The war ships bobbing off the coast.
The outdated oil drills painted
so to blend into the clouds. The gold thin
stitched to the water’s edge. Errant dolphin.
Balled up piece of trash on PCH with the list: Eggs, whole milk, butterflies.
You cry like a peacock, she says,
every time you get close to being the thing you want to be.
What if God is the people around us:
watching, listening? What a relief that would be.
But it’s so easy to forget we’re not
only being watched by the people in front of us, but
also by the people in places we cannot see. What is it
to be allowed back again? On the bike path, my father
ahead of me, saying, look at the wind,
meaning: look at the thing doing the moving,
moving orange-coned flags holding on for dear life.
The salt rolling off the ocean rots everything in its jowls
& my skin so close to turning, I can feel
becoming the metal shard you will learn to protect yourself from,
capable of catching the light drawing you in.
Everything rusted is a story beginning
once upon a time, I was young, standing in front of the ocean,
beneath the sun without consequence or query
for time, just standing, looking out into the thing
unaware of its indifference. There’s something Greek in that. Did Odysseus need the monsters more
than they needed him? Does it matter? A kind of antiquity
in that line of thinking but also something very American. Akin to sparklers.
They only dance if you light them & wave. Birds do not
abandon their young merely because of human touch.
This & so many other myths my mother breaks
in her search for palatable colors, for mixing,
for making what was lost whole again.
Copyright © 2017 by Keegan Lester. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I don’t call it sleep anymore.
I’ll risk losing something new instead—
like you lost your rosen moon, shook it loose.
But sometimes when I get my horns in a thing—
a wonder, a grief or a line of her—it is a sticky and ruined
fruit to unfasten from,
despite my trembling.
Let me call my anxiety, desire, then.
Let me call it, a garden.
Maybe this is what Lorca meant
when he said, verde que te quiero verde—
because when the shade of night comes,
I am a field of it, of any worry ready to flower in my chest.
My mind in the dark is una bestia, unfocused,
hot. And if not yoked to exhaustion
beneath the hip and plow of my lover,
then I am another night wandering the desire field—
bewildered in its low green glow,
belling the meadow between midnight and morning.
Insomnia is like Spring that way—surprising
and many petaled,
the kick and leap of gold grasshoppers at my brow.
I am struck in the witched hours of want—
I want her green life. Her inside me
in a green hour I can’t stop.
Green vein in her throat green wing in my mouth
green thorn in my eye. I want her like a river goes, bending.
Green moving green, moving.
Fast as that, this is how it happens—
soy una sonámbula.
And even though you said today you felt better,
and it is so late in this poem, is it okay to be clear,
to say, I don’t feel good,
to ask you to tell me a story
about the sweet grass you planted—and tell it again
until I can smell its sweet smoke,
leave this thrashed field, and be smooth.
Copyright © 2017 by Natalie Diaz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 5, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
|I hesitate invoking that
my daughter's mouth
not her first vanity
she tastes & smoothes
her chin this way & that,
bones replacing the fallen.
it repairs itself: two
forming new words:
What is the tongue-
between trauma &
There is so much to fear.
& now my second-born,
brush, he says,
From Hemming the Water. Copyright © 2013 by Yona Harvey. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Four Way Books, www.fourwaybooks.com.
Whatever I care for, someone else loves it
more, deserves it more: the doe with her
whole mouth crushing the phlox or the seer
who adores my future, whereas I could
take it or leave it. I know I’ll disappear.
It won’t be glamorous. It won’t be like when
the Mona Lisa was stolen and the tourists all
lined up to pay their respects at the empty
spot on the wall of the Louvre.
I’ve never actually even seen the sky.
I’ve only ever seen effluents, seen wattage.
The only night I remember is the dinner
of neighbors at which a man I never
had met before said I don’t fear dying—
look at the past, people have been dying forever, and—
then he stopped and shook his head—
I drank too much. I was almost saying
that people have died forever and all
of them survived, but of course—he made
a hard laugh—God, of course they didn’t survive.
From Hard Child. Copyright © 2017 by Natalie Shapero. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.
magazines from a lost month litter the end
tables. A pretty nurse
pops her head in and says,
The doctor will see you now, though not
to you, and no one stands up—you are
the only one waiting.
But soon the doctor will cast the long shadow
of his diagnosis. You’ve got
a thorn in your paw, a toothache, chronic
wide eyes, fear of fear
of fear itself, time on your hands
slipping between your fingers,
lost lust, purgatory, online pain, short
the tendency to list: short, fat, and forlorn,
ever inoperable . . . O to have
a nurse of your very own, a time-angel, someone
on the one and only payroll
to pass you the pill it’s always time to take, whose
rear your eyes can follow
to Happytown. But now, here, however,
you are skimming an article
about the viral video that sank New York,
then a profile of the man
who played the real-life Michael Jackson.
An article on who really profits
from most chilly wind. On the truth about
close friendship. On ten safe things
to open your mind to. You are an
Elizabeth! You are one of them!
Soon someone will call you in.
From The Trembling Answers. Copyright © 2017 by Craig Morgan Teicher. Used with permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org
barks at whatever’s
not the world as he prefers to know it:
trash sacks, hand trucks, black hats, canes
and hoods, shovels, someone smoking a joint
beneath the Haitian Evangelicals’ overhang,
anyone—how dare they—walking a dog.
George barks, the tense white comma
of himself arced in alarm.
At home he floats
in the creaturely domestic: curled in the warm
triangle behind a sleeper’s knees,
wiggling on his back on the sofa, all jelly
and sighs, requesting/receiving a belly rub.
No worries. But outside the apartment’s
metal door, the unmanageable day assumes
its blurred and infinite disguises.
Best to bark.
No matter that he’s slightly larger
than a toaster; he proceeds as if he rules
a rectangle two blocks deep, bounded west
and east by Seventh Avenue and Union Square.
Whatever’s there is there by his consent,
and subject to the rebuke of his refusal
—though when he asserts his will
he trembles. If only he were not solely
responsible for raising outcry
at any premonition of trouble
on West 16th Street, or if, right out
on the pavement, he might lay down
the clanking armor of his bluster.
Some evening when he’s climbed the stairs
after our late walk, and rounds
the landing’s turn and turns his way
toward his steady sleep, I wish he might
be visited by a dream of the world as kind,
how any looming unknown might turn out
to hold—the April-green of an unsullied
tennis ball? Dear one, surely the future
can’t be entirely out to get us?
And if it is, barking won’t help much.
But no such luck, not yet.
He takes umbrage, this morning,
at a stone image serene in a neighbor’s garden,
and stiffens and fixes and sounds
his wild alarm: Damn you,
Buddha, get out of here, go away!
Copyright © 2016 by Mark Doty. Used with permission of the author.
Bolt, thwarted vault, late brake,
gasp of impact, temblor of thud—
the beast drops on the blade of hood,
ribs rip from their roots, hearts seize,
the windshield goes dark as an eyelid
curtaining to a horizon of blood,
black glass laced with lightning—
I am hit with wheel, steel, doe
embracing me backward as speed
crushes me forward into
a bursting hug, sternums to spines,
past last words,
no extra second to follow the plan to tell
God I am sorry, no foxhole repentance,
no appeal to the fate-maker,
my sentence incomplete, a fragment, a run-on,
no scenes spun out so fast
that the brain convulses with conclusion and love—
I do not even think of you,
cough no torn word for you to live by—
I mesh corpse into carcass,
I am dead, dear,
I leave you my velocity
and there at the edge of the road
I give you my fawn.
Copyright © 2016 by David Groff. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 5, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.