Say tomorrow doesn’t come.
Say the moon becomes an icy pit.
Say the sweet-gum tree is petrified.
Say the sun’s a foul black tire fire.
Say the owl’s eyes are pinpricks.
Say the raccoon’s a hot tar stain.
Say the shirt’s plastic ditch-litter.
Say the kitchen’s a cow’s corpse.
Say we never get to see it: bright
future, stuck like a bum star, never
coming close, never dazzling.
Say we never meet her. Never him.
Say we spend our last moments staring
at each other, hands knotted together,
clutching the dog, watching the sky burn.
Say, It doesn’t matter. Say, That would be
enough. Say you’d still want this: us alive,
right here, feeling lucky.
The hard edge of historical light, it waits up for us
all night. Here’s one brutal but apparently
necessary historical bargain: I said that the energy
between you and the person next
to you is truer than it is real. This is not a randomly
existing fact. It’s a collectively and intelligently and menacingly
cultivated feature of our lives. Fugitive fact.
This puts you both—puts
us all—in peril, yes, but protects that energy between us.
If it were the other way, if that living thing between
us had become more—even as—real as it is
true we’d be more protected than we are
but that thing, that sacred being
-between would be endangered. The intelligence
of collective action knows, somehow, that that
kind of security is far more dangerous—the kind of danger
people become to themselves, then to each other,
the kind they become to each other, then to themselves—
than the peril in which we stand now. That’s a hard
historical edge to stand near, real talk, that’s the broken
back of a mother—black—skipped across a wit-quick crack in the sidewalk.
Copyright © 2019 by Ed Pavlić. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 8, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
If you often find yourself at a loss for words
or don’t know what to say to those you love,
just extract poetry out of poverty, this dystopia
of civilization rendered fragrant,
blossoming onto star-blue fields of loosestrife,
heady spools of spike lavender, of edible clover
beckoning to say without bruising
a jot of dog’s tooth violet, a nib of larkspur notes,
or the day’s perfumed reports of indigo
in the gloaming—
what to say to those
whom you love in this world?
Use floriography, or as the flower-sellers put it,
Say it with flowers.
—Indigo, larkspur, star-blue, my dear.
To be able to see every side of every question;
To be on every side, to be everything, to be nothing long;
To pervert truth, to ride it for a purpose,
To use great feelings and passions of the human family
For base designs, for cunning ends,
To wear a mask like the Greek actors—
Your eight-page paper—behind which you huddle,
Bawling through the megaphone of big type:
“This is I, the giant.”
Thereby also living the life of a sneak-thief,
Poisoned with the anonymous words
Of your clandestine soul.
To scratch dirt over scandal for money,
And exhume it to the winds for revenge,
Or to sell papers,
Crushing reputations, or bodies, if need be,
To win at any cost, save your own life.
To glory in demoniac power, ditching civilization,
As a paranoiac boy puts a log on the track
And derails the express train.
To be an editor, as I was.
Then to lie here close by the river over the place
Where the sewage flows from the village,
And the empty cans and garbage are dumped,
And abortions are hidden.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 13, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
I have wanted other things more than lovers … I have desired peace, intimately to know The secret curves of deep-bosomed contentment, To learn by heart things beautiful and slow. Cities at night, and cloudful skies, I’ve wanted; And open cottage doors, old colors and smells a part; All dim things, layers of river-mist on river— To capture Beauty’s hands and lay them on my heart. I have wanted clean rain to kiss my eyelids, Sea-spray and silver foam to kiss my mouth. I have wanted strong winds to flay me with passion; And, to soothe me, tired winds from the south. These things have I wanted more than lovers … Jewels in my hands, and dew on morning grass— Familiar things, while lovers have been strangers. Friended thus, I have let nothing pass.
This poem is in the public domain.
They come home with our daughter
because there’s no one at school
to feed them on the weekends.
They are mates, and like all true
companions they are devoted
and they bite. We set their cage
on the kitchen table and wait
for the weekend to end, for our girl
to fall asleep so we can talk
about god while the rats lick
the silver ball that delivers
the water one drop at a time.
There are so many points on which
you and I disagree: the value
of a clean counter, the purpose
of parent-teacher conferences,
what warrants a good cry or calling
you a name so cruel I make myself
whisper it through my teeth. God
is the least of it. When I think
I’m so angry I could hit you
in the face, you turn yours to me
with a look of disbelief. The rats,
meanwhile, have turned up the volume.
Tick, tick, says the silver ball
as their teeth click against it, thirsty
as ever, thirstier still at night
when the darkness wakes them.
And during the day, when they’re curled
together in their flannel hammock,
head to tail, two furry apostrophes
possessing nothing but each other,
paws pressed together as if in prayer—
to what gods do they prostrate
themselves then? God of fidelity? God
of forgiveness? I lied when I said
I didn’t believe. Who—even me,
the coldest of heart—could turn away
from a sea parted, bread that multiplies
to answer need, water transformed
to the sweetest wine, the kind
that tastes better for each year
it’s been left in the barrel?
Copyright © 2019 by Keetje Kuipers. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Fools, fools, fools,
Your blood is hot to-day.
When you are clay.
It joins the very clod
Wherein you look at God,
Wherein at last you see
The living God
The loving God,
Which was your enemy.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 19, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
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.
The first deer had large teeth and no horns and
were not afraid.
The first deer did not have enough fear
for the men who needed them
A woman decided to let the men eat
a grandmother decided her deer shall have horns
and be afraid
someone’s mother decided the men shall eat
and shall be feared.
A man thought wolves should be used
to cull the herd.
And we who had been catching water
dripping through stone
in the homes we dug
out of the earth
we licked our long teeth clean
and set to work.
Copyright © 2019 by Abigail Chabitnoy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 4, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.