Translated by Carina del Valle Schorske
Pensive light. Light
with folded hands, a shrug
of song in the shoulders.
Light that sullies the sea’s
Sunday best, the foam
moving blind over it.
I’ve lost the waistline
of my violet mountains
in the sky’s mouth.
El Yunque is an ancient flute;
Blue swallow, blue choke.
Here lives San Juan.
There’s a light that might
save you in the gold
pigeon coop, its womb
made of glass. Here
the rays of the sun
keep growing towards
the dense eyes
of blank harmony.
from the balcony I watch
the living death of the sun
high above the shoulders
of the stricken minute.
To the sound of trumpets
I defend my feeling
from the grey bite
And the day grows through me
like a magic tree
from nothing to nothing—
grows and sings,
fills up with promises
Everything is just twilight.
I make this light
because I love it.
It’s mine because we are,
eye to eye,
We are twilight, luz mía,
Luz de manos cerradas
y hombros de canto breve.
Luz que ensucia al mar
su camisón de fiesta.
Anda ciega la espuma.
Mis montañas violetas
han perdido su talle
en la boca del cielo.
El Yunque es flauta histórica;
Salto en retrospectiva.
Bocado azul que ahoga.
Acá vive San Juan.
Hay luz que salva
en palomar de oro
su vientre hecho de vidrio.
Aquí siguen creciendo
las espigas del sol
para los ojos densos
de la blanca armonía.
desde el balcón yo miro
la muertevida del sol
alto sobre los hombros
del fenecido instante.
A trompetazos de alma
defiendo mi emoción
de la mordida gris
Y crece el día por mí
como mágico árbol
de la nada a la nada.
Crece y canta,
y se llena de promesas
Todo es sólo twilight.
De leyes físicas.
Yo hago esta luz
porque la amo.
Es mía porque somos,
de mirada a mirada,
Somos twilight, luz mía,
Copyright © 2020 by Carina del Valle Schorske and Marigloria Palma. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 25, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Snare of the shine of your teeth,
Your provocative laughter,
The gloom of your hair;
Lure of you, eye and lip;
And madness, madness,
Tremulous, breathless, flaming,
The space of a sigh;
Pain, regret—your sobbing;
And again, quiet—the stars,
This poem is in the public domain.
when love floods a person
that deepens year after year
the essential person
letting everyone see
the layers of yellow
sandstone, red basalt
when love washes over a person
the person away
Copyright © 2021 by Alicia Ostriker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 5, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
Did not I remember that my hair is grey
With only a fringe of it left,
I’d follow your footsteps from wee break of day
Till night was of moon-light bereft.
Your eyes wondrous fountains of joy and of youth
Remind me of days long since flown,
My sweetheart, I led to the altar of truth,
But then the gay spring was my own.
Now winter has come with its snow and its wind
And made me as bare as its trees,
Oh, yes, I still love, but it’s only in mind,
For I’m fast growing weak at the knees.
Your voice is as sweet as the song of a bird,
Your manners are those of the fawn,
I dream of you, darling,—oh, pardon, that word,
From twilight to breaking of dawn.
Your name in this missive you’ll search for in vain,
Nor mine at the finis, I’ll fling,
For winter must suffer the bliss and the pain
In secret for loving the spring.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
A swift, successive chain of things,
That flash, kaleidoscope-like, now in, now out,
Now straight, now eddying in wild rings,
No order, neither law, compels their moves,
But endless, constant, always swiftly roves.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 28, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
I love to see the big white moon,
A-shining in the sky;
I love to see the little stars,
When the shadow clouds go by.
I love the rain drops falling
On my roof-top in the night;
I love the soft wind’s sighing,
Before the dawn’s gray light.
I love the deepness of the blue,
In my Lord’s heaven above;
But better than all these things I think,
I love my lady love.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
The internal organs were growling
According to them
They did all of the work while
Skin got all of the attention
He’s an organ just like us
Even the heart, which, a
Century ago, was the Queen
Of metaphors, but now
Was reduced to the greetings
Cards section of CVS,
They decided to call skin
On the carpet.
