To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
    Dark like me—
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening . . .
A tall, slim tree . . .
Night coming tenderly
    Black like me.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used with permission.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

This poem is in the public domain.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
   Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
   And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son
   The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
   The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
   Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
   And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
   The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
   And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
   The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
   He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
   Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
   He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
   Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
   And the mome raths outgrabe.

This poem is in the public domain.

when i watch you 
wrapped up like garbage 
sitting, surrounded by the smell 
of too old potato peels 
or
when i watch you 
in your old man's shoes 
with the little toe cut out 
sitting, waiting for your mind 
like next week's grocery 
i say
when i watch you
you wet brown bag of a woman 
who used to be the best looking gal in georgia
used to be called the Georgia Rose
i stand up
through your destruction
i stand up

Copyright ©1987 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted from Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980 with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd., 260 East Ave., Rochester, NY 14604.

Fame is a fickle food
Upon a shifting plate
Whose table once a
Guest but not
The second time is set.

Whose crumbs the crows inspect
And with ironic caw
Flap past it to the Farmer's Corn –
Men eat of it and die.

Poetry used by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Ralph W. Franklin ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
    So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

This poem is in the public domain.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.—Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

This poem is in the public domain.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

From The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1916, 1923, 1928, 1930, 1934, 1939, 1947, 1949, © 1969 by Holt Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Copyright 1936, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1953, 1954, © 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 by Robert Frost. Copyright © 1962, 1967, 1970 by Leslie Frost Ballantine.

 

I have tried to write Paradise

Do not move
      Let the wind speak
        that is paradise.

Let the Gods forgive what I
        have made
Let those I love try to forgive
        what I have made.

Copyright © 1956, 1957 by Ezra Pound. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

Hold fast to dreams 
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes published by Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage. Copyright © 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated. All rights reserved.

I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love—put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.

This poem is in the public domain.

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

From Homage to Clio by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1960 W. H. Auden, renewed by the Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.

This poem is in the public domain.

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you're the planet's biggest dunce,
you can't repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses.

One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.

The next day, though you're here with me,
I can't help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock?

Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It's in its nature not to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow.

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we're different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.

From Poems New and Collected: 1957-1997 by Wislawa Szymborska. Copyright © 1998 by Wislawa Szymborska. Used by permission of Harcourt Brace & Company. All rights reserved.

If you can keep your head when all about you
   Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
   But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
   Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
   And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
   If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
   And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
   Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
   And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
   And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
   And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
   To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
   Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
   Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
   If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
   Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

This poem is in the public domain.

O Me! O life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer.

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

This poem is in the public domain.

Drinke to me, onely, with thine eyes,
    And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kisse but in the cup,
    And Ile not looke for wine.
The thirst, that from the soule doth rise,
    Doth aske a drinke divine:
But might I of Jove's Nectar sup,
    I would not change for thine.
I sent thee, late, a rosie wreath,
    Not so much honoring thee,
As giving it a hope, that there
    It could not withered bee.
But thou thereon did'st onely breath,
    And sent'st it back to mee:
Since when it growes, and smells, I sweare,
    Not of it selfe, but thee.

This poem is in the public domain.

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

From The Collected Poems by Stanley Kunitz (W. W. Norton, 2000). Copyright © 1978 by Stanley Kunitz. Used by permission of W. W. Norton. All rights reserved. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 29, 2014.

How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness every where!
And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time;
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And, thou away, the very birds are mute:
    Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer,
    That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.

This poem is in the public domain.

I.

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

II.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

III.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Written June 12, 1814. This poem is in the public domain.

Tonight I lingered over your name,
the delicate assembly of vowels
a voice inside my head.
You were sleeping when I arrived.
I stood by your bed
and watched the sheets rise gently.
I knew what slant of light
would make you turn over.
It was then I felt 
the highways slide out of my hands.
I remembered the old men
in the west side cafe,
dealing dominoes like magical charms.
It was then I knew,
like a woman looking backward,
I could not leave you,
or find anyone I loved more.

From Is This Forever, or What? Poems and Paintings from Texas by Naomi Shihab Nye. Copyright © 2004 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. No part of this book may be used or repoduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019. All rights reserved.

