“I can remember when I was a little, young girl, how my old mammy would sit out of doors in the evenings and look up at the stars and groan, and I would say, ‘Mammy, what makes you groan so?’ And she would say, ‘I am groaning to think of my poor children; they do not know where I be and I don’t know where they be. I look up at the stars and they look up at the stars!’”
            —Sojourner Truth.

I think I see her sitting bowed and black,
  Stricken and seared with slavery’s mortal scars,
Reft of her children, lonely, anguished, yet
  Still looking at the stars.

Symbolic mother, we thy myriad sons,
  Pounding our stubborn hearts on Freedom’s bars,
Clutching our birthright, fight with faces set,
  Still visioning the stars!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

i have diver’s lungs from holding my
breath for so long. i promise you
i am not trying to break a record
sometimes i just forget to
exhale. my shoulders held tightly
near my neck, i am a ball of tense
living, a tumbleweed with steel-toed
boots. i can’t remember the last time
i felt light as dandelion. i can’t remember
the last time i took the sweetness in
& my diaphragm expanded into song.
they tell me breathing is everything,
meaning if i breathe right i can live to be
ancient. i’ll grow a soft furry tail or be
telekinetic something powerful enough
to heal the world. i swear i thought
the last time i’d think of death with breath
was that balmy day in july when the cops
became a raging fire & sucked the breath
out of Garner; but yesterday i walked
38 blocks to my father’s house with a mask
over my nose & mouth, the sweat dripping
off my chin only to get caught in fabric & pool up
like rain. & i inhaled small spurts of me, little
particles of my dna. i took into body my own self
& thought i’d die from so much exposure
to my own bereavement—they’re saying
this virus takes your breath away, not
like a mother’s love or like a good kiss
from your lover’s soft mouth but like the police
it can kill you fast or slow; dealer’s choice.
a pallbearer carrying your body without a casket.
they say it’s so contagious it could be quite
breathtaking. so persistent it might as well
be breathing                        down your neck—

Copyright © 2020 by Yesenia Montilla. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 21, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

It’s a long way the sea-winds blow
    Over the sea-plains blue,—
But longer far has my heart to go
    Before its dreams come true.

It’s work we must, and love we must,
    And do the best we may,
And take the hope of dreams in trust
    To keep us day by day.

It’s a long way the sea-winds blow—
    But somewhere lies a shore—
Thus down the tide of Time shall flow
    My dreams forevermore.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 22, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Love, leave me like the light,
The gently passing day;
We would not know, but for the night,
When it has slipped away.

So many hopes have fled,
Have left me but the name
Of what they were. When love is dead,
Go thou, beloved, the same.

Go quietly; a dream
When done, should leave no trace
That it has lived, except a gleam
Across the dreamer’s face.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 28, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Will it never be possible
to separate you from your greyness?
Must you be always sinking backward
into your grey-brown landscapes—and trees
always in the distance, always against a grey sky?

                          Must I be always
moving counter to you? Is there no place
where we can be at peace together
and the motion of our drawing apart
be altogether taken up?
                                 I see myself

standing upon your shoulders touching 
a grey, broken sky—
but you, weighted down with me,
yet gripping my ankles,—move
                          laboriously on,
where it is level and undisturbed by colors.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 20, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.