up
He was scheduled to
Address a convention of
Plastic surgeons at
The Beverly Hills
Hotel
Escaping by the skin
Of his teeth
His opponents gave
Chase
But above the roar
Of the chopper
They heard him say
“Don’t worry fellas
I got you covered”

Copyright © 2021 by Ishmael Reed. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 26, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

'The devil must be forced to reveal any such physical evil
(potions, charms, fetishes, etc.) still outside the body
and these must be burned.' (Rituale Romanum, published
1947, endorsed by the coat-of-arms and introductory
letter from Francis cardinal Spellman)

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra,
sidewinders in the saloons of fools
bit my forehead like O
the untrustworthiness of Egyptologists
who do not know their trips. Who was that
dog-faced man? they asked, the day I rode
from town.

School marms with halitosis cannot see
the Nefertiti fake chipped on the run by slick
germans, the hawk behind Sonny Rollins' head or
the ritual beard of his axe; a longhorn winding
its bells thru the Field of Reeds.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. I bedded
down with Isis, Lady of the Boogaloo, dove
deep down in her horny, stuck up her Wells-Far-ago
in daring midday getaway. 'Start grabbing the
blue,' I said from top of my double crown.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Ezzard Charles
of the Chisholm Trail. Took up the bass but they
blew off my thumb. Alchemist in ringmanship but a
sucker for the right cross.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Vamoosed from
the temple i bide my time. The price on the wanted
poster was a-going down, outlaw alias copped my stance
and moody greenhorns were making me dance;
while my mouth's
shooting iron got its chambers jammed.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Boning-up in
the ol' West i bide my time. You should see
me pick off these tin cans whippersnappers. I
write the motown long plays for the comeback of
Osiris. Make them up when stars stare at sleeping
steer out here near the campfire. Women arrive
on the backs of goats and throw themselves on
my Bowie.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Lord of the lash,
the Loup Garou Kid. Half breed son of Pisces and
Aquarius. I hold the souls of men in my pot. I do
the dirty boogie with scorpions. I make the bulls
keep still and was the first swinger to grape the taste.

I am a cowboy in his boat. Pope Joan of the
Ptah Ra. C/mere a minute willya doll?
Be a good girl and
bring me my Buffalo horn of black powder
bring me my headdress of black feathers
bring me my bones of Ju-Ju snake
go get my eyelids of red paint.
Hand me my shadow

I'm going into town after Set

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra

look out Set        here i come Set
to get Set     to sunset Set
to unseat Set to  Set down Set

               usurper of the Royal couch
               imposter RAdio of Moses' bush
               party pooper O hater of dance
               vampire outlaw of the milky way

From New and Collected Poems by Ishmael Reed, published by Atheneum. Copyright © 1989 by Ishmael Reed. Reprinted by permission of Ishmael Reed. All rights reserved.

It’s the best part of the day, morning light sliding
down rooftops, treetops, the birds pulling themselves
up out of whatever stupor darkened their wings,
night still in their throats.

I never wanted to die. Even when those I loved
died around me, away from me, beyond me. 
My life was never in question, if for no other reason
than I wanted to wake up and see what happened next. 

And I continue to want to open like that, like the flowers
who lift their heavy heads as the hills outside the window
flare gold for a moment before they turn
on their sides and bare their creased backs.

Even the cut flowers in a jar of water lift
their soon to be dead heads and open
their eyes, even they want a few more sips,
to dwell here, in paradise, a few days longer.

Copyright © 2021 by Dorianne Laux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 16, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I watched my old life go by like television.

Slopes of grass whipping against bright blue skies,

Objects some called tools 

And others, totems.

A woodpile, a sheepskin, 

Garlic curing from the rafters;

A river’s loose slaps upon slabs of warm rock.

“Secret spot” read the caption disseminated 

Online. Coy copy. Cool 

Said the flatlanders 

Whose ranks I’d effectively joined.

While those I left drifted closer to one another 

Or God, to the sources 

Of life itself: children and dirt. Unkept

By the present tense, I was distant 

In my watching,

An existence I too tendered stagily 

As free. Like television, 

I was buying

Whatever was for sale

As the appraisers said You don’t seem like you’re from there

But I simmered in the grid

Of there’s off-the-grid life: the flowing virtue 

Of verdant surfaces, 

The cemented-down conclusion 

That meaning must be near.

The siren song soft focus of my own 

Slushy memories reenacted 

By someone else.

Good enough I brushed their expiration from my view.

I watched the endless plot 

Of daily benedictions over the land.

The land—

O—

Any of you could feel 

You were alive in its popular image.

