We'll say unbelievable things 
to each other in the early morning— 
  
our blue coming up from our roots, 
our water rising in our extraordinary limbs. 
  
All night I dreamt of bonfires and burn piles 
and ghosts of men, and spirits 
behind those birds of flame. 
  
I cannot tell anymore when a door opens or closes, 
I can only hear the frame saying, Walk through. 
  
It is a short walkway— 
into another bedroom. 
  
Consider the handle. Consider the key. 
  
I say to a friend, how scared I am of sharks. 
  
How I thought I saw them in the creek 
across from my street. 
  
I once watched for them, holding a bundle 
of rattlesnake grass in my hand, 
shaking like a weak-leaf girl. 
  
She sends me an article from a recent National Geographic that says, 
  
Sharks bite fewer people each year than 
New Yorkers do, according to Health Department records. 
  
Then she sends me on my way. Into the City of Sharks. 
  
Through another doorway, I walk to the East River saying, 
  
Sharks are people too. 
Sharks are people too. 
Sharks are people too. 
  
I write all the things I need on the bottom 
of my tennis shoes. I say, Let's walk together. 
  
The sun behind me is like a fire. 
Tiny flames in the river's ripples. 
  
I say something to God, but he's not a living thing, 
so I say it to the river, I say, 
  
I want to walk through this doorway 
But without all those ghosts on the edge, 
I want them to stay here. 
I want them to go on without me. 
  
I want them to burn in the water.

From Sharks in the Rivers by Ada Limón. Copyright © 2010 by Ada Limón. Used by permission of Milkweed Editions. All rights reserved.

The sky’s white with November’s teeth,
and the air is ash and woodsmoke.
A flush of color from the dying tree,
a cargo train speeding through, and there,
that’s me, standing in the wintering
grass watching the dog suffer the cold
leaves. I’m not large from this distance,
just a fence post, a hedge of holly.
Wider still, beyond the rumble of overpass,
mares look for what’s left of green
in the pasture, a few weanlings kick
out, and theirs is the same sky, white
like a calm flag of surrender pulled taut.
A few farms over, there’s our mare,
her belly barrel-round with foal, or idea
of foal. It’s Kentucky, late fall, and any
mare worth her salt is carrying the next
potential stake’s winner. Ours, her coat
thicker with the season’s muck, leans against
the black fence and this image is heavy
within me. How my own body, empty,
clean of secrets, knows how to carry her,
knows we were all meant for something.

Copyright © 2017 Ada Limón. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2017.

& there’s no taking it back now.
What comes next? Charcoal underbone, 

darkroom for soliloquy & irises wide
at home. Some underside party popping

off & ending with me counting resignations
on a couch made from my last pennies—

copper profiles cushion deep, dull 
with emancipation & worth almost me.

Button nicks instead of eyes. Green
patina instead of skin over presidential 

profiles. How to separate these awkward
exhales from the marinating revivals?

The song in the park across the street
dials up something endless about love

& big sunflowers, but I can’t split
this primal reflection from its primary 

leather. Sneakers & skeletons arrhythmic
in their leaving & squeaking: twisting

in somebody else’s garden in the middle
of a cracked city near a river so thick

with its own beat-up history, it’s already
eye level to the flocking blackbirds. 

Copyright © 2019 by Adrian Matejka. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 2, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by Pierre Joris

So many constellations, dis-
played to us. I was,
when I looked at you—when?—
outside with
the other worlds.

O, these paths, galactic,
O this hour that billowed
the nights over to us into
the burden of our names. It is,
I know, not true,
that we lived, a mere
breath blindly moved between
there and not-there and sometimes,
comet-like an eye whizzed
toward extinguished matter, in the canyons,
there where it burned out, stood
tit-gorgeous time, along
which grew up and down
& away what
is or was or will be—,

I know,
I know and you know, we knew,
we didn’t know, for we
were there and not there,
and sometimes, when
only Nothingness stood between us, we
found truly together.

