How desire is a thing I might die for. Longing a well,
a long dark throat. Enter any body

of water and you give yourself up
to be swallowed. Even the stones

know that. I have writhed
against you as if against the black

bottom of a deep pool. I have emerged
from your grip breathless

and slicked. How easily
I could forget you

as separate, so essential
you feel to me now. You

beneath me like my own
blue shadow. You silent as the moon

drifts like a petal
across your skin, my mouth

to your lip—you a spring
I return to, unquenchable, and drink.

Copyright © 2021 by Leila Chatti. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 14, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Never, my heart, is there enough of living,
Since only in thee is loveliness so sweet pain;
Only for thee the willows will be giving
Their quiet fringes to the dreaming river;
Only for thee so the light grasses ever
Are hollowed by the print of windy feet,
And breathe hill weather on the misty plain;
And were no rapture of them in thy beat,
For every hour of sky
Stillborn in gladness would the waters wear
Colors of air translucently,
And the stars sleep there.

Gently, my heart, nor let one moment ever
Be spilled from the brief fullness of thine urn.
Plunge in its exultation star and star,
Sea and plumed sea in turn.
O still, my heart, nor spill this moment ever.

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

she says the planets & stars show that I’m too good at being alone
I have unresolved traumas from past lives it is true
there were difficulties during my delivery even in the womb
I had a bad feeling cord around my throat as I tried
to make passage forced into this world or rather out of another
by extraction the witch asks if I often feel guilty
asks if I try to heal those around me despite finding it difficult
to bond with anyone other than myself
she wants to know about my childhood memories
if I’m alone in them
& I admit I stop listening though I can still hear
the untroubled tone in her voice vowels elongated
mouth full of sounds like spandex bursting at the seams
I want to go back to the stars we’ve strayed so far from the planets
she says there’s much to learn about my sources of pain
the gaping wound I will try to alleviate for the rest of my life
I want to touch her long hair as if it were my hair
I want to convince her I believe in everything she believes
but I demand too much of faith
like apples in the market I inspect the curves & creases
put them back at the slightest sign of bruising

Copyright © 2021 by Eloisa Amezcua. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 19, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

now i like to imagine la migra running
into the sock factory where my mom
& her friends worked. it was all women

who worked there. women who braided
each other’s hair during breaks.
women who wore rosaries, & never 

had a hair out of place. women who were ready
for cameras or for God, who ended all their sentences
with si dios quiere. as in: the day before 

the immigration raid when the rumor
of a raid was passed around like bread
& the women made plans, si dios quiere.

so when the immigration officers arrived
they found boxes of socks & all the women absent.
safe at home. those officers thought

no one was working. they were wrong.
the women would say it was god working.
& it was god, but the god 

my mom taught us to fear
was vengeful. he might have wet his thumb
& wiped la migra out of this world like a smudge

on a mirror. this god was the god that woke me up
at 7am every day for school to let me know
there was food in the fridge for me & my brothers.

i never asked my mom where the food came from,
but she told me anyway: gracias a dios.
gracias a dios del chisme, who heard all la migra’s plans

& whispered them into the right ears
to keep our families safe.

Copyright © 2021 by José Olivarez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 12, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

America mourns for the Indian
figure who knelt like a supplicant before dairy,
fatly blessed our milks, our cheeses,

anointed our lands & shores.
The Google tutorials surface—
the “boob trick:” score the box & fold to make

a window for her knees to jut through.
O our butter maiden
brought all the boys to the yard.

Twittersphere so prostrate with grief
petitions are launched for the Dairy Princess:
O our pat O Americana,

O our dab O Disneyesque,
O our dollop O Heritage.
The mourning procession bears witness:

Jolly Green Giant & Chicken of the Sea Mermaid,
Uncle Ben & Aunt Jemimah,
magically delicious leprechaun & Peter Pan—

even the Argo Cornstarch Maiden & Mazola
Margarine “you call it corn, we call it maize”
spokesIndian raise stalks in solidarity.

Mia, aptly named, our butter girl mascot,
the only Indian woman gone missing
that anyone notices, anyone cares about.