Copyright © 2021 by Hanae Jonas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 9, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

sun beats
  wind leaps

blood memory

apocalyptic self-image crystallized affections of pious solace
                                         emptiness from this ceaseless war

I want to sin
against purity

bliss hovering above the void
haptic fallout feverish blood

sun beats down
wind leaps
blood memory
cheerful obscene boredom

angel
                     of
                                the
                                                   sun

                    singing with a hard fist
          life’s benevolent corruption
everything is hard against the tongue
everything dissolving
into otherworldly paradise
make heaven my home
I never learn my lesson

Copyright © 2021 by Precious Okoyomon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 29, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

The sun was gone, and the moon was coming
Over the blue Connecticut hills;
The west was rosy, the east was flushed,
And over my head the swallows rushed
This way and that, with changeful wills.
I heard them twitter and watched them dart
Now together and now apart
Like dark petals blown from a tree;
The maples stamped against the west
Were black and stately and full of rest,
And the hazy orange moon grew up
And slowly changed to yellow gold
While the hills were darkened, fold on fold
To a deeper blue than a flower could hold.
Down the hill I went, and then
I forgot the ways of men,
For night-scents, heady, and damp and cool
Wakened ecstasy in me
On the brink of a shining pool.

O Beauty, out of many a cup
You have made me drunk and wild
Ever since I was a child,
But when have I been sure as now
That no bitterness can bend
And no sorrow wholly bow
One who loves you to the end?
And though I must give my breath
And my laughter all to death,
And my eyes through which joy came,
And my heart, a wavering flame;
If all must leave me and go back
Along a blind and fearful track
So that you can make anew,
Fusing with intenser fire,
Something nearer your desire;
If my soul must go alone
Through a cold infinity,
Or even if it vanish, too,
Beauty, I have worshipped you.

Let this single hour atone
For the theft of all of me.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 1, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

 To reach the night festivities I press against the celebrants

an abbreviated symmetry with me at the lower end of the hill  

in a synthesis     a corporation     an exile of bodies in danger

I fear who know I have no business on the premises

or I fail to comprehend the intimation of despair

or I belong to no undercurrent of this circumstance

or what I  draw instead—now the universal grid

now a pixilated vista—configures no permission

even as the mob begins to dissipate  

                                                              and there is my father

with his remorse imposing as the Andes  

                above the great mountain savanna

his innermost ensemble of cells   my father

his subordinate and metallurgic heartache

                all the microtones of Bogotá      17th locality

of my father’ amphibian electrocardio dissection

                an alien puppetry           his Gaspard de la Nuit   

late lesson of his road mirage science            he says      I’m 

homesick for the material contradiction of our kin

                  among the living   long after the land

overcame my conformity but please

                                              spare this from your mother   

from her propensity  to disappear over time  

her 4 cardinal points in rapid alternation   her lofty

decibels and coffee-milk austerity saltines

her solitude in news print apocalypse or index cards

her Billy the Kid               Salón México     Wilshire Ebell

Pedro Armendáriz Yucatán-peninsular

recursive close-up —¿qué hora es?

my father says apúntalas the words ignominy and escrow

                too late or unspecified on the subject

of wake time surrender phosphorescent

in the dimming light of extrasensory

encircled—body before, body after—

I had for my heart a perfect measure

                to justify the untimely turn

of my neither known never noiseless

and I had for my heart in the age of consent

a little loathing                    I had a coin that fit

the slot   I had my compound fracture

declension of pain and deflated lung

irregularities of color                   But I know 

now the mistakes of my ancestry

in the style of my birthday venipuncture

and poultice for my chest infection     in the slide

transparencies of my naked limbs and chicken pox

foretold the phlebotomy of all Eerie County

I had now in my ventricles the great nebula of forgetting

abrogated law no longer larger than life

Copyright © 2021 by Roberto Tejada. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 7, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Listen, no one signed up for this lullaby. 
No bleeped sheep or rosebuds or twitching stars 
will diminish the fear or save you from waking 

into the same day you dreamed of leaving
mockingbird on back order, morning bells
stuck on snoozeso you might as well  

get up and at it, pestilence be damned. 
Peril and risk having become relative,
I’ll try to couch this in positive terms:

Never! is the word of last resorts, 
Always! the fanatic’s rallying cry. 
To those inclined toward kindness, I say

Come out of your houses drumming. All others, 
beware: I have discarded my smile but not my teeth.

Copyright © 2021 by Rita Dove. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 18, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

“The lake was originally called Onamaniig which means ‘ochre’ because it was remembered by Anishinaabeg as a place that the people of the Red Ochre culture lived.”
                  —Margaret Noodin

The red eye 
of a loon
for vision,
depths of water

who can say 
what will pass 
as, protection
reeds

edges of place
are only
temporary,
circling

filters the blues
and greens
as they have 
always done

dives for minutes
crayfish, light re-
fracted, what could be
slowed

just enough 
to catch a meal
or your eye,
indelible flash, 

a crimson ribbon
ablaze, crossing 
the lake
where you stand 

watching 
just then
with the grasses
from shore.

Copyright © 2021 by Molly McGlennen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 3, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

A hallway full of shadeless lamps suddenly goes dark
Upon the simultaneous bursting of the globes.
Glass is everywhere, and so thin it forgets

To reflect even the tiny glimmer of your
Matchlight as you pull out your wish 
Cigarette. 

This is it. The immediacy of the final desire.