 


Soviel Gestirne

Soviel Gestirne, die
man uns hinhält. Ich war,
als ich dich ansah – wann? –,
draußen bei
den andern Welten.

O diese Wege, galaktisch,
o diese Stunde, die uns
die Nächte herüberwog in
die Last unsrer Namen. Es ist,
ich weiß es, nicht wahr,
daß wir lebten, es ging
blind nur ein Atem zwischen
Dort und Nicht-da und Zuweilen,
kometenhaft schwirrte ein Aug
auf Erloschenes zu, in den Schluchten,
da, wo’s verglühte, stand
zitzenprächtig die Zeit,
an der schon empor- und hinab-
und hinwegwuchs, was
ist oder war oder sein wird –,

ich weiß,
ich weiß und du weißt, wir wußten,
wir wußten nicht, wir
waren ja da und nicht dort,
und zuweilen, wenn
nur das Nichts zwischen uns stand, fanden
wir ganz zueinander.

From Memory Rose into Threshold Speech: The Collected Earlier Poetry (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2020) by Paul Celan, translated by Pierre Joris. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 22, 2020, with the permission of the translator.

We ran barefoot on pavement
before a girl tripped on a rock,
got third and fourth lips,
a new hairline.

We jumped from swings, aiming
for grass beyond the gravel path.
We flipped over the frame to float,
weightless girls who didn’t matter.

There’s a scar in the shape of Africa
on my right knee, a faceless dime
on my wrist. I expect flight,
but brace to land on my back.

How I could’ve loved you with that body,
heart that instructs a girl to climb fences
taller than her house, or fight a bully
who already shaves her knees.

What chords a pulse plucks. It plays
in thumbs pressed together. Some night
I’d like to leap from the headboard,
double up, wonder at the blood in our grins.

Copyright © 2021 by Ladan Osman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 5, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

for our elders

You arrive as found blade for this tale 
I will tell you no gospel you know, 
No crow’s throat will belt guesses 

This year sound out the life I spend 
In the company of those who are all 
On their way to another world

And I am still on your way here 
A mouth as a cold wind
And I rise from me as I rise from me 

And I lift us bad as the night air 
Bad as it in hurricane season  
And sudden as we’re filled with the black wind

I feel nothing like dread
Hold still the planetary language
Who’ll tell you, really, what we’ve done

To speak of walking, of having walked 
Where flocks, animals say, slow lorises, rest 
Something of their tired and bud

To rot our chests of their bright moons
Moons disgorged from a twisting …
No, forget the moon. This time, we know 

The moon does not heed our endless calling 
Or duties for lubricating our worry 
The endless looking up, like a moment ago

When I could mean just anything else
Break into a crowd, a too narrow room,
The Atlantic’s long rage, mean anything at all

Where must I consider to live
With whatever dried longing 
We rise up to be in the morning           rain

Copyright © 2021 by Canisia Lubrin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 17, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

One’s is to feed. One’s is to cleave.
One’s to be doubled over under greed.
One’s is strife. One’s to be strangled by life.
One’s to be called and to rise.
One’s to stare fire in the eye.
One’s is bondage to pleasure.
One’s to be held captive by power.
One’s to drive a nation to its naked knees
in war. One’s is the rapture of stolen hours.
One’s to be called yet cower.
One’s is to defend the dead.
One’s to suffer until ego is shed.
One’s is to dribble the nectar of evil.
One’s but to roll a stone up a hill.
One’s to crouch low
over damp kindling in deep snow
coaxing the thin plume
of cautious smoke.
One’s is only to shiver.
One’s is only to blow.

Copyright © 2021 by Tracy K. Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 8, 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.

In the dark
Down a stairwell
Through the doorway
Gone west
With a new wish
In daylight
Down the sidewalk
In a wool coat
In a white dress
Without a name
Without asking
On your knees
On your stomach
Gone silent
In the backseat
In the courtroom
In a cage
In the desert
In the park
Gone swimming
On the shortest night
At the bottom of the lake
In pieces
In pictures
Without meaning
Without a face
Seeking refuge
In a new land
Gone still
In the heart
With your head bowed
In deference
In sickness
In surrender 
With your hands up
On the sidewalk
In the daylight
In the dark

Copyright © 2021 by Camille Rankine. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 2, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sweet memory, like a pleasing dream,
    Still lends a dull and feeble ray;
For ages with her vestige teems,
    When beauty's trace is worn away.