Copyright © 2020 by Tiffany Midge. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 24, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Outside, an abandoned mattress sags with rain
and the driveway turns all sludge when I remember
I could’ve died eight years ago, in a bed
smaller than the one I share with a new lover
who just this morning found another grey hair in my afro,
and before resettling the wiry curl with the others,
kissed the freckle on my forehead.
I admit, I don’t know a love that doesn’t
destroy. Last night while we slept,
a mouse drowned in the rice pot
I left soaking in the sink. I tried
to make a metaphor out of this, the way
he took the mouse to the edge of the lake in the yard,
released it to a deeper grave. It was
an anniversary, just my lover
taking a dead thing away, taking it
somewhere I couldn’t see.

Copyright © 2020 by Diannely Antigua. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 28, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

When in the morning’s misty hour,
When the sun beams gently o’er each flower;
When thou dost cease to smile benign,
And think each heart responds with thine,
When seeking rest among divine,
                                    Forget me not.

When the last rays of twilight fall,
And thou art pacing yonder hall;
When mists are gathering on the hill,
Nor sound is heard save mountain rill,
When all around bids peace be still,
                                    Forget me not.

When the first star with brilliance bright,
Gleams lonely o’er the arch of night;
When the bright moon dispels the gloom,
And various are the stars that bloom,
And brighten as the sun at noon,
                                    Forget me not.

When solemn sighs the hollow wind,
And deepen’d thought enraps the mind;
If e’er thou doest in mournful tone,
E’er sigh because thou feel alone,
Or wrapt in melancholy prone,
                                    Forget me not. 

When bird does wait thy absence long,
Nor tend unto its morning song;
While thou art searching stoic page,
Or listening to an ancient sage,
Whose spirit curbs a mournful rage,
                                    Forget me not.

Then when in silence thou doest walk,
Nor being round with whom to talk;
When thou art on the mighty deep,
And do in quiet action sleep;
If we no more on earth do meet,
                                    Forget me not.

When brightness round thee long shall bloom,
And knelt remembering those in gloom;
And when in deep oblivion's shade,
This breathless, mouldering form is laid,
And thy terrestrial body staid,
                                     Forget me not.

“Should sorrow cloud thy coming years,
And bathe thy happiness in tears,
Remember, though we’re doom’d to part,
There lives one fond and faithful heart,
                        That will forget thee not.”

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 2, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

In some other life, I can hear you
breathing: a pale sound like running
fingers through tangled hair. I dreamt
again of swimming in the quarry
& surfaced here when you called for me
in a voice only my sleeping self could
know. Now the dapple of the aspen
respires on the wall & the shades cut
its song a staff of light. Leave me—
that me—in bed with the woman
who said all the sounds for pleasure
were made with vowels I couldn’t
hear. Keep me instead with this small sun
that sips at the sky blue hem of our sheets
then dips & reappears: a drowsy penny
in the belt of Venus, your aureole nodding
slow & copper as it bobs against cotton
in cornflower or clay. What a waste
the groan of the mattress must be
when you backstroke into me & pull
the night up over our heads. Your eyes
are two moons I float beneath & my lungs
fill with a wet hum your hips return.
It’s Sunday—or so you say with both hands
on my chest—& hot breath is the only hymn
whose refrain we can recall. And then you
reach for me like I could’ve been another
man. You make me sing without a sound.

Copyright © 2019 by Meg Day. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 1, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

I used to dream of living here. I hike
a trail I know that at the end opens

to glorious views of the city I did
live in once, when men my age kept dying

while I learned how to diagnose AIDS.
Some dreams don’t come true, and some dreams become

nightmares. Across a field that smells of sage,
a few horses loiter. I want to think

that they forgive me, since they’re noble creatures.
They stamp and snort, reminding me they know

nothing of forgiveness. I used to dream
that someday I’d escape to San Francisco,

when I was still in high school and I knew.
Tall and muscled, the horses are like the jocks

on the football team who beat me once, as if pain
teaches truth and they knew I had to learn.

I used to dream I was as white as them,
that I could slam my locker closed and not

think of jail. Some nightmares come true,
like when my uncle got arrested for

cocaine. My family never talked about it,
which made me realize they could also feel shame.

That’s when I started dreaming I could be
a doctor someday, that I could get away,

prescribe myself a new life. Right now, as
the city comes into view, I think of those

animals and hope they got what they deserved.
The city stretches out its arms, its two bridges

to Oakland, to Stockton, to San Rafael,
to Vallejo; places I could have been from

but wasn’t. It looks just as it did
all those years ago. Yet I know it’s changed

because so many of us died, like Rico,
who took me up here for the first time.