Shine on, O moon of summer.  
Shine to the leaves of grass, catalpa and oak,  
All silver under your rain to-night.  
  
An Italian boy is sending songs to you to-night from an accordion.  
A Polish boy is out with his best girl; they marry next month;
     to-night they are throwing you kisses.
  
An old man next door is dreaming over a sheen that sits in a
     cherry tree in his back yard.  
  
The clocks say I must go—I stay here sitting on the back porch drinking
     white thoughts you rain down.  
  
     Shine on, O moon,  
Shake out more and more silver changes. 

From The Chicago Poems (Henry Holt and Company, 1916) by Carl Sandburg.

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
     And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
     As any she belied with false compare.

This poem is in the public domain.

To lie on these beaches for another summer
Would not become them at all,
And yet the water and her sands will suffer
When, in the fall,
These golden children will be taken from her.

It is not the gold they bring: enough of that
Has shone in the water for ages
And in the bright theater of Venice at their backs;
But the final stages
Of all those afternoons when they played and sat

And waited for a beckoning wind to blow them
Back over the water again
Are scenes most necessary to this ocean.
What actors then
Will play when these disperse from the sand below them?

All this over until, perhaps, next spring;
This last afternoon must be pleasing.
Europe, Europe is over, but they lie here still,
While the wind, increasing,
Sands teeth, sands eyes, sands taste, sands everything.

"Late August on the Lido" is reprinted with permission from Selected Poetry, Copyright © 1993 by John Hollander. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 20, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Little maidens, when you look
On this little story-book,
Reading with attentive eye
Its enticing history,
Never think that hours of play
Are your only HOLIDAY,
And that in a HOUSE of joy
Lessons serve but to annoy:
If in any HOUSE you find
Children of a gentle mind,
Each the others pleasing ever—
Each the others vexing never—
Daily work and pastime daily
In their order taking gaily—
Then be very sure that they
Have a life of HOLIDAY.

This poem is in the public domain.

This is where it gets pretty personal hemmed in
- side acts enclosing sense eroding all my needs
For warmth & honey common phantoms things

Sing of use not being on our side they press again
- st my limit being a swarm becoming corralled
Inside the same nonsite falling to a cop’s baton

Not failing the place property erases you see for
- ce shifting lines converging undoing time
The way we make it deep how deep the ground

Dreams futures not being bound to rates rent
Open squares under private siege a coup
Like common sense undone the library itself hi

- jacked commanded dumped by armed pretenders
Say the commode goes up in smoke say what
You are has been revoked utopian imaginary

Say whatever you want has been unmade
& ready to be made again with
- drawn people arouse

                                — the place itself, this hole in the goods.

Copyright © 2013 by Rob Halpern. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 18, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

We never know how high we are
  Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
  Our statures touch the skies—

The Heroism we recite
  Would be a daily thing,
Did not ourselves the Cubits warp
  For fear to be a King—

This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on April 20, 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

Late August morning I go out to cut
spent and faded hydrangeas—washed
greens, russets, troubled little auras

of sky as if these were the very silks
of Versailles, mottled by rain and ruin
then half-restored, after all this time…

When I come back with my handful
I realize I’ve accidentally locked the door,
and can’t get back into the house.

The dining room window’s easiest;
crawl through beauty bush and spirea,
push aside some errant maples, take down

the wood-framed screen, hoist myself up.
But how, exactly, to clamber across the sill
and the radiator down to the tile?

I try bending one leg in, but I don’t fold
readily; I push myself up so that my waist
rests against the sill, and lean forward,

place my hands on the floor and begin to slide
down into the room, which makes me think
this was what it was like to be born:

awkward, too big for the passageway…
Negotiate, submit?
                           When I give myself
to gravity there I am, inside, no harm,

the dazzling splotchy flowerheads
scattered around me on the floor.
Will leaving the world be the same

—uncertainty as to how to proceed,
some discomfort, and suddenly you’re
—where? I am so involved with this idea

I forget to unlock the door,
so when I go to fetch the mail, I’m locked out
again. Am I at home in this house,

would I prefer to be out here,
where I could be almost anyone?
This time it’s simpler: the window-frame,

the radiator, my descent. Born twice
in one day!
                In their silvered jug,
these bruise-blessed flowers:

how hard I had to work to bring them
into this room. When I say spent,
I don’t mean they have no further coin.

