I loved the things that were ours—pink gloves,
hankies with a pastoral scene in one corner.
There was a lot we were not allowed to do,
but what we were allowed to do was ours,
dolls you carry by the leg, and dolls’
clothes you would put on or take off—
someone who was yours, who did not
have the rights of her own nakedness,
and who had a smooth body, with its
untouchable place, which you would never touch, even on her,
you had been cured of that.
And some of the dolls had hard-rubber hands, with
dimples, and though you were not supposed to, you could
bite off the ends of the fingers when you could not stand it.
And though you’d never be allowed to, say, drive a bus,
or do anything that had to be done right, there was a
teeny carton, in you, of eggs
so tiny they were invisible.
And there would be milk, in you, too—real
milk! And you could wear a skirt, you could
be a bellflower—up under its
cone the little shape like a closed
buckle, intricate groove and tongue,
where something like God’s power over you lived. And it
you shared some things with boys—
the alphabet was not just theirs—
and you could make forays over into their territory,
you could have what you could have because it was yours,
and a little of what was theirs, because
you took it. Much later, you’d have to give things
up, too, to make it fair—long
hair, skirts, even breasts, a pair
of raspberry colored pumps which a friend
wanted to put on, if they would fit his foot, and they did.
Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Olds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 21, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
To have been told “I love you” by you could well be, for me,
the highlight of my life, the best feeling, the best peak
on my feeling graph, in the way that the Chrysler building
might not be the tallest building in the NY sky but is
the best, the most exquisitely spired, or the way that
Hank Aaron’s career home-run total is not the highest
but the best, the one that signifies the purest greatness.
So improbable! To have met you at all and then
to have been told in your soft young voice so soon
after meeting you: "I love you." And I felt the mystery
of being that you, of being a you and being
loved, and what I was, instantly, was someone
who could be told "I love you" by someone like you.
I was, in that moment, new; you were 19; I was 22;
you were impulsive; I was there in front of you, with a future
that hadn't yet been burned for fuel; I had energy;
you had beauty; and your eyes were a pale blue,
and they backed what you said with all they hadn't seen,
and they were the least ambitious eyes I'd known,
the least calculating, and when you spoke and when
they shone, perhaps you saw the feeling you caused.
Perhaps you saw too that the feeling would stay.
Copyright © 2016 by Matthew Yeager. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 31, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
From The Complete Poems 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel. Used with permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.
Balancing on crutches in the shallows
near her mother, a girl missing her right lower leg
swings her body and falls, laughing.
Behind them, her father and brother play catch.
Up the beach, the incoming tide nibbles
a sleeping woman, another beer is opened.
A young veteran walks by with a high and tight
buzz cut and Semper Fi shoulder tattoo, his right leg
a prosthesis to mid-thigh. He approaches
the family, removes the prosthesis, and joins
the girl in the water. They lift shorn legs high
and smack them down. No one talks about the war.
Copyright © 2010 by Marie-Elizabeth Mali. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.
was when the
the whole city
& we drove north
to our friend’s
where she had
power & we
later we stayed
in the darkened
apt. you sick
in bed & me
by candle light
in thin blue
your neighbor had
a generator &
after a while
we had a little
bit of light
I walked the
dog & you
a little bit
we sat on a stoop
one day in the
we had very little
money. enough for
a strong cappuccino
which we shared
sitting there &
city was lit.
Copyright © 2014 by Eileen Myles. Used with permission of the author.
Pies have a reputation.
And it’s immediate—no talk of potential
Regarding a pie. It’s good
Or it isn’t, but mostly it is—sweet, very sweet
Right then, right there, blue and red.
It can’t go to junior college,
Work hard for the grades,
Work two jobs on the side.
It can’t slowly build a reputation
And a growing client base.
A pie gets one chance
And knows it, wearing as makeup
Those sparkling granules of sugar,
As a collar those diamond cutouts
Bespeaking Fair Day, felicity, contentment.
I tell you everything is great, says a pie,
Great, and fun, and fine.
And you smell nice, too, someone says.
A full pound of round sound, all ahh, all good.
Pies live a life of applause.
But then there are the other pies.
The leftover pies. The ones
Nobody chooses at Thanksgiving.
Mincemeat? What the hell is that? people ask,
Pointing instead at a double helping of Mr.
“I-can-do-no-wrong” pecan pie.
But the unchosen pies have a long history, too.
They have plenty of good stories, places they’ve been—
They were once fun, too—
But nobody wants to listen to them anymore.
Oh sure, everybody used to love lard,
But things have changed, brother—things have changed.
That’s never the end of the story, of course.
Some pies make a break for it—
Live underground for a while,
Doing what they can, talking fast,
Trying to be sweet pizzas, if they’re lucky.
But no good comes of it. Nobody is fooled.
A pie is a pie for one great day. Last week,
It was Jell-O. Tomorrow, it’ll be cake.
Originally published in The Dangerous Shirt (Copper Canyon Press, 2009). Copyright © by Alberto Ríos. Reprinted with the permission of the author.