Near the entrance, a patch of tall grass.
Near the tall grass, long-stemmed plants;
each bending an ear-shaped cone
to the pond’s surface. If you looked closely,
you could make out silvery koi
swishing toward the clouded pond’s edge
where a boy tugs at his mother’s shirt for a quarter.
To buy fish feed. And watching that boy,
as he knelt down to let the koi kiss his palms,
I missed what it was to be so dumb
as those koi. I like to think they’re pure,
that that’s why even after the boy’s palms were empty,
after he had nothing else to give, they still kissed
his hands. Because who hasn’t done that—
loved so intently even after everything
has gone? Loved something that has washed
its hands of you? I like to think I’m different now,
that I’m enlightened somehow,
but who am I kidding? I know I’m like those koi,
still, with their popping mouths, that would kiss
those hands again if given the chance. So dumb.
From Scale. Copyright © 2017 by Nathan McClain. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Four Way Books, www.fourwaybooks.com.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
This poem is in the public domain.
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”
This poem is in the public domain.
One borrows time not to be left out.
Been in the pattern of sun—secure, re-creating.
One needs one thing.
One father is left with new limits, but one
father is left. This repeat is filled with above and below.
(Do you understand that it won't cease?)
Every hour compared to dozens of previous
hours and angers, and the daughters post pictures
of vanishing. Such is a comfort.
One agrees to ask for nothing.
Under time lives silence.
Copyright © 2017 by Lauren Camp. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 26, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
the sap that I am springtime
makes me want to reread Virgil’s
Georgics while eating cacio
e pepe with fresh-shelled
peas this morning over coffee I
watched a video of spinach
leaves washed of their cellular
information and bathed in stem
cells until they became miniature
hearts vascular hopes capable
of want to roll down a hill
of clover to cold-spoon chrysanthemum
gelato or to stop whenever
their phones autocorrect gps
to god the sublime is a suspension
of disbelief the earth has gotten
sentimental this late in the game
with its smells of gasoline
rosemary and woodsmoke the Rorschach
of vitiligo on my eyes mouth
and throat the ongoing
argument between self
and selfhood the recognition
of the storm the howling
wind I wish I could scream
into someone else’s rain
Copyright © 2017 by Emilia Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 31, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
The war ships bobbing off the coast.
The outdated oil drills painted
so to blend into the clouds. The gold thin
stitched to the water’s edge. Errant dolphin.
Balled up piece of trash on PCH with the list: Eggs, whole milk, butterflies.
You cry like a peacock, she says,
every time you get close to being the thing you want to be.
What if God is the people around us:
watching, listening? What a relief that would be.
But it’s so easy to forget we’re not
only being watched by the people in front of us, but
also by the people in places we cannot see. What is it
to be allowed back again? On the bike path, my father
ahead of me, saying, look at the wind,
meaning: look at the thing doing the moving,
moving orange-coned flags holding on for dear life.
The salt rolling off the ocean rots everything in its jowls
& my skin so close to turning, I can feel
becoming the metal shard you will learn to protect yourself from,
capable of catching the light drawing you in.
Everything rusted is a story beginning
once upon a time, I was young, standing in front of the ocean,
beneath the sun without consequence or query
for time, just standing, looking out into the thing
unaware of its indifference. There’s something Greek in that. Did Odysseus need the monsters more
than they needed him? Does it matter? A kind of antiquity
in that line of thinking but also something very American. Akin to sparklers.
They only dance if you light them & wave. Birds do not
abandon their young merely because of human touch.
This & so many other myths my mother breaks
in her search for palatable colors, for mixing,
for making what was lost whole again.
Copyright © 2017 by Keegan Lester. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I’m not sure about this gift. This tangle
of dried roots curled into a fist. This gnarl
I’ve let sit for weeks beside the toaster
and cookbooks on a bed of speckled granite.
What am I waiting for? Online I find
Rose of Jericho prayers and rituals for safe birth,
well-being, warding off the evil eye.
At first I thought I’d buy some white stones,
a porcelain bowl. But I didn’t and I didn’t.
I don’t believe in omens. This still fist
of possibility all wrapped up in itself.
There it sat through the holidays, into the New Year.
Through all the days I’ve been gone. Dormant.
But today, in an inch of water,
out of curiosity, I awakened
the soul of Jericho. Limb by limb it unfolded
and turned moss green. It reminded me
of the northwest, its lush undergrowth,
how twice despite the leaden clouds,
the rain, I found happiness there.
From tumbleweed to lush fern flower,
reversible, repeatable. And what am I
to make of this? Me, this woman who doesn’t
believe. Doesn’t take anything on faith. I won’t
let it rot. I’ll monitor the water level. Keep the mold
at bay. I tend things, but I do not pray.
Copyright © 2017 by Cindy Veach. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 8, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
‘In Love, if Love be Love, if Love be ours,
Faith and unfaith can ne’er be equal powers:
Unfaith in aught is want of faith in all.
‘It is the little rift within the lute,
That by and by will make the music mute,
And ever widening slowly silence all.
‘The little rift within the lover’s lute
Or little pitted speck in garnered fruit,
That rotting inward slowly moulders all.
‘It is not worth the keeping: let it go:
But shall it? answer, darling, answer, no.
And trust me not at all or all in all’.
This poem is in the public domain.
I love the whir of the creature come
to visit the pink
flowers in the hanging basket as she does
most August mornings, hours away
from starvation to store
enough energy to survive overnight.
The Aztecs saw the refraction
of incident light on wings
as resurrection of fallen warriors.
