Love is a flame that burns with sacred fire,
And fills the being up with sweet desire;
Yet, once the altar feels love’s fiery breath,
The heart must be a crucible till death.
Say love is life; and say it not amiss,
That love is but a synonym for bliss.
Say what you will of love—in what refrain,
But knows the heart, ‘tis but a word for pain.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 20, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
You end me
like a period
ends a sentence,
ends a line.
Copyright © 2019 by Wendy Chin-Tanner. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 24, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Every night I sleep on alternate
sides of the bed, as if to duplicate
sleeping with you. If
I'm fast enough, I'm the warmth
of my own body beside me, reach
out and touch myself. Breach
the blue of my bones, breathe in my own ear.
You left me. Lying here,
I left you to be with me.
Someone asks if your body
was worth trading for mine.
My sin was always pride.
Did you want a man that sleeps
with himself to keep
the bed warm? I need you like the earth
needed the flood after dearth
The world baffles with sounds,
the worst of which is a human voice.
You would think that with a judgment like that
I would hate crowds, but better a pub’s intermingled dozens
than the sound of one fool speaking his mind.
The dozens drum and buzz and hum.
Against the dozens I could ring a wet glass
and sing C above high C,
could settle a bet with bold harmonics,
could stun down the bark of a barracks of dogs.
But against one idiot all another idiot can do is shout.
Imagine a life in which shouting was the precondition
for every action, if you had to shout to step, shout to sit,
shout loudly to effect any outcome.
What when you did speak would you say?
What wouldn’t sound old to you,
about what could you not say I’ve heard this before?
What a relief it would be to scream yourself hoarse,
to be forced into silence,
the one note you know you can always hold.
Copyright © 2019 by Raymond McDaniel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 24, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
lemons,” Harlan says he cares for cars instead, the plains
rising like bread from our glowing windows, Harlan’s
neck blushing to heat and the women he’s wrestled,
his barren limbs circling above them in a wash
of sweat and sock. We knead our common bodies
one to another, palm to bulk, and in middle
America, I sit next to a man I will never know,
taxiing, Harlan driving us this giving night. We are
three strangers in the strangeness of the talk of love,
and I am a little drunk, returning to my mother,
who stacked warm lemons on my neck. Like her, I know
how to cut from the wholeness of fruit, how to squeeze
an open body for its juice, my hand a vise,
Harlan’s women softening to my fingers: the waxed
pocks of their skins, how women keep their wetness
under their bitter whites. In Georgia, we learned to drink
the watered sour, heat lightning cracking above
us, and even new housewives know how to release
from three spoonfuls a pitcher’s worth, how to cut
the tart with sugar. The rind, the resistant ellipses,
are not the talk we make for men, only Sugah, have
some more, and there’s a tart too, why, what else
could I have done with so many lemons? and we press
our sweating cups to their lips, slipping
flavor and fragrance—the shells, the containers
we broke for want of ade, cast. From the phonograph
of his front seat, Harlan’s voice spins me, the man
beside me a coiling leg, and juiced, we say lemons! together
in the working yeast of this cab, and what unapologetic
fruit they are, leaving the smell of themselves even
after I have scrubbed my hands free from them, my wrists
having pushed men to drink, oh, Sugar, and I want more
than anything now to call out for my mother,
who could roll into a room with the oval of her uncut
self, who could press her palm hot against my chest
as I breathed. We exhale our imbibed sprits out
to glass, wrapping ourselves in smoke.
Harlan chews a Nicorette each time he tries to break open
a woman and she serves him only lemons. Night
is moving us through another coming winter
and we laugh quietly now to the pressure, each coming
to the cool center of our single selves, and each pressing
the other away from our own opposing bodies, where
we are drifting to our separate and yellowed hallways,
to perfume, the persistence of our missing women.
From For Want of Water (Beacon Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Sasha Pimentel. Used with the permission of the poet and Beacon Press.
There‘s a cry in the air about us–
We hear it, before, behind–
Of the way in which “We, as women,”
Are going to lift mankind!