Skin arrived from Cannes
Where he’d been the subject
Of much fuss as actresses
Fed him luxurious skin
Food prepared by Max Factor
Estée Lauder, L’Oreal,
Caressed him daily
Sometimes for hours before
They made the red carpet
He was petted
Pleaded with him
To erase wrinkles to
Make them look younger
To tighten their chins
Skin tried to appease the
Critics, greeting them with
His familiar “give me some skin”
But his gesture went unheeded
Brain did all the talking
Brain said, “Here’s the skinny
Why do you get
All of the press
Your texture discussed
Nicole Kidman never
Did an ad about us
Cole Porter never
Wrote a song about us
Nor were we mentioned
In a Thornton Wilder novel
You’ve given us no
Skin in the game”
“What about the nasty
Things they say about
Me,” skin replied
“What about skin deep
To denote something
How would you
Like acne rashes
I wear my blemishes
In public while you guys
“Without me and heart
You’d be nothing,” the brain said
“That’s not true,” protested
The liver, “without me he’d
“No,” the kidney said
“It’s me who keeps the
The bladder and
The kidney began
To quarrel with
The lung twins spoke
He couldn’t breathe”
Even the esophagus
And the thyroid
And the pancreas
Joined the outbreak
“What about us?”
The eyes said
“Without eyes you
Their squabble distracted
When they looked
Up from their dust up
Helicopter was up
He was scheduled to
Address a convention of
Plastic surgeons at
The Beverly Hills
Escaping by the skin
Of his teeth
His opponents gave
But above the roar
Of the chopper
They heard him say
“Don’t worry fellas
I got you covered”
Copyright © 2021 by Ishmael Reed. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 26, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
Stay, season of calm love and soulful snows!
There is a subtle sweetness in the sun,
The ripples on the stream’s breast gaily run,
The wind more boisterously by me blows,
And each succeeding day now longer grows.
The birds a gladder music have begun,
The squirrel, full of mischief and of fun,
From maple’s topmost branch the brown twig throws.
I read these pregnant signs, know what they mean:
I know that thou art making ready to go.
Oh stay! I fled a land where fields are green
Always, and palms wave gently to and fro,
And winds are balmy, blue brooks ever sheen,
To ease my heart of its impassioned woe.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 21, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
I will hide my soul and its mighty love
In the bosom of this rose,
And its dispensing breath will take
My love wherever it goes.
And perhaps she’ll pluck this very rose,
And, quick as blushes start,
Will breathe my hidden secret in
Her unsuspecting heart.
And there I will live in her embrace
And the realm of sweetness there,
Enamored with an ecstasy,
Of bliss beyond compare.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 13, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
I first tasted under Apollo's lips,
love and love sweetness,
my hair is made of crisp violets
or hyacinth which the wind combs back
across some rock shelf;
was mate of the god of light.
His hair was crisp to my mouth,
as the flower of the crocus,
across my cheek,
cool as the silver-cress
on Erotos bank;
between my chin and throat,
his mouth slipped over and over.
Still between my arm and shoulder,
I feel the brush of his hair,
and my hands keep the gold they took,
as they wandered over and over,
that great arm-full of yellow flowers.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 16, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
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.
Silence with you is like the faint delicious
Smile of a child asleep, in dreams unguessed:
Only the hinted wonder of its dreaming,
The soft, slow-breathing miracle of rest.