In autumn, when daylight decreases
they double their body weight to survive
the flight across the Gulf of Mexico.
On next-to-nothing my mother
flew for 85 years; after her death
she hovered, a bird of bones and air.
Copyright © 2017 by Robin Becker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 21, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
This is what life is really like.
This is what life is really like.
This is what life is really like every day.
—Gray Parrot, Vienna, 1943.
In the circus animals’ diary: “And all this was destroyed in ninety minutes.”
Makeshift forests flaming to high heavens, metal bent bars.
Siberian tigers, black panthers, jaguars, pumas,
bears, hyenas and wolves, and all the lion pit saved from burning
by the keepers’ own hands. By bullets. Only so much can be said.
Herbage will be scarce. Nature will gather like sleeping poppies
over the craters and lost species.
The African wart-hog will be cooked over an open fire in the garden.
One thinks of one’s restlessness, Faustian—
in the minutes-before-dawn dark
with the devil cry of black crows, the miry skull
of the half-eaten rabbit, then gold grimy hills
and light-making jewels and hand mirrors among the trees.
Why are you here? It dawns. All this will never be again.
The circus can’t be locked.
Copyright © 2017 by Carol Frost. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 24, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
To one who has been long in city pent,
’Tis very sweet to look into the fair
And open face of heaven,—to breathe a prayer
Full in the smile of the blue firmament.
Who is more happy, when, with hearts content,
Fatigued he sinks into some pleasant lair
Of wavy grass, and reads a debonair
And gentle tale of love and languishment?
Returning home at evening, with an ear
Catching the notes of Philomel,—an eye
Watching the sailing cloudlet’s bright career,
He mourns that day so soon has glided by:
E’en like the passage of an angel’s tear
That falls through the clear ether silently.
This poem is in the public domain.
Florid, fluted, flowery petal, flounce
of a girl’s dress, ruffled fan,
striped in what seems to my simple eye
an excess of extravagance,
intricately ribboned like a secret
code, a colorist’s vision of DNA.
At the outermost edge a scallop
of ivory, then a tweedy russet,
then mouse gray, a crescent
of celadon velvet, a streak of sleek seal brown,
a dark arc of copper, then butter,
then celadon again, again butter, again
copper and on into the center, striped thinner
and thinner to the green, green moss-furry heart.
How can this be necessary?
Yet it grows and is making more
of itself, dozens and dozens of tiny starts, stars
no bigger than a baby’s thumbnail,
all of them sucking one young dead tree
on a gravel bank that will be washed away
in the next flooding winter. But isn’t the air here
cool and wet and almost unbearably sweet?
Copyright © 2017 by Ellen Bass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 6, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by James Arthur. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 21, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
There are poets with history and poets without history, Tsvetsaeva claimed living
through the ruin of Russia.
Karina says disavow every time I see her. We, the daughters between countries,
wear our mean mothers like scarves around our necks.
Every visit, mine recounts all the wrongs done against her
ring sent for polishing returned with a lesser diamond, Years of never rest and,
she looks at me, of nothing to be proud of.
I am covered in welts and empty pockets so large sobs escape me in the backroom of
my Landlord's fabric shop. He moves to wipe my tears
as if I’m his daughter
or I’m no one’s daughter.
It’s true, I let him take my hand, I am a girl who needs something. I slow cook bone
grief, use a weak voice.
My mother calls me the girl with holes in her hands, every time I lose something.
All Russian daughters were snowflakes once, and in their hair a ribbon long
as their body knotted and knotted and knotted into a large translucent bow.
It happens, teachers said, that a child between countries will refuse to speak.
A girl with a hole in her throat, every day I opened the translation book.
Silent, I took my shoes off when I came home, I
put my house clothes on.
We had no songs, few rituals. On Yom Kippur, we lit a candle for the dead
and no one knew a prayer.
We kept the candle lit, that’s all.
The wave always returns, and always returns a different wave.
I was small. I built a self outside my self because a child needs shelter.
Not even you knew I was strange,
I ate the food my family ate, I answered to my name.
Copyright © 2018 by Gala Mukomolova. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 9, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing, All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches, Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous leaves of dark green, And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself, But I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there without its friend near, for I knew I could not, And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it, and twined around it a little moss, And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room, It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends, (For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,) Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love; For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana solitary in a wide flat space, Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near, I know very well I could not.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
dear reader, with our heels digging into the good mud at a swamp’s edge, you might tell me something about the dandelion & how it is not a flower itself but a plant made up of several small flowers at its crown & lord knows I have been called by what I look like more than I have been called by what I actually am & I wish to return the favor for the purpose of this exercise. which, too, is an attempt at fashioning something pretty out of seeds refusing to make anything worthwhile of their burial. size me up & skip whatever semantics arrive to the tongue first. say: that boy he look like a hollowed-out grandfather clock. he look like a million-dollar god with a two-cent heaven. like all it takes is one kiss & before morning, you could scatter his whole mind across a field.
Copyright © 2018 by Hanif Abdurraqib. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
For the dim regions whence my fathers came
My spirit, bondaged by the body, longs.
Words felt, but never heard, my lips would frame;
My soul would sing forgotten jungle songs.
I would go back to darkness and to peace,
But the great western world holds me in fee,
And I may never hope for full release
While to its alien gods I bend my knee.
Something in me is lost, forever lost,
Some vital thing has gone out of my heart,
And I must walk the way of life a ghost
Among the sons of earth, a thing apart;
For I was born, far from my native clime,
Under the white man's menace, out of time.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 7, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.