I know the dead I know where ghosts go
to feel at home in the float

And how they commune with the living
through the lightswitch 
or the smells of honeysuckles off 
the highway upstate
I say

But you don’t

Copyright © 2022 by Dana Jaye Cadman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 24, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Aging, at all. I want that. And to fall
perhaps most honestly in love
beside the ocean, in a home I’ve paid
for by doing as I like: drinking good
wine, dusting sugar over a croissant, or
the stage play I’m writing myself into.
Aging Black woman in neutral summer
turtleneck. Known. And jogging. Lonesome
enough. Eating homemade lavender
ice cream, the moon blooming
through the kitchen window. The distant
sound of waves. Learning
French as a second language.
Votre pâte merveilleux, I smile back.
And then, just like that! Falling, cautiously,
for my busy, middle-aged lover,
who needs me, but has never truly seen me
until now. Our Black friends, celebrating
with hors d’oeuvres. Our Black children
growing older.

Copyright © 2022 by Rio Cortez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 22, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

All those years—paw of again, paw of let’s go
of lake-plash, of come throw, perked ear
of what’s that? of yanked back who’s that?
unsettled pacer of storms, investigator of grass,
distinguished scholar of curbside, delighted
roller in the perfume of foul, sleek 
fetcher, sock chewer, under table sleeper,
taut leaper into air & pond—then, all at once,
it became her turn & the reliable 
body began—the unimaginable undoing; 

while we—scratchers of belly & ear, callers of hey, 
come back, diligent trainers of down come,
companions of dawn, partners of rain,
& errand, stick throwers, ball wranglers, 
chair readers & nappers,
while at our feet with twitch & yelp,
she rustles through the high grass of dream—
understood it was now our turn, 
which meant—as it does with each animal sorrow
—doing the unimaginable.

Copyright © 2022 by Victoria Redel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 21, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

But then there comes that moment rare
When, for no cause that I can find,
The little voices of the air
Sound above all the sea and wind.

The sea and wind do then obey
And sighing, sighing double notes
Of double basses, content to play
A droning chord for the little throats—

The little throats that sing and rise
Up into the light with lovely ease
And a kind of magical, sweet surprise
To hear and know themselves for these—

For these little voices: the bee, the fly,
The leaf that taps, the pod that breaks,
The breeze on the grass-tops bending by,
The shrill quick sound that the insect makes.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 13, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Anvil clouds in the west.
My father dies in hospice
while I’m on the highway,
stuck in roadwork. 
Gaunt on the gurney.
Limbs impossibly still.
Mouth slightly open, 
as if surprised, as if saying 
ah! One eye half closed, 
the other looking up,
lit by a further light,
a sky in the ceiling. 
I touch his hand, barely 
cool. It’s only been 
an hour. At the elevator, 
I’m not ready to drop 
down the bright chute.
I go back. Bend & kiss
his hand. Outside, long
soft nails hammer the earth.

Copyright © 2022 by Willa Carroll. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 7, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Rank fennel and broom
Grown wanly beside
The cottage and room
We once occupied,
But sold for the snows!

The dahoon berry weeps in blood,
I know,
Watched by the crow—
I’ve seen both grow
In those weird wastes of Dixie!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 27, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

As usual, Death sweetly slips her arm in mine—
& we take a deep breath from the eucalyptus breeze.
We both worked honestly at our jobs: all day Death
destroyed traffic with wailing ambulances while I killed
hours & lines on eight-&-a-half by eleven inch pages.
We’re fast friends by now, Death much older of course,
but there’s no hierarchy between us: we’re both taking
a break from it all, glad to watch waves collapse on rocks
& pelicans dive-bomb fish. I try to be sensitive to Death’s
guilt: that whole pandemic disaster she can no longer
control. She’ll soon betray me too—like she will you. 
I know. But today the gulls are silver angels etching
great cursive blessings in a perfect sky—so Death & I
make believe we believe that, & amble on.

Copyright © 2022 by Laure-Anne Bosselaar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 15, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Since Poets have told of sunset, 
What is left for me to tell?
I can only say that I saw the day
Press crimson lips to the horizon gray, 
And kiss the earth farewell.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 8, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

It’s the best part of the day, morning light sliding
down rooftops, treetops, the birds pulling themselves
up out of whatever stupor darkened their wings,
night still in their throats.

I never wanted to die. Even when those I loved
died around me, away from me, beyond me. 
My life was never in question, if for no other reason
than I wanted to wake up and see what happened next. 

And I continue to want to open like that, like the flowers
who lift their heavy heads as the hills outside the window
flare gold for a moment before they turn
on their sides and bare their creased backs.

Even the cut flowers in a jar of water lift
their soon to be dead heads and open
their eyes, even they want a few more sips,
to dwell here, in paradise, a few days longer.

Copyright © 2021 by Dorianne Laux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 16, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

And only where the forest fires have sped, 
  Scorching relentlessly the cool north lands,
A sweet wild flower lifts its purple head, 
And, like some gentle spirit sorrow-fed,
  It hides the scars with almost human hands.

And only to the heart that knows of grief,
  Of desolating fire, of human pain,
There comes some purifying sweet belief, 
Some fellow-feeling beautiful, if brief.
  And life revives, and blossoms once again.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 2, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I watched my old life go by like television.

Slopes of grass whipping against bright blue skies,

Objects some called tools 

And others, totems.

