I am enlightened, a man
says after dinner, and he doesn’t
mean what you think
he means, he means he’s a product
of the Enlightenment, he’s talking
over his pain in the abyss
inside his gum, it’s called
an abscess (we actually call it
that, he’s taken painkillers,
he’s swallowed them
with the wine offered him). 


Hawks in the trees. Men
talking about philosophy. Lemon
julienned over the chicken
turning colors
in an adequate oven. Good times,
for a minute. The argument
about the correct use of the word surveillance
falls over my body.


The first time, I drank a beer
and hated it. The second, I craved
sugar water the colors of Gone
with the Wind
, the third,
I just saw everything disappear.
Most men say they would
give birth if they could.


The crossroads. What you bring
there to bury. The journey. Constant 
circling back, later at night,
and in darker weather. Terrible
to lose touch with your friends.
Forgive the metaphor that defends.
The usual becomes treacherous.
In the dream, all of them 
had children and lived
together in the same
house where it was always
Halloween, decked
with pumpkins and ghosts.


I could try
to be scared but not afraid.
Looking into the chicken
coop like a wolf.


Days late, I could see a snake
moving across the surface
of the lake, writing its path,
unwriting the path it did
not take. But it wasn’t
to be, that time. The effort
made towards what I wished.


You climbed the mountain with me, a recovering
moralist. You wanted
to stay on the path,
I wanted to find it.

Copyright © 2017 by Katie Peterson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

after Z. S.

Still, somehow we are
carousel. We spin bodies
to the wall and back.

We are woman and
man and man. We
are surgeon and

operation. We are
everybody we love.
We are inside them.

We are inside and we
are laughing. We are
man and we will die too.

We know that much.
We are our own
shadow. We are want

of touch. We are woman
and man and man don’t look.
We are curvature—look!

We are train.
We are star.
We are big

tiny spiders. We are
crawling. We are biting.
We are hungry. We are

a stopped carousel. We are
bodies dropped to the floor.
We are shaking. We are our own.

Still, somehow, we are
laughter. We are the doorway out.
We are (again) the doorway in.

Copyright © 2017 by Samiya Bashir. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 16, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.