Silence with you is like a kind departure
From iron clangor and the engulfing crowd
Into a wide and greenly barren meadow,
Under the bloom of some blue-bosomed cloud;
Or like one held upon the sands at evening,
When the drawn tide rolls out, and the mixed light
Of sea and sky enshrouds the far, wind-bellowed
Sails that move darkly on the edge of night.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 10, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
No slips moan
impossible & smooth
Maybe my tongue
I never ask names
must have known
into me in quiet
Hands on legs, ankles
You are not cruel enough
for this to be it is
My bed a message
a bed in use
and I want you
to leave it I want
to be left The next no
is followed close
and as been clinked dark flicker from heard hours into kisses like neck now other our prove to you your
Copyright © 2020 by Eran Eads. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 30, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
A silence slipping around like death,
Yet chased by a whisper, a sigh, a breath;
One group of trees, lean, naked and cold,
Inking their cress ’gainst a sky green-gold;
One path that knows where the corn flowers were;
Lonely, apart, unyielding, one fir;
And over it softly leaning down,
One star that I loved ere the fields went brown.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 20, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
after Linda Hogan
Nothing wants to suffer. Not the wind
as it scrapes itself against the cliff. Not the cliff
being eaten, slowly, by the sea. The earth does not want
to suffer the rough tread of those who do not notice it.
The trees do not want to suffer the axe, nor see
their sisters felled by root rot, mildew, rust.
The coyote in its den. The puma stalking its prey.
These, too, want ease and a tender animal in the mouth
to take their hunger. An offering, one hopes,
made quickly, and without much suffering.
The chair mourns an angry sitter. The lamp, a scalded moth.
A table, the weight of years of argument.
We know this, though we forget.
Not the shark nor the tiger, fanged as they are.
Nor the worm, content in its windowless world
of soil and stone. Not the stone, resting in its riverbed.
The riverbed, gazing up at the stars.
Least of all, the stars, ensconced in their canopy,
looking down at all of us— their offspring—
scattered so far beyond reach.
Copyright © 2021 by Danusha Laméris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 9, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
I saw the candle brightly burning in the room!
The fringed curtains gracefully draped back,
The windows, crystal clear!
Upon the generous hearth
Quick Wit and bubbling Laughter
Flashed and danced
Sparkled and pranced,
And music to the glowing scene lent cheer.
It was a gracious sight,
So full of life, of love, of light!
Then suddenly I saw a cloud of gloom
Take form within the room:
A blue-grey mist obscured the window-panes
And silent fell the rout!
Then from the shadows came the Dreaded Shape,—
The candle flickered out!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 11, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
Listen, no one signed up for this lullaby.
No bleeped sheep or rosebuds or twitching stars
will diminish the fear or save you from waking
into the same day you dreamed of leaving—
mockingbird on back order, morning bells
stuck on snooze—so you might as well
get up and at it, pestilence be damned.
Peril and risk having become relative,
I’ll try to couch this in positive terms:
Never! is the word of last resorts,
Always! the fanatic’s rallying cry.
To those inclined toward kindness, I say
Come out of your houses drumming. All others,
beware: I have discarded my smile but not my teeth.
Copyright © 2021 by Rita Dove. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 18, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
translated by Agnes Blake Poor
Prone lies at length the statue once so fair;
Headless and armless, on the weedy lawn;
Yet still some lovely curve shows here and there
Through clustering ivy like a mantle drawn.
The cracked, stained pedestal of ages tells.
From every cranny lined with velvet moss,
The hum of bee, the chirp of cricket swells;
And silently the lizard darts across.
How long ago, by summer breezes fanned,
Here stood the newborn Venus, fresh and fair;
All palpitating from the master’s hand,
The last touch of his chisel lingering there.
“And surely this shall last!” he proudly thought;
“Fixed in immortal marble is my fame!”
Just here, where human hand has surely wrought,
Some crumbling letters may have spelled his name.
Lo que va de ayer á hoy
Tendida estaba en el jardín la estatua,
sin brazos ni cabeza;
y por su talle se enredaba en círculos
un cinturón de hiedra.
El pedestal poblaban los lagartos,
los grillos, las abejas;
y del vetusto mármol las heridas
de moho estaban llenas.
¿Y era aquélla la Venus que brotara
de una mano maestra
que, al golpe del cincel, dió forma y vida
á su bullente idea?
¡Cómo cambia la hoz de las edades
cuanto á su alcance encuentra!