A woodpile, a sheepskin, 

Garlic curing from the rafters;

A river’s loose slaps upon slabs of warm rock.

“Secret spot” read the caption disseminated 

Online. Coy copy. Cool 

Said the flatlanders 

Whose ranks I’d effectively joined.

While those I left drifted closer to one another 

Or God, to the sources 

Of life itself: children and dirt. Unkept

By the present tense, I was distant 

In my watching,

An existence I too tendered stagily 

As free. Like television, 

I was buying

Whatever was for sale

As the appraisers said You don’t seem like you’re from there

But I simmered in the grid

Of there’s off-the-grid life: the flowing virtue 

Of verdant surfaces, 

The cemented-down conclusion 

That meaning must be near.

The siren song soft focus of my own 

Slushy memories reenacted 

By someone else.

Good enough I brushed their expiration from my view.

I watched the endless plot 

Of daily benedictions over the land.

The land—

O—

Any of you could feel 

You were alive in its popular image.

Copyright © 2021 by Hanae Jonas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 9, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

sun beats
  wind leaps

blood memory

apocalyptic self-image crystallized affections of pious solace
                                         emptiness from this ceaseless war

I want to sin
against purity

bliss hovering above the void
haptic fallout feverish blood

sun beats down
wind leaps
blood memory
cheerful obscene boredom

angel
                     of
                                the
                                                   sun

                    singing with a hard fist
          life’s benevolent corruption
everything is hard against the tongue
everything dissolving
into otherworldly paradise
make heaven my home
I never learn my lesson

Copyright © 2021 by Precious Okoyomon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 29, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

The sun was gone, and the moon was coming
Over the blue Connecticut hills;
The west was rosy, the east was flushed,
And over my head the swallows rushed
This way and that, with changeful wills.
I heard them twitter and watched them dart
Now together and now apart
Like dark petals blown from a tree;
The maples stamped against the west
Were black and stately and full of rest,
And the hazy orange moon grew up
And slowly changed to yellow gold
While the hills were darkened, fold on fold
To a deeper blue than a flower could hold.
Down the hill I went, and then
I forgot the ways of men,
For night-scents, heady, and damp and cool
Wakened ecstasy in me
On the brink of a shining pool.

O Beauty, out of many a cup
You have made me drunk and wild
Ever since I was a child,
But when have I been sure as now
That no bitterness can bend
And no sorrow wholly bow
One who loves you to the end?
And though I must give my breath
And my laughter all to death,
And my eyes through which joy came,
And my heart, a wavering flame;
If all must leave me and go back
Along a blind and fearful track
So that you can make anew,
Fusing with intenser fire,
Something nearer your desire;
If my soul must go alone
Through a cold infinity,
Or even if it vanish, too,
Beauty, I have worshipped you.

Let this single hour atone
For the theft of all of me.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 1, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

           with some help from Ahmad

I wanna write lyrical, but all I got is magical.
My book needs a poem talkin bout I remember when
Something more autobiographical

Mi familia wanted to assimilate, nothing radical,
Each month was a struggle to pay our rent
With food stamps, so dust collects on the magical.

Each month it got a little less civil
Isolation is a learned defense
When all you wanna do is write lyrical.

None of us escaped being a criminal
Of the state, institutionalized when
They found out all we had was magical.

White room is white room, it’s all statistical—
Our calendars were divided by Sundays spent
In visiting hours. Cold metal chairs deny the lyrical.

I keep my genes in the sharp light of the celestial.
My history writes itself in sheets across my veins.
My parents believed in prayer, I believed in magical

Well, at least I believed in curses, biblical
Or not, I believed in sharp fists, 
Beat myself into lyrical.

But we were each born into this, anger so cosmical
Or so I thought, I wore ten chokers and a chain
Couldn’t see any significance, anger is magical.
Fists to scissors to drugs to pills to fists again

Did you know a poem can be both mythical and archeological?
I ignore the cataphysical, and I anoint my own clavicle.

Copyright © 2021 by Suzi F. Garcia. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 28, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated from the Icelandic by Christopher Burawa

This poem which is a part of my life
must live on as my life: Aragon’s sun
reaching down to me. Snow flurries melting
as they fall on the slopes of Moncayo.
An April day when everything seems alive.

The peal of bells soaks into the centuries-old shadows,
and colorful butterflies tumble in the breeze,
hover above me
and settle on my book,
which lies forgotten in my hands.

 


 

Verönd 

 

Þetta ljóð sem er hluti af ævi minni 
mun líða eins og hún. Sól Aragón 
hremmir mig. Snjóa leysir 
í hlíðum Moncayo. 
Apríldagur þegar allt verður lifandi. 
Bjöllur koma fljúgandi úr aldagömlu myrkri 
og marglitt fiðrildi birtist í þyrlulíki, 
hangir í loftinu fyrir ofan mig 
og hættir við að setjast á bókina 
sem er opin en óskrifuð 
í hendi minni.