We kicked a soccer ball around and smoked
a joint. I think we talked about our dreams,

but who can remember dreams. I look out
and the sun like your hand on my face

is warm, and for a moment I think this is
glorious, this is what forgiveness feels like.

Copyright © 2020 by Rafael Campo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 5, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

after Nazim Hikmet

it’s April 13th 2020, my mother’s 60th birthday
and i’m sitting on the couch from my old apartment 
in my new apartment, and Pidgeon’s wind chimes are loud 
outside my window    

i never knew i liked wind chimes

i think Mom used to have some outside her office
she had tabletop fountains and hunks of amethyst 
crystals the size of my face

i used to hate how she made us meditate 
learn reiki on the weekends
now i’m calling her every other day 
for the new old remedy

i hate how much i cared about being cool 
when i was younger, carrying mom’s tupperware
in brown paper bags wishing for a lunchable
something disposable with a subtler scent  

now i am ecstatic to see tupperware 
stacked in my fridge, the luxury 
of leftovers instead of chopping 
another onion 

i used to lie in bed on Sunday evenings wishing 
for a whole week of weekends
now i forget what day it is 
and still feel i’m running out of time 

i never knew i hated washing my hands this much
i sing “Love On Top” while scrubbing 
to make sure i hit twenty seconds

my sister hears me singing and asks 
if i am happy. no, i say
i’m just counting

Copyright © 2021 by Jamila Woods. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 1, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

If you see an old man sitting alone
at the bus stop and wonder who he is
I can tell you.
He is my father.
He is not waiting for a bus or a friend
nor is he taking a brief rest before
resuming his walk.
He doesn't intend to shop in the
nearby stores either
he is just sitting there on the bench.

Occasionally he smiles and talks.
No one listens.
Nobody is interested.
And he doesn't seem to care
if someone listens or not.

A stream of cars, buses, and people
flows on the road.
A river of images, metaphors, and
similes flows through his head.
When everything stops
at the traffic lights it is midnight
back in his village. Morning starts
when lights turn green.
When someone honks
his neighbor's dog barks.

When a yellow car passes by
a thousand mustard flowers
bloom in his head.

Originally published in the July 2018 issue of Words Without Borders. Original text and translation © 2018 Ajmer Rode. All rights reserved.

She said it softly, without a need 
for conviction or romance.
After everything? I asked, ashamed. 

That's not the kind of love she meant.
She walked through a field of gray 
beetle-pored pine, snags branching

like polished bone. I forget sometimes
how trees look at me with the generosity 
of water. I forget all the other 

breath I'm breathing in. 
Today I learned that trees can't sleep
with our lights on. That they knit 

a forest in their language, their feelings. 
This is not a metaphor. 
Like seeing a face across a crowd, 

we are learning all the old things, 
newly shined and numbered. 
I'm always looking 

for a place to lie down
and cry. Green, mossed, shaded. 
Or rock-quiet, empty. Somewhere

to hush and start over. 
I put on my antlers in the sun. 
I walk through the dark gates of the trees. 

Grief waters my footsteps, leaving 
a trail that glistens. 

Copyright © 2020 by Anne Haven McDonnell. From All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis (One World, 2020) edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson. Used with the permission of the editors.

for Dominique

I know this

 

from looking

                          into store fronts

 

                          taste buds voguing

alight from the way

 

treasure glows

                          when I imagine
 

                          pressing its opulence

into your hand

 

I want to buy you

                          a cobalt velvet couch

 

                          all your haters’ teeth

strung up like pearls

 

a cannabis vineyard

                          and plane tickets

 

                          to every island

on earth

 

but my pockets

                          are filled with

 

                          lint and love alone

touch these inanimate gods

 

to my eyelids

                          when you kiss me

 

                          linen leather

gator skin silk

 

satin lace onyx

                          marble gold ferns

 

                          leopard crystal

sandalwood mink

 

pearl stiletto

                          matte nails and plush

 

                          lips glossed

in my 90s baby saliva

 

pour the glitter

                          over my bare skin

 

                          I want a lavish life

us in the crook

 

of a hammock

                          incensed by romance

 

                          the bowerbird will

forgo rest and meals

 

so he may prim

                          and anticipate amenity

 

                          for his singing lover

call me a gaunt bird

 

a keeper of altars

                          shrines to the tactile

 

                          how they shine for you

fold your wings

 

around my shoulders

                          promise me that

 

                          should I drown

in want-made waste

 

the dress I sink in

                          will be exquisite

From Hull (Nightboat Books, 2019). Copyright © 2019 Xan Phillips. Used with permission of Nightboat Books, nightboat.org.