¡Ayer la carne palpitando en mármol,
hoy un montón de piedra!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 9, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
Behold, within that cavern drear and dank,
Whose walls in rainbow tints so dimly shine,
A wretch, with swollen eyes and tresses lank,
Does on a heap of mould’ring leaves recline.
Unwholsome dews for ever him surround,
From his damp couch he scarcely ever hies,
Save when blue vapours, issuing from the ground,
Lure him abroad, to catch them as they rise.
Or else at eve the dripping rock he loves,
Or the moist edge of new‐dug grave, full well;
To get the sea spray too at night he roves,
And, gem’d with trickling drops, then seeks his cell.
Such his delights, his green and purple cheek,
His bloated form, his chill, discolour'd hand
He would not change; and if he guests would seek,
He steals among the church‐yard’s grisly hand.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 30, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
“The lake was originally called Onamaniig which means ‘ochre’ because it was remembered by Anishinaabeg as a place that the people of the Red Ochre culture lived.”
The red eye
of a loon
depths of water
who can say
what will pass
edges of place
filters the blues
as they have
dives for minutes
crayfish, light re-
fracted, what could be
to catch a meal
or your eye,
a crimson ribbon
where you stand
with the grasses
Copyright © 2021 by Molly McGlennen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 3, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
translated from the Portuguese by Shook
They left the islands a legacy
of hybrid words and gloomy plantations,
rusted mills, breathless sterns,
sonorous aristocratic names,
and the legend of a shipwreck on Sete Pedras.
They arrived here from the North,
by mandate or by chance, in the service of their king:
navigators and pirates, slavers, thieves, smugglers,
simple men, rebellious outcasts too, and Jewish infants
so tender they withered like burnt ears of corn.
On their ships they brought compasses, trinkets, seeds,
experimental plants, atrocious sorrows,
a standard of stone pale as wheat,
and other dreamless, rootless cargos,
because the entire island was a port and a dead-end road.
All its hands were black pitchforks and hoes.
And there were living footprints in the fields slashed
like scars—each coffee bush now exhales a dead slave.
And on the islands they were
bold: arrogant statues on street corners,
a hundred or so churches and chapels
for a thousand square kilometers,
and the insurgent syncretism of roadside Christmas shrines.
And there was the palatial cadence of the ússua,
the scent of garlic and zêtê dóchi
on the témpi and ubaga téla,
and in the calulu, bay leaves blended with palm oil
and the perfume of rosemary and of basil from the gardens on our family land.
And the specters, tools of empire,
melted into the insular clocks,
in a structure of ambiguous clarities
and secular condiments,
patron saints and toppled fortresses,
cheap wines and shared dawns.
At times I think of their pallid skeletons,
their hair putrid at the edge of the sea.
Here, in this fragment of Africa
Where, facing the South,
a word rises high
like a painful flag.
Deixaram nas ilhas um legado
de híbridas palavras e tétricas plantações,
engenhos enferrujados, proas sem alento,
nomes sonoros aristocráticos
e a lenda de um naufrágio nas Sete Pedras.
Aqui aportaram vindos do Norte,
por mandato ou acaso ao serviço do seu rei:
navegadores e piratas, negreiros, ladrões, contrabandistas,
simples homens, rebeldes, proscritos também, e infantes judeus
tão tenros que feneceram como espigas queimadas
Nas naus trouxeram bússolas, quinquilharias, sementes,
plantas experimentais, amarguras atrozes,
um padrão de pedra pálido como o trigo
e outras cargas sem sonhos nem raizes,
porque toda a ilha era um porto e uma estrada sem regresso.
Todas as mãos eram negras forquilhas e enxadas.
E nas roças ficaram pegadas vivas
como cicatrizes—casa cafeeiro respira agora um escravo morto.
E nas ilhas ficaram
incisivas—arrogantes estátuas nas esquinas,
cento e tal igrejas e capelas
para mil quilómetros quadrados,
e o insurrecto sincretismo dos paços natalícios.