Copyright © 2022 by Jóhann Hjálmarsson and Christopher Burawa. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 21, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I said, in drunken pride of youth and you
That mischief-making Time would never dare
Play his ill-humored tricks upon us two,
Strange and defiant lovers that we were.
I said that even Death, Highwayman Death,
Could never master lovers such as we,
That even when his clutch had throttled breath,
My hymns would float in praise, undauntedly.

I did not think such words were bravado.
Oh, I think honestly we knew no fear,
We loved each other so.
And thus, with you believing me, I made
My prophecies, rebellious, unafraid . . . .
And that was foolish, wasn’t it, my dear?

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

The dead are breathing inside me now,

everything slowing to the pace of the newt
crawling across the bricks, the old cat watching,

the newt too slow for even him
as the crack in the earth opens and the roots

rise up to trip me. Fire lives in me
and the fear of fire, plague and the fear

of plague, death and the fear of death
though only it will silence me. I remember

the abandoned freight cars
standing on unused tracks, doors open.

I saw through them to the stubbled fields
beyond. The owl sitting on its fencepost late

in the day, the creek and its flowing,
the pied horse in its pasture—I was afraid

I’d lose them. If I could only do just this,
the long days filled, me longing, in pursuit

of something exquisite that eludes me, always
clumsy, never knowing the manners

of the place I have entered.

Copyright © 2023 by Maxine Scates. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 2, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

When I wait 
for my father, the stars 

disappear. Only bats 
dart and flutter, 

hungry for the hum 
of mosquitos, thick 

as honey. Their bright 
sting lingers and jumps

like electricity can.
It’s looking for a body.

He didn’t say  
how production
stopped when the volt
distribution panel was
cleaned of calf and hip.
No matter how hot

the summer was, my father
said it was nothing compared
to coke, spelled coal. The way it
penetrated his skin like the breathlessness of asphalt
and the charcoal briquettes he set fire to—

the sizzle and curl of chicken skin
rubbed with paprika, salt, and black pepper.
The acrid spray of vinegar when turned and sealed 
under lid. I stood next to the heat, 
a sticky sheen of smoke,
and I wanted to eat.

Copyright © 2023 by Monica Rico. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 13, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

In my youth the heart of dawn was in my heart, and the songs of April were in my ears.

But my soul was sad unto death, and I knew not why. Even unto this day I know not why I was sad.

But now, though I am with eventide, my heart is still veiling dawn,

And though I am with autumn, my ears still echo the songs of spring.

But my sadness has turned into awe, and I stand in the presence of life and life’s daily miracles.

The difference between my youth which was my spring, and these forty years, and they are my autumn, is the very difference that exists between flower and fruit.

A flower is forever swayed with the wind and knows not why and wherefore.

But the fruit overladen with the honey of summer, knows that it is one of life’s home-comings, as a poet when his song is sung knows sweet content,

Though life has been bitter upon his lips.

In my youth I longed for the unknown, and for the unknown I am still longing.

But in the days of my youth longing embraced necessity that knows naught of patience.

Today I long not less, but my longing is friendly with patience, and even waiting.

And I know that all this desire that moves within me is one of those laws that turns universes around one another in quiet ecstasy, in swift passion which your eyes deem stillness, and your mind a mystery.

And in my youth I loved beauty and abhorred ugliness, for beauty was to me a world separated from all other worlds.

But now that the gracious years have lifted the veil of picking-and-choosing from over my eyes, I know that all I have deemed ugly in what I see and hear, is but a blinder upon my eyes, and wool in my ears;

And that our senses, like our neighbors, hate what they do not understand. 

And in my youth I loved the fragrance of flowers and their color. 

Now I know that their thorns are their innocent protection, and if it were not for that innocence they would disappear forevermore.

And in my youth, of all seasons I hated winter, for I said in my aloneness, “Winter is a thief who robs the earth of her sun-woven garment, and suffers her to stand naked in the wind.” 

But now I know that in winter there is re-birth and renewal, and that the wind tears the old raiment to cloak her with a new raiment woven by the spring. 

And in my youth I would gaze upon the sun of the day and the stars of the night, saying in my secret, “How small am I, and how small a circle my dream makes.”

But today when I stand before the sun or the stars I cry, “The sun is close to me, and the stars are upon me;” for all the distances of my youth have turned into the nearness of age; 

And the great aloneness which knows not what is far and what is near, nor what is small nor great, has turned into a vision that weighs not nor does it measure. 

In my youth I was but the slave of the high tide and the ebb tide of the sea, and the prisoner of half moons and full moons. 

Today I stand at this shore and I rise not nor do I go down. 

Even my roots once every twenty-eight days would seek the heart of the earth.

And on the twenty-ninth day they would rise toward the throne of the sky. 

And on that very day the rivers in my veins would stop for a moment, and then would run again to the sea. 

Yes, in my youth I was a thing, sad and yielding, and all the seasons played with me and laughed in their hearts.

And life took a fancy to me and kissed my young lips, and slapped my cheeks. 

Today I play with the seasons. And I steal a kiss from life’s lips ere she kisses my lips. 

And I even hold her hands playfully that she may not strike my cheek. 

In my youth I was sad indeed, and all things seemed dark and distant. 