If there are lives to come, I think
they might be a littler easier than this one.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Doty. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 23, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

When I see a young tree
In its white beginning,
With white leaves
And white buds
Barely tipped with green,
In the April weather,
In the weeping sunshine—
Then I see my lady,
My democratic queen,
Standing free and equal
With the youngest woodland sapling
Swaying, singing in the wind,
Delicate and white:
Soul so near to blossom,
Fragile, strong as death;
A kiss from far-off Eden,
A flash of Judgment's trumpet—
April's breath.

This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 28, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

If this bowl is always empty

If it breathes if it’s lung

If a horse can rise from the ashes


Saul was a sailor on the boat to Damascus

He did not know what he was

Paul turned to a voice it rose up from the waves

It chained his boat to the darkness


A man finds ash & he makes it a man

A horse finds ash in a horse

It lifts us it holds us it breaks us again

Scatter him into the harbor

Copyright © 2013 by Nick Flynn. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on May 1, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

I’m afraid of death
because it inflates
the definition
of what a person
is, or love, until
they become the same,
love, the beloved,
immaterial.

I’m afraid of death
because it invents
a different kind of
time, a stopped clock
that can’t be reset,
only repurchased,
an antiquity.

I’m afraid of death,
the magician who
makes vanish and who
makes odd things appear
in odd places—your
name engraves itself
on a stranger’s chest
in letters of char.

Copyright © 2013 by Kathleen Ossip. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on May 3, 2013. Browse the Poem-a-Day archive.

The horse's name was Remorse.
There were people said, "Gee, what a nag!"
And they were Edgar Allan Poe bugs and so
They called him Remorse.
                                    When he was a gelding
He flashed his heels to other ponies
And threw dust in the noses of other ponies
And won his first race and his second
And another and another and hardly ever
Came under the wire behind the other runners.

And so, Remorse, who is gone, was the hero of a play
By Henry Blossom, who is now gone.
What is there to a monicker? Call me anything.
A nut, a cheese, something that the cat brought in. Nick me with any old name.
Class me up for a fish, a gorilla, a slant head, an egg, a ham.
Only ... slam me across the ears sometimes ... and hunt for a white star
In my forehead and twist the bang of my forelock around it.
Make a wish for me. Maybe I will light out like a streak of wind.

This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on May 4, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.  This poem is in the public domain.

it’s amazing how death
is always around the corner,
or not even so far away
as that, hiding in the little pleasures
that some of us would go
so far as to say
are the only things
keeping us alive

Copyright © 2013 by Jason Schneiderman. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on May 22, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

There is nothing beautiful here
However I may want it. I can’t
Spin a crystal palace of this thin air,
Weave a darkness plush as molefur with my tongue
However I want. Yet I am not alone
In these alleys of vowels, which comfort me
As the single living nun of a convent
Is comforted by the walls of that catacomb
She walks at night, lit by her own moving candle.
I am not afraid of mirrors or the future
—Or even you, lovers, wandering cow-fat
And rutting in the gardens of this earthly verge
Where I too trod, a sunspot, parasol-shaded,
Kin to the trees, the bees, the color green.

Copyright © 2013 by Monica Ferrell. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on May 27, 2013.

The week after you died, Mom,
you were in my checkout line,
little old lady who met my stare
with the fear, the yearning
of a mortal chosen by a god,
feeling herself change
painfully cell by cell
into a shadow, a laurel, you, a constellation.

Copyright © 2013 by James Richardson. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on May 28, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

He often expressed
A curious wish,
To be interchangeably
Man and fish;
To nibble the bait
Off the hook,
Said he,
And then slip away
Like a ghost
In the sea.

This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on June 9, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

                        The oriole sings in the greening grove
                                           As if he were half-way waiting,
                                           The rosebuds peep from their hoods of green,
                                           Timid and hesitating.
The rain comes down in a torrent sweep
             And the nights smell warm and piney,
The garden thrives, but the tender shoots
             Are yellow-green and tiny.
Then a flash of sun on a waiting hill,
             Streams laugh that erst were quiet,
The sky smiles down with a dazzling blue
             And the woods run mad with riot.