E ficou a cadência palaciana da ússua,
o aroma do alho e do zêtê dóchi
no tempi e na ubaga tela,
e no calulu, o louro misturado ao óleo de palma
e o perfume do alecrim e do mlajincon nos quintais dos luchans.
E aos relógios insulares se fundiram
os espectros—ferramentas do império
numa estrutura de ambíguas claridades
e seculares condimentos,
santos padroeiros e fortalezas derrubadas,
vinhos baratos e auroras partilhadas.
Às vezes penso em suas lívidas ossadas,
seus cabelos podres na orla do mar.
Aqui, neste fragmento de África
onde, virado para o Sul,
um verbo amanhece alto
como uma dolorosa bandeira.
Copyright © 2021 by Conceição Lima and Shook. Published in Poem-a-Day in partnership with Words Without Borders (wordswithoutborders.org) on October 2, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
I was newly naked: aware of myself
as a separate self, distinct from dirt and bone.
I had not hands enough,
and so, finally, uncrossed my arms.
In trying to examine one body part,
I’d lose sight of another. I couldn’t
imagine what I looked like during
the fractured angles of sex.
At the river’s edge, it was impossible
to see all of myself at once.
I began to understand nakedness
as a feeling.
It was a snake, loose and green;
it was the snake skin, coiled and discarded.
The shedding chained itself
like a balloon ribboned to a child’s wrist.
Morning’s birdsong reminded me
of the sloughing off of skin.
The rumored beauty of my husband’s first
wife never bothered me before.
I missed the sensation of being fixed
in amber. Then the hair in the comb,
fingernail clippings, the red mole on my
left breast grown suddenly bigger.
I perceived my likeness in everything:
the lines on my palm as the veins
of a leaf, my mind as a swarm of flies
humming over something sugary or dead,
my vulnerability as the buck
I’d kill then wrap myself inside,
my hair as switchgrass, twine, and nest,
a roving cloud my every limb.
Copyright © 2021 by Ama Codjoe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 1, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
translated by Garrett Strange
I love them—and I hearken
As the winds their notes prolong,
Like the murmur of a fountain,
Like a lambkin’s distant song,
Like the birds serenely winging
On their way across the skies,
At the break of daylight soaring
To salute it with their cries.
In their voices saying ever
O’er the plain and mountain peak
Something that is frank and candid
That a soothing charm would speak.
Should their voices cease forever,
What a sorrow for the air!
What a silence in the belfries!
And the dead—how strangely bare!
Yo las amo, yo las oigo
Cual oigo el rumor del viento,
El murmurar de la fuente
O el balido del cordero.
Como los pájaros, ellas,
Tan pronto asoma en los cielos
El primer rayo del alba,
Le saludan con sus ecos.
Y en sus notas, que van repitiéndose
Por los llanos y los cerros,
Hay algo de candoroso,
De apacible y de halagüeño.
Si por siempre enmudecieran,
¡Qué tristeza en el aire y el cielo!,
¡Qué silencio en las iglesias!,
¡Qué extrañeza entre los muertos!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 18, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
What shall meadow hold to please me,
Spreading wide its scented waving,
How shall quiet mosses ease me,
Or the night-wind cool my craving?
Hill and hedgerow, cloud-sweet sky,
Echo our good-by.
Bud unplucked and leaf a-quiver,
Bird that lifts a tuneless trilling,
Restless dream of brook and river,
All June’s cup a wasted spilling—
You and I so thirsty-hearted!—
Summer knows us parted.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 21, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
Translated by Florence Ayscough and Amy Lowell
Every time I have started for the Yellow Flower River,
I have gone down the Blue-Green Stream,
Following the hills, making ten thousand turnings,
We go along rapidly, but advance scarcely one hundred li.
We are in the midst of a noise of water,
Of the confused and mingled sounds of water broken by stones,
And in the deep darkness of pine trees.
Moving on and on,
We float past water-chestnuts
Into a still clearness reflecting reeds and rushes.
My heart is clean and white as silk; it has already achieved Peace;
It is smooth as the placid river.