Today, all is radiant and near, and for this I would live my youth and the pain of my youth, again and yet again.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 2, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

The yellow flowers on the grave
make an arch, they lie 

on a black stone that lies on the ground
like a black door that will always

remain closed down into the earth,
into it is etched the name

of a great poet who believed
he had nothing more to say,

he threw himself into literal water
and everyone has done their mourning 

and been mourned over, and we all 
went on with our shopping, 

I stare at this photograph of that grave
and think you died like him, 

like all the others,
and the yellow flowers 

seem angry, they seem to want to refuse 
to be placed anywhere but in a vase 

next to the living, someday 
all of us will have our names 

etched where we cannot read them,
she who sealed her envelopes

full of poems about doubt with flowers 
called it her “granite lip,” I want mine 

to say Lucky Life, and what would 
a perfect elegy do? place the flowers 

back in the ground? take me 
where I can watch him sit eternally 

dreaming over his typewriter? 
then, at last, will I finally unlearn 

everything? and I admit that yes, 
while I could never leave 

everyone, here at last 
I understand these yellow flowers, 

the names, the black door 
he held open 

and you walked through.

Copyright © 2023 by Matthew Zapruder. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 18, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

The splendid body is meat, flexor
and flesh pumping, pulling, anti-
gravity maverick just standing
upright all over museums and
in line for the bus and in the laundry
aisle where it’s just standing there
smelling all the detergent like
it’s no big deal. So what if a couple
of its squishy parts are suspended
within, like beach-bungled jellyfish
in a shelved jar, not doing anything?
Nothing on this side of the quantum
tunnel is perfect. The splendid body,
though, is splendid in the way
it keeps its steamy blood in, no matter
how bad it blushes. And splendid
in how it opens its mouth and
these invisible vibrations come
rippling out—if you put your wrist
right up to it when that happens
it feels somewhat like the feet
of many bees. The splendid body
loves the juniper smell of gin, loves
the warmth of printer-fresh paper,
and the sound fallen leaves make
under the wheel of a turning car.
If you touch it between the legs,
the splendid body will quicken
like bubbles in a just-on teakettle.
It knows it can’t exist forever, so
it’s collecting as many flavors as it can—
saffron, rainwater, fish-skin, chive.
Do not distract it from its purpose,
which is to feel everything it can find.

Copyright © 2023 by Rebecca Lindenberg. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 27, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

My father’s last breath is still the blade 
that pares and cleaves me open. 
From the wound I cradle every beautiful thing:  

my friends’ laughter havocking the moonless night
cricket song spilling from an unfinished building.
In my hands the pastel rind of a grapefruit

plucked from the neighbor’s tree 
sour blush of its fruit plush beneath my nail’s parting. 
How to live knowing all of this will one day join him in the dirt 

and he will never see me beneath palm and palo verde:
my fingers long and lithe as his 
ripping pith from fruit. 

I slurp the good and bitter juice, 
drinking enough for both of us. 
Each night I’ll tell him what he’s missed: 

The tree’s golden litter of leaves 
the mourning doves’ daily song 
rung from branches thrust against the winter sky

too blue and too bright to bear.

Copyright © 2023 by Jade Cho. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 10, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

now she’s gone my teacher wants to know 
where the speaker enters the poem

the wind blows open the screen door & it catches 
on its chain. outback my neighbors are smoking

a pig to make it last. my teacher only became 
my teacher after she passed. before that

she was a woman who had lived a long time.
as always i am an ungrateful child, a student 

first of ingratitude. ungracious as a wasp. a knot
in a history of rope your hands don’t notice 

as you hold on for dear life. dear life, the speaker 
is the chain holding the door closed & the wind 

is my teacher, the smoke curing meat,
my teacher had stories about all the dead poets

which made her, while living, prophetic. proximity
is next to godliness. for a woman who had no use 

for music or pleasure her writing beats the page 
until knuckles singe. my speaker wants to know 

when the teacher enters the poem, if she ever leaves,
if she’s always there in the text shaking her heads 
           
cutting the weeds.

Copyright © 2023 by Sam Sax. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 12, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

But what do they know of endlessness? In Los Angeles
it is as though someone has copy-pasted the same 
morning over and over and over and over and over

three-hundred-and-sixty-five fucking mornings 
in a row. I wake to the same sun and stucco and slate
blue sky. If sunlight is the best disinfectant

why do seasonal birds migrated for winter choose 
my patch of sidewalk to die on? There’s no dignity
in the corpse left lying to collect sand and Snickers

wrappers in its feathers. Where I’m from, storm 
clouds and cold span entire seasons. Our sun is
an incandescent bulb that does nothing to keep us 

warm. We smother its glow when we want to
feel our shadows, elastic. Here, I get tired 
just looking at the agave outside my window. 

How it holds its shape. How it’s never allowed
to wilt. Some days I draw the bathroom blinds
and stand beneath my shower, pretending rain,

but even I can’t resist wandering outside, again,
passing, again, the turnstiles of my life, its sharp
and spiteful gardens, my face craned up for a light

that promises and promises and promises.

Copyright © 2023 by Perry Janes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 25, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

A boy can wear a dress
    by cliff or by
creek, by God or by
   dark in the caul of the devil.