When pleasure, with her harps unstrung,
    Sits silent to be heard no more,
Or leaves them on the willows hung,
    And pass-time glee forever o'er;

Still back in smiles thy glory steals
    With ev'ning dew drops from thine eye;
The twilight bursting from thy wheels,
    Ascends and bids oblivion fly.

Memory, thy bush prevails to bloom,
    Design'd to fade, no, never, never,
Will stamp thy vestige on the tomb,
    And bid th' immortal live forever.

When youth's bright sun has once declined
    And bid his smiling day expire,
Mem'ry, thy torch steals up behind,
    And sets thy hidden stars on fire.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 24, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

after Martha Collins

because it is to create an acute

angle an angle shaped like a

wedge because it is to give

birth to what you already know

to be expendable after it

has cleaned after it has fed

you because you are enriched

by even its deterioration because

the join might seem slender

like a throat because the bud might

seem tender like a bud but in this

tenderness you do not share you

do not share anything because even

the join is also a jamb a harbinger

of scab a rust-red portal that shuts

down what it depletes that shuts

out the obsolete because you keep

what is inside from seeping out

because you keep what is outside from

slipping in because in the singular

and as a noun you are a form

of formal permission as in why

don’t you make like a tree and…

Copyright © 2021 by Monica Youn. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 22, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

A frog leaps out across the lawn,
And crouches there—all heavy and alone,
And like a blossom, pale and over-blown,
Once more the moon turns dim against the dawn.

Crawling across the straggling panoply
Of little roses, only half in bloom,
It strides within that beamed and lofty room
Where an ebon stallion looms upon the hay.

The stillness moves, and seems to grow immense,
A shuddering dog starts, dragging at its chain,
Thin, dusty rats slink down within the grain,
And in the vale the first far bells commence.

Here in the dawn, with mournful doomèd eyes
A cow uprises, moving out to bear
A soft-lipped calf with swarthy birth-swirled hair,
And wide wet mouth, and droll uncertainties.

The grey fowls fight for places in the sun,
The mushrooms flare, and pass like painted fans:
All the world is patient in its plans—
The seasons move forever, one on one.

Small birds lie sprawling vaguely in the heat,
And wanly pluck at shadows on their breasts,
And where the heavy grape-vine leans and rests,
White butterflies lift up their furry feet.

The wheat grows querulous with unseen cats;
A fox strides out in anger through the corn,
Bidding each acre wake and rise to mourn
Beneath its sharps and through its throaty flats.

And so it is, and will be year on year,
Time in and out of date, and still on time
A billion grapes plunge bleeding into wine
And bursting, fall like music on the ear.

The snail that marks the girth of night with slime,
The lonely adder hissing in the fern,
The lizard with its ochre eyes aburn—
Each is before, and each behind its time.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 20, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Fling out your banners, your honors be bringing,
Raise to the ether your paeans of praise.
Strike every chord and let music be ringing!
Celebrate freely this day of all days.

Few are the years since that notable blessing,
Raised you from slaves to the powers of men.
Each year has seen you my brothers progressing,
Never to sink to that level again.

Perched on your shoulders sits Liberty smiling,
Perched where the eyes of the nations can see.
Keep from her pinions all contact defiling;
Show by your deeds what you’re destined to be.

Press boldly forward nor waver, nor falter.
Blood has been freely poured out in your cause,
Lives sacrificed upon Liberty’s altar.
Press to the front, it were craven to pause.

Look to the heights that are worth your attaining
Keep your feet firm in the path to the goal.
Toward noble deeds every effort be straining.
Worthy ambition is food for the soul!