You were too kind to come at all. 
The door closed on you, and my hall
Shivered in sudden naked shame. 
I whispered it was not to blame
And followed you within, to where
You were awaited by my chair. 
It was so small, and you sat down
With a so gracious smile—a frown
Would have gone better with that wall;
You were too kind to smile at all. 
You stretched a hand toward the grate;
Its welcome was inadequate.
You looked about you and pretended
The carpet and the picture blended. 
I looked—and all my furnishings
Had turned their heads: the sorry things!
You said you felt at home—a lie
My misery was finished by.
Even your guilelessness was gall. 
You were too kind to come at all.

This poem is in the public domain. 

They come home with our daughter
because there’s no one at school
to feed them on the weekends.
They are mates, and like all true
companions they are devoted
and they bite. We set their cage
on the kitchen table and wait
for the weekend to end, for our girl
to fall asleep so we can talk
about god while the rats lick
the silver ball that delivers
the water one drop at a time.
There are so many points on which
you and I disagree: the value
of a clean counter, the purpose
of parent-teacher conferences,
what warrants a good cry or calling
you a name so cruel I make myself
whisper it through my teeth. God
is the least of it. When I think
I’m so angry I could hit you
in the face, you turn yours to me
with a look of disbelief. The rats,
meanwhile, have turned up the volume.
Tick, tick, says the silver ball
as their teeth click against it, thirsty
as ever, thirstier still at night
when the darkness wakes them.
And during the day, when they’re curled
together in their flannel hammock,
head to tail, two furry apostrophes
possessing nothing but each other,
paws pressed together as if in prayer—
to what gods do they prostrate
themselves then? God of fidelity? God
of forgiveness? I lied when I said
I didn’t believe. Who—even me,
the coldest of heart—could turn away
from a sea parted, bread that multiplies
to answer need, water transformed
to the sweetest wine, the kind
that tastes better for each year
it’s been left in the barrel?

Copyright © 2019 by Keetje Kuipers. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

I do not crave to have thee mine alone, dear
   Keeping thy charms within my jealous sight;
Go, give the world the blessing of thy beauty,
   That other hearts may share of my delight!

I do not ask, thy love should be mine only
   While others falter through the dreary night;
Go, kiss the tears from some wayfarer’s vision, 
   That other eyes may know the joy of light!

Where days are sad and skies are hung with darkness, 
   Go, send a smile that sunshine may be rife;
Go, give a song, a word of kindly greeting, 
   To ease the sorrow of some lonely life!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 12, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

for Marilyn Monroe

I buried Mama in her wedding dress
and put gloves on her hands,
but I couldn’t do much about her face,
blue-black and swollen,
so I covered it with a silk scarf.
I hike my dress up to my thighs
and rub them,
watching you tip the mortuary fan back and forth.
Hey. Come on over. Cover me all up
like I was never here. Just never.
Come on. I don’t know why I talk like that.
It was a real nice funeral. Mama’s.
I touch the rhinestone heart pinned to my blouse.
Honey, let’s look at it again.
See. It’s bright like the lightning that struck her.

I walk outside
and face the empty house.
You put your arms around me. Don’t.
Let me wave goodbye.
Mama never got a chance to do it.
She was walking toward the barn
when it struck her. I didn’t move;
I just stood at the screen door.
Her whole body was light.
I’d never seen anything so beautiful.

I remember how she cried in the kitchen
a few minutes before.
She said, God. Married.
I don’t believe it, Jean, I won’t.
He takes and takes and you just give.

At the door, she held out her arms
and I ran to her.
She squeezed me so tight:
I was all short of breath.
And she said, don’t do it.
In ten years, your heart will be eaten out
and you’ll forgive him, or some other man, even that
and it will kill you.

Then she walked outside.
And I kept saying, I’ve got to, Mama,
hug me again. Please don’t go.

From The Collected Poems of Ai. Copyright © Copyright 2010 by Ai. Used with the permission of W. W. Norton & Company Ltd.