A boy can wear a dress
    bought with a tin-
can full of cherries on the
    day of his daddy’s dying.

A boy can weep in his dress—
    by boat or by plane, he
can sleep in his dress,
    dance in his dress, make

eyes in his dress at the
    flame at the hotel bar.
Goddamn it all to graceland,
    how stunning he looks

in his blue cotton dress,
    just stunning! Nothing can
keep him from
    losing our minds, sluicing

my heart in that way he does.
    Nothing can keep him.
On the walk to his daddy’s wake,
    persons of rank may

question his dress,
    raise their brows at his dress,
so he twirls and twirls
    till his dress is its own

    unaddressed question, un-
veiling the reasons he
    wakes every morning, like an
x-ray for colors beneath

    your colors, your
zygote soul, your naked twirl—

 

Copyright © 2018 by John Bosworth. Used with the permission of the author.

 

You hurt my feelings 
I say to the trees. You never 
ask me how I am I whisper 
to the breakfast taco, before 
an indelicate but determined bite. 
I miss you, I confront
the chair in the stranger’s yard. 
Your strong + silly arms. Your sin-sturdy legs. 

Why don’t you                  me I embroider
in green thread onto a yellow t-shirt 
on sale (jk I don’t do that. I pur-
chase bananas and toothpaste). Oh, 
is this where you go? I murmur 
to my car, who has a secret name. 

Can you hear me? I gesture
mutely to the parking lot. The trees
do not answer; they’re trees, 
                        and know better. 

Copyright © 2023 by Tarfia Faizullah. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 1, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

A second crop of hay lies cut   
and turned. Five gleaming crows   
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,   
and like midwives and undertakers   
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,   
parting before me like the Red Sea.   
The garden sprawls and spoils.

Across the lake the campers have learned   
to water-ski. They have, or they haven’t.   
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone   
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,   
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.   
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod   
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;   
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

*

The cicada’s dry monotony breaks   
over me. The days are bright   
and free, bright and free.

Then why did I cry today   
for an hour, with my whole   
body, the way babies cry?

*

A white, indifferent morning sky,   
and a crow, hectoring from its nest   
high in the hemlock, a nest as big   
as a laundry basket....
                                    In my childhood   
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,   
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.

The damp dirt road gave off   
this same complex organic scent.

I had the new books—words, numbers,   
and operations with numbers I did not   
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled   
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.

Spruce, inadequate, and alien   
I stood at the side of the road.   
It was the only life I had.

Jane Kenyon, "Three Songs at the End of Summer" from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press, graywolfpress.org.

The sundial makes no sign
At the point of the August noon.
The sky is of ancient tin,
And the ring of the mountains diffused and unmade
(One always remembers them).
On the twisted dark of the hemlock hedge
Rain, like a line of shivering violin-bows
Hissing together, poised on the last turgescent swell,
Batters the flowers.
Under the trumpet-vine arbor,
Clear, precise as an Audubon print,
           The air is of melted glass,
           Solid, filling interstices
Of leaves that are spaced on the spines
           Like a pattern ground into glass;
           Dead, as though dull red glass were poured into the mouth,
Choking the breath, molding itself into the creases of soft red tissues.

And a humming-bird darts head first,
Splitting the air, keen as a spurt of fire shot from the blow-pipe,
Cracking a star of rays; dives like a flash of fire,
Forked tail lancing the air, into the immobile trumpet;
Stands on the air, wings like a triple shadow
Whizzing around him.

Shadows thrown on the midnight streets by a snow-flecked arc-light,
Shadows like sword-play,
Splinters and spines from a thousand dreams
Whizz from his wings!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 20, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

They came from the municipalities  the cantones  the in between  children of campesinos  day laborers  drudges. They crossed water and deserts and left children  elders  husbands. They were children  lovers  spouses  mothers  elders  vagabond escapists. They prayed in the back of trucks so hard the virgin mother revealed herself at checkpoint to offer the miracle crossing of another boundary. Something was happening to them. So much had happened where they left. They changed the swelling cities but the cities changed them. They gathered burn marks  bruises on their arms in kitchens  in hotels  in other homes. They hid their names behind other names. They learned and did not learn new language. They crossed themselves waiting for buses  car rides  late night  early in the morning. They entered apartments at twilight where they laid beside sisters  friends  lovers. What were they dreaming as they slipped into their kitten heels  hair cut short  madonna-like lips painted red  dancing in the discotecas  downtown  uptown   outside the loop. They guarded pictures in their purses. They guarded themselves. They married for love  married without it  and they did not marry. And they loved  they learned  and they did not love. Learned to find and tuck themselves into their secret seams. The many things they would not tell their children. With illicit seeds they grow what they left behind  among the brush  little stems  memorials  now adornments at their windows.

Copyright © 2023 by Maryam Ivette Parhizkar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 11, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

I now replace desire 

with meaning. 

Instead of saying, I want you, I say, 

there is meaning between us.

Meaning can swim, has taken lessons from the river 

of itself. Desire is air. One puncture 

above a black lake and she lies flat.

I now replace intensity with meaning.

One is a black hole of boundless appetite, a false womb,

another is a sentence.