Up! Men and brothers, be noble, be earnest!
Ripe is the time and success is assured;
Know that your fate was the hardest and sternest
When through those lash-ringing days you endured.

Never again shall the manacles gall you
Never again shall the whip stroke defame!
Nobles and Freemen, your destinies call you
Onward to honor, to glory and fame.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 19, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I took my sky hammer &
pounded out a few choice
clouds, cirrus and I don’t know, nimbus
as in a god on earth
moving in space as a great auroral mist
a god who beholds the sparrows 
washing in the dusty gravel
of frankford avenue
giving me cause to rant or
giving me means to roll
ride with me in the shadowy afterworld
beyond the spider of a doubt
along a sidewalk littered w/ leaves
don’t be plain, said the cloud, find
the ornament that please you best
or elsewise, sugared in stars
go on and rail in a useless manner
against the inevitable dawntime
people of the dawn
come up drumming 
and beat on a pillow even
if a drum is not available
happy fortune, fortune has come round for you again
in this pocket world of a minor horned god 
I balanced my lunch 
in the arms of my ancestors
thomcord grapes and weeping cherries
they were my arms
lackadasic in the sky-sky-sky
holding their sky hammer
as if it were the baby buddha
and I thought, if there was a world beyond...
I could become one of those assholes 
who gets their sugar from fruit
and regard the one who points out my faults 
as a revealer of treasures
and regard the one who points out my faults 
as a revealer of treasures

Copyright © 2022 by Julian Talamantez Brolaski. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 9, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Pink faces—(worlds or flowers or seas or stars),
You all alike are patterned with hot bars

Of coloured light; and falling where I stand,
The sharp and rainbow splinters from the band

Seem fireworks, splinters of the Infinite—
(Glitter of leaves the echoes). And the night

Will weld this dust of bright Infinity
To forms that we may touch and call and see:—

Pink pyramids of faces: tulip-trees
Spilling night perfumes on the terraces.

The music, blond airs waving like a sea
Draws in its vortex of immensity

The new-awakened flower-strange hair and eyes
Of crowds beneath the floating summer skies.

And, ’gainst the silk pavilions of the sea
I watch the people move incessantly

Vibrating, petals blown from flower-hued stars
Beneath the music-fireworks’ waving bars;

So all seems indivisible, at one:
The flow of hair, the flowers, the seas that run,—

A coloured floating music of the night
Through the pavilions of the Infinite.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 23, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Even in California
all of my friends require touch    

to get through winter.                
It’s true, I am waiting to be in love          

in front of the people I love.       
He says, I’m glad you’re here                       

& I want to cover his mouth
to warm my hands.        

Of course I understand              
how one would mistake

that earthquake for a passing train
but what do we do with the stillness                    

when after great change             
nothing moves, but his hand      

sliding a glass of wine
across the table

instructing me to drink              
with a single nod.

I bring the glass to my face                     
but don’t let a drop pass my lips.

Beside him, I am almost somewhere        
I’d like to be for a while.

To make him smile        
I tell him I am bad at sex.

To make him kiss me
I tell him when I’m happy

I go looking for things
I haven’t lost yet.

Copyright © 2022 by Hieu Minh Nguyen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 3, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

And now the sun in tinted splendor sank,
  The west was all aglow with crimson light;
The bay seemed like a sheet of burnished gold,
  Its waters glistened with such radiance bright.

At anchor lay the yachts with snow-white sails,
  Outlined against the glowing, rose-hued sky.
No ripple stirred the waters’ calm repose
  Save when a tiny craft sped lightly by.

Our boat was drifting slowly, gently round,
  To rest secure till evening shadows fell;
No sound disturbed the stillness of the air,
  Save the soft chiming of the vesper bell.

Yes, drifting, drifting; and I thought that life,
  When nearing death, is like the sunset sky:
And death is but the slow, sure drifting in
  To rest far more securely, by and by.