This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on June 22, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive. This poem is in the public domain.

Dear Lord
Show me
The way—
Take
My heart
And throw
It away

Lord, take
My heart
And throw
It out

Lord, throw
My heart
Way out

Copyright © 2013 by Robert Glück. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on June 28, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

I.

Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered
at least half-a-dozen uses for peanut butter—
topping for guava shells in syrup,
butter substitute for Cuban toast,
hair conditioner and relaxer—
Mamá never knew what to make
of the monthly five-pound jars
handed out by the immigration department
until my friend, Jeff, mentioned jelly.

II.

There was always pork though,
for every birthday and wedding,
whole ones on Christmas and New Year's Eves,
even on Thanksgiving Day—pork,
fried, broiled or crispy skin roasted—
as well as cauldrons of black beans,
fried plantain chips and yuca con mojito.

These items required a special visit
to Antonio's Mercado on the corner of 8th street
where men in guayaberas stood in senate
blaming Kennedy for everything—"Ese hijo de puta!"
the bile of Cuban coffee and cigar residue
filling the creases of their wrinkled lips;
clinging to one another's lies of lost wealth,
ashamed and empty as hollow trees.

III.

By seven I had grown suspicious—we were still here.
Overheard conversations about returning
had grown wistful and less frequent.
I spoke English; my parents didn't.
We didn't live in a two story house
with a maid or a wood panel station wagon
nor vacation camping in Colorado.
None of the girls had hair of gold;
none of my brothers or cousins
were named Greg, Peter, or Marcia;
we were not the Brady Bunch.
None of the black and white characters
on Donna Reed or on Dick Van Dyke Show
were named Guadalupe, Lázaro, or Mercedes.
Patty Duke's family wasn't like us either—
they didn't have pork on Thanksgiving,
they ate turkey with cranberry sauce;
they didn't have yuca, they had yams
like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.

IV.

A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain's majesty,
"one if by land, two if by sea"
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the "masses yearning to be free"
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey,
as well as pork.

V.

Abuelita prepared the poor fowl
as if committing an act of treason,
faking her enthusiasm for my sake.
Mamà set a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven
and prepared candied yams following instructions
I translated from the marshmallow bag.
The table was arrayed with gladiolus,
the plattered turkey loomed at the center
on plastic silver from Woolworths.
Everyone sat in green velvet chairs
we had upholstered with clear vinyl,
except Tío Carlos and Toti, seated
in the folding chairs from the Salvation Army.
I uttered a bilingual blessing
and the turkey was passed around
like a game of Russian Roulette.
"DRY," Tío Berto complained, and proceeded
to drown the lean slices with pork fat drippings
and cranberry jelly—"esa mierda roja," he called it.

Faces fell when Mamá presented her ochre pie—
pumpkin was a home remedy for ulcers, not a dessert.
Tía María made three rounds of Cuban coffee
then Abuelo and Pepe cleared the living room furniture,
put on a Celia Cruz LP and the entire family
began to merengue over the linoleum of our apartment,
sweating rum and coffee until they remembered—
it was 1970 and 46 degrees—
in América.
After repositioning the furniture,
an appropriate darkness filled the room.
Tío Berto was the last to leave.

From City of a Hundred Fires, by Richard Blanco, © 1998. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the publisher. 

A sword thrust
into the city.

From inside
the café, the letters

on the window
look like a new

language. It’s this
simple: There is

nothing within us
like what we are

inside this window.
Colossal seppuku,

you are the sky
before the sky.

Copyright © 2013 by Matt Rasmussen. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 6, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Haven’t they moved like rivers—
like Glory, like light—
over the seven days of your body?

And wasn’t that good?
Them at your hips—

isn’t this what God felt when he pressed together
the first Beloved: Everything.
Fever. Vapor. Atman. Pulsus. Finally,
a sin worth hurting for. Finally, a sweet, a
You are mine.

It is hard not to have faith in this:
from the blue-brown clay of night
these two potters crushed and smoothed you
into being—grind, then curve—built your form up—

atlas of bone, fields of muscle,
one breast a fig tree, the other a nightingale,
both Morning and Evening.