I love to stay here, curled up on the rocks,
Dropping my fish-line forever.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
Hawaiian creation chant
At the time that turned the heat of the earth,
At the time when the heavens turned and changed,
At the time when the light of the sun was subdued
To cause light to break forth,
At the time of the night of Makalii (winter)
Then began the slime which established the earth,
The source of deepest darkness.
Of the depth of darkness, of the depth of darkness,
Of the darkness of the sun, in the depth of night,
It is night,
So was night born
O ke au i kahuli wela ka honua
O ke au i kahuli lole ka lani
O ke au i kukaiaka ka la.
E hoomalamalama i ka malama
O ke au o Makali’i ka po
O ka walewale hookumu honua ia
O ke kumu o ka lipo, i lipo ai
O ke kumu o ka Po, i po ai
O ka lipolipo, o ka lipolipo
O ka lipo o ka la, o ka lipo o ka po
Po wale hoi
Hanau ka po
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 22, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
The ferns—sharp lime green, lean over
the concrete like a woman over a boardwalk
on a bright spring day like this, though maybe it is better
with Grace’s curious nose assessing the damp earth
while ignoring its copious lizards.
There is joy in the soft butt
of a dog disappearing into its daily necessities.
I am not sure I have ever had such a joy,
either in discovery or expectation. Looking out
over the side of a boat
with a hat as wide as this fern
is Grace, of the delicate paws.
I have never liked it: The Spring. But this is the
end of Spring! First yellow of summer. They say a poet
can never write a purely happy poem about a dog
greeting the sun and what it has done to rain.
I don’t know about that.
I am light like a canine’s memory;
a minute, a world. Where one of the greatest
and most daring feats is to enjoy
the breeze’s slow boat of fertilization
made by other dogs of other years—the scent of
living in and of itself. Grace among the ferns
likes to place her body right over the pulpit
of the last dog, so they know. I am here, too. Living.
Lime green ribbons touch her soft, wet nose.
Copyright © 2021 by Analicia Sotelo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 21, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
exists to keep audiences
their mundane homelives, yet here
I am pacing my bedroom
and having serious
thoughts about trapeze
hands—and can you even
apply to be in a traveling act,
or do you need to be
discovered? I don’t want to be
famous, just remembered.
In high school I was
voted most likely to
ignore the demands
of men and gravity,
but it’s a difficult feat
when the two work together.
Like here, or
like in the flying trapeze:
man secures his hold,
gravity improves the swing.
Copyright © 2021 by Paige Lewis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 19, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
that holds me.
This is a little psalm
in the moon-
for I haven’t been
patient as promised.
for the desperate
There is so little
to hold, I said
as I held it. Each
Copyright © 2021 by Andrés Cerpa. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 18, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
I was waiting for something
to arrive. I didn’t know what.
Something buoyed, something
sun knocked. I placed my palms
up, little pads of butter, expecting.
All day, nothing. Longer than
that. My hair grew, fell out,
grew. Outside my window, I felt
the flick of a tail in September
wind. A bobcat sauntered across
the grass before me, the black tip
of its tail a pencil I’d like to sharpen.
I immediately hushed, crouched,
became a crumpled shock of
joy to see something this wild,
not myself. It turned to look
at me, its body muscular in
the turning. In its mouth was
the tail of a mouse drained of
blood, dangling diorama of death.
Sharp eyes looking at me and then,
not. Its lack of fear, its slow stroll
across the stream’s bridge, fur
lacquering its teeth. Sometimes
what comes to us, we never called
for. How long had I been crouched
like that? I stood up, blood rush
trumpeting. My arms wrapped
themselves around myself, lifted.
It was as if a bank vault had
opened and I was just standing
there, stealing nothing.
Copyright © 2021 by Jane Wong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 17, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
The spring warmth steals into me, drying up all the tears of my soul,
And gives me a flight into the vastness,—into a floorless, unroofed reverie-hall.
Lo, such greenness, such velvety greenness, such a heaven without heaven above!