Then let me drift along the Bay of Time,
  Till my last sun shall set in glowing light;
Let me cast anchor where no shadows fall,
  Forever moored within Heaven’s harbor bright.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 19, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage
A Dove house filld with Doves & Pigeons
Shudders Hell thr' all its regions
A dog starvd at his Masters Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State
A Horse misusd upon the Road
Calls to Heaven for Human blood
Each outcry of the hunted Hare
A fibre from the Brain does tear
A Skylark wounded in the wing
A Cherubim does cease to sing
The Game Cock clipd & armd for fight
Does the Rising Sun affright
Every Wolfs & Lions howl
Raises from Hell a Human Soul
The wild deer, wandring here & there
Keeps the Human Soul from Care
The Lamb misusd breeds Public Strife
And yet forgives the Butchers knife
The Bat that flits at close of Eve
Has left the Brain that wont Believe
The Owl that calls upon the Night
Speaks the Unbelievers fright
He who shall hurt the little Wren
Shall never be belovd by Men
He who the Ox to wrath has movd
Shall never be by Woman lovd
The wanton Boy that kills the Fly
Shall feel the Spiders enmity
He who torments the Chafers Sprite
Weaves a Bower in endless Night
The Catterpiller on the Leaf
Repeats to thee thy Mothers grief
Kill not the Moth nor Butterfly
For the Last Judgment draweth nigh
He who shall train the Horse to War
Shall never pass the Polar Bar
The Beggars Dog & Widows Cat
Feed them & thou wilt grow fat
The Gnat that sings his Summers Song
Poison gets from Slanders tongue
The poison of the Snake & Newt
Is the sweat of Envys Foot
The poison of the Honey Bee
Is the Artists Jealousy
The Princes Robes & Beggars Rags
Are Toadstools on the Misers Bags
A Truth thats told with bad intent
Beats all the Lies you can invent
It is right it should be so
Man was made for Joy & Woe
And when this we rightly know
Thro the World we safely go
Joy & Woe are woven fine
A Clothing for the soul divine
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine
The Babe is more than swadling Bands
Throughout all these Human Lands
Tools were made & Born were hands
Every Farmer Understands
Every Tear from Every Eye
Becomes a Babe in Eternity
This is caught by Females bright
And returnd to its own delight
The Bleat the Bark Bellow & Roar
Are Waves that Beat on Heavens Shore
The Babe that weeps the Rod beneath
Writes Revenge in realms of Death
The Beggars Rags fluttering in Air
Does to Rags the Heavens tear
The Soldier armd with Sword & Gun
Palsied strikes the Summers Sun
The poor Mans Farthing is worth more
Than all the Gold on Africs Shore
One Mite wrung from the Labrers hands
Shall buy & sell the Misers Lands
Or if protected from on high
Does that whole Nation sell & buy
He who mocks the Infants Faith
Shall be mockd in Age & Death
He who shall teach the Child to Doubt
The rotting Grave shall neer get out
He who respects the Infants faith
Triumphs over Hell & Death
The Childs Toys & the Old Mans Reasons
Are the Fruits of the Two seasons
The Questioner who sits so sly
Shall never know how to Reply
He who replies to words of Doubt
Doth put the Light of Knowledge out
The Strongest Poison ever known
Came from Caesars Laurel Crown
Nought can Deform the Human Race
Like to the Armours iron brace
When Gold & Gems adorn the Plow
To peaceful Arts shall Envy Bow
A Riddle or the Crickets Cry
Is to Doubt a fit Reply
The Emmets Inch & Eagles Mile
Make Lame Philosophy to smile
He who Doubts from what he sees
Will neer Believe do what you Please
If the Sun & Moon should Doubt
Theyd immediately Go out
To be in a Passion you Good may Do
But no Good if a Passion is in you
The Whore & Gambler by the State
Licencd build that Nations Fate
The Harlots cry from Street to Street
Shall weave Old Englands winding Sheet
The Winners Shout the Losers Curse
Dance before dead Englands Hearse
Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born
Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night
We are led to Believe a Lie
When we see not Thro the Eye
Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day

This poem is in the public domain.