O, the beautiful making they do—
of trigger and carve, suffering and stars—

Aren’t they, too, the dark carpenters
of your small church? Have they not burned
on the altar of your belly, eaten the bread
of your thighs, broke you to wine, to ichor,
to nectareous feast?

Haven’t they riveted your wrists, haven’t they
had you at your knees?

And when these hands touched your throat,
showed you how to take the apple and the rib,
how to slip a thumb into your mouth and taste it all,
didn’t you sing out their ninety-nine names—

Zahir, Aleph, Hands-time-seven,
Sphinx, Leonids, locomotura,
Rubidium, August, and September—
And when you cried out, O, Prometheans,
didn’t they bring fire?

These hands, if not gods, then why
when you have come to me, and I have returned you
to that from which you came—bright mud, mineral-salt—
why then do you whisper O, my Hecatonchire. My Centimani.
My hundred-handed one?

Copyright © 2013 by Natalie Diaz. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 9, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Take the man you think you love and his
fabulous lips. Take him from one place
to the next. Let him drive your car. Let him
drive it through the mood-crazed woods
until it overheats. Let the nights feed
from your eyes as you look at him. Do
not turn on the heat. Do not spill
the flavored oils of the heart. Do not
eat from the palm of your hand
a fluid ounce of what you may need.
Do something illegal. You only have to be
there when they bring the contraband in.
You only have to leave yourself behind.
The stars know. The police will prowl
your neighborhood until the plate number
matches and the car checks out.
When they bring you in, you
must remove your shoes and belt.
You must pretend there was no felony.
Then you must confess. Add your past,
a pinch of the rage you feel, and how
you sit until your father bursts in
and asks whether you have been arrested.
Add a mother who tells you she is
ashamed. An expensive lawyer. The way
you remember the taste of his kiss and
how real he was and how he would
drive dark roads at high speeds through
the back woods with the headlights off.
Remember what the stars see. And how
once it is over the lawyer will send
a letter saying he said you knew nothing,
saying he tried to keep you out of it,
though the police said he had given
you up as they made you say his name.

Copyright © 2013 by Jennifer Militello. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 12, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

SAUNA 89 (sweated by В. Шекспір)

1. And if you were to leave me for my faults
2. I'd not defend my lameness, walking halt
3. and from my trust I would elide your
4. name, I would not do you wrong and speak of you
5. and (love) I'd not look at our friends who say you do
6. not merit me Your name was sweet and is no more
7. I will not speak of you
8. nor will I walk again where we once walked
9. I will not let my tongue evoke your name.
10. Your name will not be named by me, lest I profane
11. I will not name you.
12. I will not speak (too much profane)
13. You gone, I could not love me more than you
14. and if you love me not at all I love me even less
15. But oh your name. It will not touch my mouth.

I will not ( trout ) name you.

Copyright © 2013 by Erín Moure. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 16, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

My parents kissing in a kitchen.
In her loop-eyed dress my mother—

enormous in her belly, I loom.
In a commune in Fort Greene

she typed and typed her dissertation.
Upstairs a woman practiced primal screams,

a wild-haired painter mourned his dying wife.
My parents had already made my life

near the mass grave
of hundreds of Revolutionary soldiers,

a cockeyed brownstone full of junkies,
somebody who stripped my parents’ jalopy

down to wires and bones.
Soon they sold all they had

and drove to Madison to have me.
Had five people over for pie.

It was done then: They were married.
Weeks later in their bedroom I was born.

In piles my mother’s writing
watched us from unquiet bricks and boards.

Copyright © 2013 by Tess Taylor. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 21, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Copyright © 1966 by Robert Hayden, from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Years later I’m standing before a roomful of young writers in a high school in Texas. I’ve asked them to locate an image in a poem we’d just read—their heads at this moment are bowed to the page. After some back & forth about the grass & a styrofoam cup, a girl raises her hand & asks, Does it matter? I smile—it is as if the universe balanced on those three words & we’ve landed in the unanswerable. I have to admit that no, it doesn’t, not really, matter, if rain is an image or rain is an idea or rain is a sound in our heads. But, I whisper, leaning in close, to get through the next forty-seven minutes we might have to pretend it does.

Copyright @ 2014 by Nick Flynn. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 24, 2014.