And whom do I call my enemy?
An enemy must be worthy of engagement.
I turn in the direction of the sun and keep walking.
It’s the heart that asks the question, not my furious mind.
The heart is the smaller cousin of the sun.
It sees and knows everything.
It hears the gnashing even as it hears the blessing.
The door to the mind should only open from the heart.
An enemy who gets in, risks the danger of becoming a friend.

Harjo, Joy, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems; Copyright © 2015 by W. W. Norton & Company. Reprinted with permission of Anderson Literary Management LLC, 244 Fifth Avenue, Floor 11, New York, NY 10001.

Who knows the secrets in my gaze?
What holds me back when I might choke?
Who sees beyond my taut hellos
To see the grief etched on my face?
Nobody knows what lurks within;
Nobody brings me back again.
Who needs to disappear for a while?
Who sings my name beyond the veil?
Who has my memories, my tales?
Who’s lurking in my carpet’s dust?
Nobody feels this weight beneath my skin.
Who knows I’m grieving as I walk?
Who has the list of gravity’s costs?
Nobody but the man I’ve lost.

Copyright © 2024 by Allison Joseph. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 27, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

For Paula Cooper and all the other children on death row, cir. 1989

How sudden dies the blooming
One instant’s crass confusion
             An err of hand
of heart and head
A bent decision then
                           and now
one instant in the past as
             constant present
Rarely out of reach the act
Tethered to some unrelenting
                        infinite recall
             Today’s reality
in yesterday’s precise and fine
One moment’s cruel confusion
carved forever in the spirit’s
             tender steel
How sudden dies the blooming
How withered lies the promise
             lies the reach
                 the blind potential
         All that lingers in the breathing
Is a warp of understanding
A fist of clear confusion
And a desperate 
                 A frightened
                     To live ….  

From Continuum: New and Selected Poems (Just Us Books, Inc., 2007 and 2014) by Mari Evans. Copyright © 2007 and 2014 by Mari Evans. Used with the permission of the Estate of Mari Evans.

            There is a valley in the story I can’t leave until
I admit I did not attend the burial beneath it.

            Drop the pencil with no hilt—arrow the page—
I’ll become what it leads to. The histories have claimed you

            but none will speak your name. Whereas grief: all
prophecy, no lies. When this is a fantasy, we both

            live to discover our true names. The desire ends
in you or lives on in me, just a worm I can manage.

            In my fantasy, what’s funny is how nothing is yet.
I wrote myself here so you can be, too. I’m standing

            right there so my shame can see your love’s shadow.
You float like the stars, ice from a sky, a crossroad

            rising over the sea of failure. My heart avoids itself
like a moon once married to the sea. The crossroad

            asks what I bring to the tale. It’s a good question. I wish
I did not know but I know how to tell the truth

            like a demon bleeding in the basement. And under
the basement, two children fight to make mercy

            last. You push harder, but rain floods the vehicle
that rises from the corner to take one of us home.

            In the story, the world is familiar, then bright–
distant bells screaming for salvation—but you

are gone. I am sick, and holding the violent

            breath of my need. I am somehow—though
not at last—alive and well.

Copyright © 2024 by Lo Kwa Mei-en. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 1, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.