Full knee-deep lies the winter snow,
And the winter winds are wearily sighing:
Toll ye the church bell sad and slow,
And tread softly and speak low,
For the old year lies a-dying.
       Old year you must not die;
       You came to us so readily,
       You lived with us so steadily,
       Old year, you shall not die.

He lieth still: he doth not move:
He will not see the dawn of day.
He hath no other life above.
He gave me a friend and a true truelove
And the New-year will take ’em away.
       Old year you must not go;
       So long you have been with us,
       Such joy as you have seen with us,
       Old year, you shall not go.

He froth’d his bumpers to the brim;
A jollier year we shall not see.
But tho’ his eyes are waxing dim,
And tho’ his foes speak ill of him,
He was a friend to me.
       Old year, you shall not die;
       We did so laugh and cry with you,
       I’ve half a mind to die with you,
       Old year, if you must die.

He was full of joke and jest,
But all his merry quips are o’er.
To see him die across the waste
His son and heir doth ride post-haste,
But he’ll be dead before.
       Every one for his own.
       The night is starry and cold, my friend,
       And the New-year blithe and bold, my friend,
       Comes up to take his own.

How hard he breathes! over the snow
I heard just now the crowing cock.
The shadows flicker to and fro:
The cricket chirps: the light burns low:
’Tis nearly twelve o’clock.
       Shake hands, before you die.
       Old year, we’ll dearly rue for you:
       What is it we can do for you?
       Speak out before you die.

His face is growing sharp and thin.
Alack! our friend is gone,
Close up his eyes: tie up his chin:
Step from the corpse, and let him in
That standeth there alone,
       And waiteth at the door.
       There’s a new foot on the floor, my friend,
       And a new face at the door, my friend,
       A new face at the door.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 31, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets

Δέδυκε μὲν ἀ σελάννα
καὶ Πληΐαδες
          —Sappho

When the moon was high I waited,
   Pale with evening’s tints it shone;
When its gold came slow, belated,
   Still I kept my watch alone

When it sank, a golden wonder,
   From my window still I bent,
Though the clouds hung thick with thunder
   Where our hilltop roadway went.

By the cypress tops I’ve counted
   Every golden star that passed;
Weary hours they’ve shone and mounted,
   Each more tender than the last.

All my pillows hot with turning,
   All my weary maids asleep;
Every star in heaven was burning
   For the tryst you did not keep.

Now the clouds have hushed their warning,
   Paleness creeps upon the sea;
One star more, and then the morning—
   Share, oh, share that star with me!

Never fear that I shall chide thee
   For the wasted stars of night,
So thine arms will come and hide me
   From the dawn’s unwelcome light.

Though the moon a heav’n had given us,
   Every star a crown and throne,
Till the morn apart had driven us—
   Let the last star be our own.

Ah! the cypress tops are sighing
   With the wind that brings the day;
There my last pale treasure dying
   Ebbs in jeweled light away;

Ebbs like water bright, untasted;
   Black the cypress, bright the sea;
Heav’n’s whole treasury lies wasted
   And the dawn burns over me.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 25, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

blah blah blah 
there was a plague. 
again. gwen called it 

better than the alternative:
to live. you’d never know 
so many of us do. despite ourselves 
everyone has a story. when june asked 
what we should do those of us who 
did not die i imagine what she’d say 
if i answered: lie around drunk and bake 
bread; make cookies; never quite spread 
the tight space that crushes us.
put my foot in the grass. press 
toward grounding. pull back flesh 
like hot ice. on the boiled side of melt. 
it was cold it was hot it blazed 
and that was before the never-
ending today of plague ran viral. 
everywhere people with all 
the anger all the guns feel 
outnumbered. listen: they are. 
i guess we’re just supposed to talk 
about all this bullshit now. but

the leaves this autumn: incredible! 
how they too flaunt flames deep 
into december like they know 
how fast we forget our own spilled 
blood. walk beneath the canopy of me. see how 
i hover how i don’t so much block light as scatter light 
how i kitten yarn batter light. as fofie would say 
if for just one day we didn’t have to earn 
for just one day then who do we (want 
to) become? brown and green and recent
rainwet sets everything alight like 
the untoward way raindrops flash and prick 
each bit of waning sunlight when i come back 
around and meet myself after all this baking 
in the new dark—do i just assume, june, that 
i can remember to swim or let the current 
pull me down again? here we insist 
today did not happen here through 
all of today’s happenings here.