With our white frocks starched and ruffled,
And our soft hair brushed and curled–
Hats off! for “We, as women,”
Are coming to save the world.
Fair sisters! listen one moment–
And perhaps you‘ll pause for ten:
The business of women as women
Is only with men as men!
What we do, “We, as women,”
We have done all through our life;
The work that is ours as women
Is the work of mother and wife.
But to elevate public opinion,
And to lift up erring man,
Is the work of the Human Being;
Let us do it–if we can.
But wait, warm-hearted sisters–
Not quite so fast, so far.
Tell me how we are going to lift a thing
Any higher than we are!
We are going to “purify politics,”
And to “elevate the press.”
We enter the foul paths of the world
To sweeten and cleanse and bless.
To hear the high things we are going to do,
And the horrors of man we tell,
One would think, “We, as women,” were angels,
And our brothers were fiends of hell.
We, that were born of one mother,
And reared in the self-same place,
In the school and the church together,
We of one blood, one race!
Now then, all forward together!
But remember, every one,
That ‘tis not by feminine innocence
The work of the world is done.
The world needs strength and courage,
And wisdom to help and feed–
When, “We, as women” bring these to man,
We shall lift the world indeed.
This poem is in the public domain.
Of course, she was not chosen to deliver
any of the official hail-and-farewells. Would, in fact,
have skipped the whole pomp and circumstance crap
if the principal had not threatened to hold her diploma hostage,
if her parents had not pleaded with her to celebrate
the milestone for their sakes—so she donned
the rented robe, the dorky mortarboard, and paraded
down the auditorium aisles with her beaming so-called peers.
Lots of introductions. Lots of momentous occasions
and memories—many of which Ms. S was already
eager to forget. But she listened politely to the usual
promises of new beginnings, the exhortations to follow
dreams and change the world—even got a bit teary eyed
at the prospect that one of them actually might.
Then the ritual flipping of the tassels, the alma mater
one last time off-key, the filing out to hugs and congratulations
and vows to stay in touch she knew she’d never keep.
Ms. S had her eye on distant horizons, some vague
anywhere-else-but-here place where her brief past
could be erased and all the potential her teachers had,
for years, claimed she was wasting, would be realized,
where she would finally hear her life’s calling
calling her into the life she was meant to have.
The world, she thought, is my oyster.
Of course, being an inland girl, she had never
actually seen an oyster up close. Had yet to discover
how hard the damn things were to crack.
Copyright © 2018 Grace Bauer. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2018. Used with permission of the authors.
The only Mexican that ever was Mexican, fought in the revolution
and drank nightly, and like all machos, crawled into work crudo,
letting his breath twirl, then clap and sing before sandpaper
juiced the metal. The only Mexican to never sit in a Catholic pew
was born on Halloween, and ate his lunch wrapped in foil against
the fence with the other Mexicans. They fixed old Fords where my
grandfather worked for years, him and the welder Juan wagered
each year on who would return first to the Yucatan. Neither did.
When my aunts leave, my dad paces the living room and then rests,
like a jaguar who once drank rain off the leaves of Cecropia trees,
but now caged, bends his paw on a speaker to watch crowds pass.
He asks me to watch grandpa, which means, for the day; in town
for two weeks, I have tried my best to avoid this. Many times he will swear,
and many times grandpa will ask to get in and out of bed, want a sweater,
he will ask the time, he will use the toilet, frequently ask for beer,
about dinner, when the Padres play, por que no novelas, about bed.
He will ask about his house, grandma, to sit outside, he will question
while answering, he will smirk, he will invent languages while tucked in bed.
He will bump the table, tap the couch, he will lose his slipper, wedging it in
the wheel of his chair, like a small child trapped in a well, everyone will care.
He will cry without tears—a broken carburetor of sobs. When I speak
Spanish, he shakes his head, and reminds me, he is the only Mexican.
From Hustle (Sarabande Books, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by David Tomas Martinez. Used with the permission of the poet.