Lo, again, such grayness, such velvety grayness, such an earth without earth below!
My soul sails through the waveless mirror-seas.
Oh, how near to Fairyland!
Blow, blow, gust of wind!
Sweep away my soul-boat against that very shore!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 16, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
Translated by Yone Noguchi
Has Spring passed away?
Did Summer already come?
Lo, Kagu Yama! There
The white gowns are seen being dried.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
You can’t remember what they did to you. Your loneliness isn’t welcome here, you know, but still you walk the dream-lit village, looking for someone gentle enough. There must be an animal trapped under your shirt, you think, because little claws scratch against your chest and you throb there, but you're afraid to look because looking means remembering. You ask a man passing on the road to lift your shirt and check and he retches at what he sees, says the flesh there overflows, as if grinding its own meat, that strips of skin curl away from the wound like rot mushrooms growing on a tree, and he can't help you, you make him sick, he says, he has to go now, so you wander some more until you reach the gate, which is the end of who you could have been, the end of the dream of your body made full with starmilk, propelled by a heart of sea anemone. You’ll be hungry forever if you stay here, trying to hide your secret mouth from all this light. Before you can cross the gate into that dark valley, you must look at yourself. You can think of other words for red: crimson, cherry, scarlet. But there's no other name for blood, no name for a shame like this, its hiss of pain when you press your finger to it, the sweet stain it leaves on your fingertip. You just have to taste it.
Copyright © 2021 by Sara Eliza Johnson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 6, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
And only where the forest fires have sped,
Scorching relentlessly the cool north lands,
A sweet wild flower lifts its purple head,
And, like some gentle spirit sorrow-fed,
It hides the scars with almost human hands.
And only to the heart that knows of grief,
Of desolating fire, of human pain,
There comes some purifying sweet belief,
Some fellow-feeling beautiful, if brief.
And life revives, and blossoms once again.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 2, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
Let me begin again as a quiet thought
in the shape of a shell slowly examined
by a brown child on a beach at dawn
straining to see their future. Let me begin
this time knowing the drumming in my dreams
is me inheriting the earth, is morning
lighting up the rivers. Let me burn
my vanities: old music in the pines, sifters
of scotch, a day moon like a signature
of night. This time, let me circle
the island of my fears only once then
live like a raging waterfall and grow
a magnificent mustache. Let me not ever be
the birdcage or the serrated blade or
the empty season. Dear Glacier, Dear Sea
of Stars, Dear Leopards disintegrating
at the outer limits of our greed; soon we will
encounter you only in motivational tweets.
Reader, I should have married you sooner.
This time, let me not sleep like the prophet who
believes he’s seen infinity. Let me run
at break-neck speeds toward sceneries
of doubt. I have no more dress rehearsals
to attend. Look closer: I am licking my lips.
Copyright © 2021 by Major Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 26, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
Life goes by moving,
Up and down a chain of moods
Wanting what’s nothing.
My soul is the wind
Dashing down fields of Autumn:
O, too swift to sing.
Listen to the rain
Falling broken on the ground:
Pity the sky once.
Knowing not at all
Who stands above me seeing:
Tears of gratitude.
The nightingale sings
My heart desires but the night
Space swallows my voice:
I shall spend my moods
Like a rose discards leaves
And die without moods.
Did you say a sound?
Did you say the wind? Dashing
Only my soul’s quick—
O moon of to-night
Let me rest my head on you
And hear my life sing.
My ears burn for speech
And you lie cold and silent
Look at the white moon
The sphinx does not question more.
Turn away your eyes.
Thought that is no thought
Poems buried in my heart
Song that is no song …
The poetry of life?
No, the picture of my dreams
Flashing on my heart.
I ride down the stream
Between the earth and the sun
On the moon’s shadow.
A unit of the parade
There is no escape.
Within the shadow
I am weaving the pattern
Of a spider web.
My heart like a shell
Moans at the breast of the earth
Being too full to sing.