tfw you know horrible things happened
but you can’t remember them

tfw you remember horrible thing after horrible thing
and still you think: nope—that’s not the one

tfw there’s nothing left but feeling—
no thought—just paralysis—and feeling

tfw there’s nothing left to feel
and nothing in the lap for breakfast

so it turns out i’m allergic to society 
as a whole. when in doubt, they say, 
go back in time. when i wanna feel safe 
i figure i should want something else. 
everywhere i go everyone i see could be 
a shooter and my breasts beneath 
bulletproof vests squeeze the breath
outta me. tomorrow is another country 
even there the philosopher’s 
stone ain’t stone: bottoms out 
unexpectedly. i can’t forget water 
while i drown so why does today’s silence 
engulf so unseen and unsmelled and even 
then tomorrow is not even there. maybe 
this quiet is a star. our outer space 
treaties are older now 
than my whole generation. just as outdated. 
just as orbited by garbage and left 
to rot with our every epizootic breath. 

it is, our leaders—ha?—hee?—say, what it is.

in rome i had a red feather boa. 
i’d tickle your nose with my loosy-
goosy feathers. i ruled the stage, honey. 
long gone now, how it blazed.

Copyright © 2023 by Samiya Bashir. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 15, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Dreadnought, I. Dread from the sea I was drawn, I

blue as dread, tender dread, taloned as our future dread.

Dread the constellation I was born under, dread I

slept under, dread the waves of history, blustering red.

Dread my mother’s calm. Dread the harpy’s song. Dread she

nursed me, dread she named me. Dread my girlhood

under sugar cane. Dread the hurricane. I was a child

of dread a psalm of dread, dread pressed into my palm

like the blessed herb. A divine dread, Rastaman said. Before I

could speak there was dread, before I could stumble.

Dread roamed the shore a ghostly spume, dreadless thread

of the woman I’m erasing, dread my one coastline crumbling

to sea rise, to abyss. Dread my dead tooth unmaking

the veil, dread the ointment I, dread the wound I, dread the wail I,

dread the johncrow’s eye, smoke of black clouds heralding

only dread. Skirmish of youth, my constant banner of dread.

Dread at home, dread to the bone, my father dangling his guillotine

of dread. Dread as daily bread. Nursed dark by decades of dread,

teachers recoiled at my knotted thorns of dread. How the white

girls blanched with dread. Scorned for the hair on my head.

Beware my Blackheart of dread, the reckless haunt of my dread,

girl born of nothing but salt-air and dread. Girl who bore nothing

but a vision of dread. Such a savage, dread. Thrum of the natty dread.

Congo Bongo dread. Martyred was the dread. Brother still the dread.

Blood of my dread. Babylon maiming families of dread, pastors railing

against our dread, dread the crown of heavens I wear upon this head. Dread

at the root, dread of the fruit. Sister of dread. Daughter of the dread.

First woman giving birth to her dread. A gorgon stoning every baldhead, dead.

Copyright © 2023 by Safiya Sinclair. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Elected Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorlèd ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.

Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only make you eloquent.

Be shellèd, eyes, with double dark
And find the uncreated light:
This ruck and reel which you remark
Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.

Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
The can must be so sweet, the crust
So fresh that come in fasts divine!

Nostrils, our careless breath that spend
Upon the stir and keep of pride,
What relish shall the censers send
Along the sanctuary side!

O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet
That want the yield of plushy sward,
But you shall walk the golden street
And you unhouse and house the Lord.

And, Poverty, be thou the bride
And now the marriage feast begun,
And lily-coloured clothes provide
Your spouse not laboured-at nor spun.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 14, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.