My therapist says children need a “father” for language 

and a “mother” for everything else.

She doesn’t get that it’s all language. There is no else

Else is a fiction of life, and a fact of death.

That night, we don’t touch. 

We ruin nothing. 

We get bagels in the morning before you leave on a train, 

and I smoke a skinny cigarette and think 

I look glam, like an Italian diva.

You make a joke at my expense, which is not a joke, really, 

but a way to say I know you

I don’t feed on you. Instead, I watch you 

like a faraway tree. 

Desire loves the what if, the if only, the maybe in another lifetime

She loves a parallel universe. Or seven. 

Meaning knows its minerals,

knows which volcanic magma belongs 

to which volcanic fleet.

Knows the earth has parents. That a person is raised. 

It’s the real flirtation, to say, you are not a meal. 

To say, I want you 

to last. 

Copyright © 2023 by Megan Fernandes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 13, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

An Indian Grandmother’s Parable

Many times in my life I have heard the white sages,
Who are learned in the knowledge and lore of past ages,
Speak of my people with pity, say, “Gone is their hour
Of dominion. By the strong wind of progress their power,
Like a rose past its brief time of blooming, lies shattered;
Like the leaves of the oak tree its people are scattered.”
This is the eighty-first autumn since I can remember.
Again fall the leaves, born in April and dead by December;
Riding the whimsied breeze, zigzagging and whirling,
Coming to earth at last and slowly upcurling,
Withered and sapless and brown, into discarded fragments,
Of what once was life; dry, chattering parchments
That crackle and rustle like old women’s laughter
When the merciless wind with swift feet coming after
Will drive them before him with unsparing lashes
’Til they are crumbled and crushed into forgotten ashes;
Crumbled and crushed, and piled deep in the gulches and hollows,
Soft bed for the yet softer snow that in winter fast follows
But when in the spring the light falling
Patter of raindrops persuading, insistently calling,
Wakens to life again forces that long months have slumbered,
There will come whispering movement, and green things unnumbered
Will pierce through the mould with their yellow-green, sun-searching fingers,
Fingers—or spear-tips, grown tall, will bud at another year’s breaking,
One day when the brooks, manumitted by sunshine, are making
Music like gold in the spring of some far generation. 
And up from the long-withered leaves, from the musty stagnation,
Life will climb high to the furthermost leaflets.
The bursting of catkins asunder with greed for the sunlight; the thirsting
Of twisted brown roots for earth-water; the gradual unfolding
Of brilliance and strength in the future, earth’s bosom is holding
Today in those scurrying leaves, soon to be crumpled and broken.
Let those who have ears hear my word and be still. I have spoken.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 11, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sorrow, O sorrow, moves like a loose flock
of blackbirds sweeping over the metal roofs, over the birches, 
                    and the miles. 
    One wave after another, then another, then the sudden 

                                                            opening
where the feathered swirl, illumined by dusk, parts to reveal 
the weeping 
                     heart of all things.

Copyright © 2024 by Vievee Francis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 12, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

i’m confident that the absolute dregs of possibility for this society,
the sugary coffee mound at the bottom of this cup,
our last best hope that when our little bit of assigned plasma implodes 
it won’t go down as a green mark in the cosmic ledger,
lies in the moment when you say hello to a bus driver 
and they say it back—

when someone holds the door open for you 
and you do a little jog to meet them where they are—

walking my dog, i used to see this older man 
and whenever I said good morning, 
he replied ‘GREAT morning’—

in fact, all the creative ways our people greet each other
may be the icing on this flaming trash cake hurtling through the ether. 

when the clerk says how are you 
and i say ‘i’m blessed and highly favored’ 

i mean my toes have met sand, and wiggled in it, a lot. 
i mean i have laughed until i choked and a friend slapped my back.
i mean my niece wrote me a note: ‘you are so smart + intellajet’

i mean when we do go careening into the sun, 

i’ll miss crossing guards ushering the grown folks too, like ducklings 
and the lifeguards at the community pool and
men who yelled out the window that they’d fix the dent in my car, 
right now! it’d just take a second—

and actually everyone who tried to keep me alive, keep me afloat, 
and if not unblemished, suitably repaired.

but I won’t feel too sad about it,
becoming a star 

Copyright © 2024 by Eve L. Ewing. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 6, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

He sits, silent, 
no longer mistaking the cable 
news for company—

and when he talks, he talks of childhood, 
remembering some slight or conundrum 
as if it is a score to be retailed

and settled after seventy-five years.

Rare, the sudden lucidity 
that acknowledges this thing
that has happened
to me… 

More often, he recounts 
his father’s cruelty
or a chance deprived 
to him, a Negro
                  under Jim Crow. 

Five minutes ago escapes him 
as he chases 1934, unaware

of the present beauty out the window,
the banks of windswept snow—

or his wife, humming in the kitchen, 
or the twilit battles in Korea, or me

when he remembers that I am his son.

This condition—with a name that implies 
the proprietary, 
possession, 
                           spiritual
and otherwise—

as if it owns him,
which it does.

Copyright © 2024 by Anthony Walton. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 8, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.