I once saw Jazell Barbie Royale
Do Whitney Houston so well
I got upset with myself for sneaking
Past the cashier
After having been patted down. Security frisks you
For nothing. They don’t believe in trouble. They don’t
Imagine a gun or a blade, though
Sometimes they make you walk all the way back
To the car with the weed you didn’t tuck well.
No one’s at fault. That’s how they say it
Where I’m from. Everyone’s got a job.
I should have paid. Our women
Need to perform for the tips they couldn’t earn
After the state shut down for good reason
And too late. We lost so many friends.
My buddy Janir swears
He still can’t smell his lip balm. Our women need us
To call them beautiful
Because they are. They’ve done what they must
To prove it, and how often does any woman get
To hear the truth? Jazell is so pretty.
Whitney Houston is dead. No one wore a mask.
It wasn’t safe, so it wasn’t really free.
If you don’t watch me, I’ll get by you. I’ll take
What I’ve been missing. My mother says
That’s not how she raised me. I spent
A year and a half sure she’d die.
The women who lip sync for us could die.
People like to murder them,
And almost everyone else wonders
If they should be dead. Who got dressed looking
For safety today? Who got patted down? My mother
Says what we do is sin. But all we do
Is party. Even when I’m broke, I can
Entertain. You’re going to miss me some day.
You’re going to forget the words to your favorite song.
You’re going to miss me when I’m gone.
Copyright © 2021 by Jericho Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
breathe for George Floyd we
breathe for compassion we
do not know what that is we
another black man holy we
gone now George Floyd we
Ahmaud running street endless we
America scream & love we
do not know what love is we
breathe George Floyd flames we
next to you on a sp halt cho ke we
knee Am Am
e ri c a w e
Copyright © 2020 by Juan Felipe Herrera. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 14, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Note the diameter of your invisible ink tattoo as if it hides
a crossword hint like “Clueless dope for dopamine”
But not because your inner twin sold all your Rap albums
for a white powder that made you feel touched by God, yet
left a trail like Comet. Note how a certain name trails off with
the number e to perhaps signify their constant interest in
a continuously growing silence. Does an infinite series
of silences imply addition or addiction? In one language
you understand, pegadu means touching and begins with
the letter P. Like Pi is filled with touches of fruitful irrationality,
and may hide a circle’s Private Key. Note how rumors of you
crossing the street to sneak rides on fire trucks are irrational, but
not because you’re vain or became a pyromaniac. The circumference
of urinal cakes may be solved with Pi or dissolved with pee.
Is it irrational that you looped like an extension cord while trying
to solve for the value of P, but got beat like a bowl of egg yolks
for wetting the bed? During the beating was their mouth agápē or
agape? Has it not been proven that trauma only feels transcendental
due to the ratio of the diameter which severs us to the circumference
which makes us a whole? Being born under the Sign of the Asp might
be key, but note that a Volta can turn in currents of a Ghanaian river
or in currents alternating like a weathervane until any cryptic tattoo
could simply signify who held you down and touched you, but also
told you to hold it forever because their love was like the Holy Ghost.
Copyright © 2022 by Joel Dias-Porter. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 3, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
i stand before you to say
that today i walked home
& caught the light through
the fence & it was so golden
i wanted to cry & i lifted
my right hand to say thank
you god for the sun thank
you god for a chain link fence
& all the shoes that fit into
the chain link fence so that
we might get lifted god thank
you & i just wanted to dance
& it feels good to have food
in your belly & it feels good
to be home even when home
is the space between metal
shapes & still we are golden
& a man who wore the walk
of hard grounds & lost days
came toward me in the street
& said ‘girl what a beautiful
day’ & i said yes, testify
& i walked on & from some
place a horn rose, an organ,
a voice, a chorus, here to tell
you that we are not dead
we are not dead we are not
dead we are not dead we are
not dead we are not dead
we are not dead we are not
Copyright © 2022 by Eve L. Ewing. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 28, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
But why wouldn’t geometry equal divinity
1000 + 1 + 1 + 1 What is faith
but trust in one & infinity Once
in Granada I studied a wall of polygons
or was it stars or bees or for a second a flash
of gladiolas in a field until I could see
a galaxy planets spinning spokes on a wheel
clocks or buttons vines blooming a tornado
from a future century garden of ellipses
my lover’s cornea alight each morning
God so far away & right in front of me
Copyright © 2022 by Sahar Romani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 27, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.