You are life’s fountain
Springing from eternity
Flow not recklessly.
I will wrap the song
In the leaves of the lotus
And send it to you.
No words speak louder
Than the tragic look of eyes
Close yours out of love.
Why should I wander
I who have known no surprise?
Every day the same.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 25, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
The neon burns a hole in the night
and the Freon burns a hole in the sky
All night darkness
constructs its unquestioning citadel
of intrusive thoughts
if you listen closely
you can hear
the rising waters whispers
if you cover your ears
you’ll hear it too
trapped in the seashell of night
chase the echo
to its origin
a useless lullaby
a rythme replacing
counting my sleeplessness
the shapelessness of waves
a watery sleep paralysis
gripping the city
the high water mark
is reaching for the sky
and getting there
new high rises rise
every day like shark teeth
a fire sale
get it while it’s hot
get that land
while it’s still land
the world is burning you know
all night you can hear them
building another goddamn stadium
while tearing down the house
around you as you sleep
enough empty seats
for the displaced
an uncheering home crowd
longing for home
enough hollow condos
but it’s important
that they stay empty
they won’t say why
hurricanes come through
there are less homeless people
their names lost
to the larger one
of christened chaos
night is a rosary of unanswered hours
sometimes I’m grateful
for the light pollution
the smug stars
think they know everything
but their slow knowledge
is always late with its light
I consult the disdainful
horoscope to see what
they promise to promise
Miami is obviously
(look it up)
a drowning fire sign
pride pretending everything
I mean come on
a backwards place
you can’t blame everything
on the Bermuda Triangle
but you can try
and flying fish
reflected in the water
a broth of clouds and corals
octopus conspire against us
from our mistakes
come too soon
they’ll do better
with this city
than we did
with its history of hurricanes
will burn out
and then what
like a flag
like the ocean
I can’t sleep
but the city I love
can’t wake up
Copyright © 2021 by Ariel Francisco. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 24, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
Small enough to fit
in your shirt pocket
so you could take it out
in a moment of distress
to ingest a happy
maxim or just stare
a while at its orange
and yellow cover
(so cheerful in itself
you need go no further),
this little booklet
wouldn’t stop a bullet
aimed at your heart
and seems a flimsy
shield against despair,
whatever its contents.
But there it is
by the cash register,
so I pick it up
as I wait in line and
come to a sentence
saying there are few
things that can’t be
cured by a hot bath
above the name
I rest my case,
placing the booklet
back by its petite
companions Sweet Nothings
and Simple Wisdom…
but not The Book of Sorrows,
a multivolume set
like the old Britannica
that each of us receives
heft and frequency
over a lifetime.
Copyright © 2021 by Jeffrey Harrison. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 22, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
On a dull December day it’s never noon
more briefly, though what a relief
to look around and realize our lies, in the long run,
won’t last long.
I feel like the nail
holding up someone else’s painting.
My thoughts are the loose thing
in the dishwasher only I can hear.
When I say, Snow, what will become of this world?
it says, I was not taught future tense.
Through the window,
after the heavy storm, I can follow mysterious
paw prints to the spot along the fence
where, in summer, the neighbors like to whisper.
They’ve taken their secrets inside.
It’s left a silence so complete, so free
of ambition, it feels possible to know forgiveness,
which hammered thinner than memory
carries a brighter light.
Copyright © 2021 by Dobby Gibson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
The world will keep trudging through time without us
When we lift from the story contest to fly home
We will be as falling stars to those watching from the edge
Of grief and heartbreak
Maybe then we will see the design of the two-minded creature
And know why half the world fights righteously for greedy masters
And the other half is nailing it all back together
Through the smoke of cooking fires, lovers’ trysts, and endless
Maybe then, beloved rascal
We will find each other again in the timeless weave of breathing
We will sit under the trees in the shadow of earth sorrows
Watch hyenas drink rain, and laugh.
This poem originally appeared in The New Yorker (October 4, 2021). Copyright © 2021 by Joy Harjo. Used with the permission of the poet.