The red rose whispers of passion,
And the white rose breathes of love;
O, the red rose is a falcon,
And the white rose is a dove.

But I send you a cream-white rosebud
With a flush on its petal tips;
For the love that is purest and sweetest
Has a kiss of desire on the lips.

This poem is in the public domain.

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

From Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage. Used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1923, 1931, 1935, 1940, 1951, 1959, 1963, 1968, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1976, 1978, 1979 by George James Firmage.

Parked in the fields
All night
So many years ago,
We saw
A lake beside us
When the moon rose.
I remember

Leaving that ancient car
Together. I remember
Standing in the white grass
Beside it. We groped
Our way together
Downhill in the bright
Incredible light

Beginning to wonder
Whether it could be lake
Or fog
We saw, our heads
Ringing under the stars we walked
To where it would have wet our feet
Had it been water

From New Collected Poems by George Oppen, copyright © 1975 by George Oppen. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

We cannot live, except thus mutually
We alternate, aware or unaware,
The reflex act of life: and when we bear
Our virtue onward most impulsively,
Most full of invocation, and to be
Most instantly compellant, certes, there
We live most life, whoever breathes most air
And counts his dying years by sun and sea.
But when a soul, by choice and conscience, doth
Throw out her full force on another soul,
The conscience and the concentration both make
mere life, Love. For Life in perfect whole
And aim consummated, is Love in sooth,
As nature's magnet-heat rounds pole with pole.

This poem is in the public domain.

Mid-1700s, Southwestern China

Lightning is the creature who carries a knife.

Two months now,
The rains hold watch.

Statues bury in teak
Smeared with old egret’s blood.

I feel the pulse of this inferno,
Tested by the hour to know

That even torches must not waver.

In the garrison, I teach boulders
To trickle from the cliff.

My fallen grow parchment from their hair,

Calligraphy descends
From their lips.

Infantry attack
But my musket knows.

They scale the sides
Yet I tear the rocks.

I am not wife, but my name is Widow.

Let them arrive 
To my ready door,
The earth I’ve already dug.

Copyright © 2016 by Mai Der Vang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 26, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

 
At the touch of you,	
As if you were an archer with your swift hand at the bow,	
The arrows of delight shot through my body.	
 
You were spring,	
And I the edge of a cliff,
And a shining waterfall rushed over me. 

 This poem is in the public domain.

May I master love, undo its luster
do in the thing that makes us lust? 
 
May I speed through the body’s sinew 
to marrow? Or is toiling a part of 
 
the gaining of trust? May I pare and narrow 
your body down, and open it to my 
 
cupidity’s arrow? May I find my 
response to body’s unanswered call, 
 
(if the want leaves you wanting, at all)?

Copyright @ 2014 by Hannah Sanghee Park. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 22, 2014.

Ours is a partial language part pantomime,
part grimy guesswork: adulterated speculation
as to meaning & motivation.

Translated, heart suggests a familiar, universal
device but internal chemistries vary—
though components be the same & not uncommon.

The world owes us nothing. It promises less.
Call it: freedom. Free will. Or Wednesday.

Copyright © 2016 Rangi McNeil. Used with permission of the author.

I’m sorry I cannot say I love you when you say
you love me. The words, like moist fingers,
appear before me full of promise but then run away
to a narrow black room that is always dark,
where they are silent, elegant, like antique gold,
devouring the thing I feel. I want the force
of attraction to crush the force of repulsion
and my inner and outer worlds to pierce
one another, like a horse whipped by a man.
I don’t want words to sever me from reality.
I don’t want to need them. I want nothing
to reveal feeling but feeling—as in freedom,
or the knowledge of peace in a realm beyond,
or the sound of water poured into a bowl.

Reprinted from Blackbird and Wolf © 2007 by Henri Cole, by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Learn more about FSG poets at fsgpoetry.com.

It’s neither red
nor sweet.
It doesn’t melt
or turn over,
break or harden,
so it can’t feel
pain,
yearning,
regret.

It doesn’t have 
a tip to spin on,
it isn’t even
shapely—
just a thick clutch
of muscle,
lopsided,
mute. Still,
I feel it inside
its cage sounding
a dull tattoo:
I want, I want—

but I can’t open it:
there’s no key.
I can’t wear it
on my sleeve,
or tell you from
the bottom of it
how I feel. Here,
it’s all yours, now—
but you’ll have
to take me,
too.

Copyright © 2017 Rita Dove. Used with permission of the author.

                       I

When the sea has devoured the ships,
And the spires and the towers
Have gone back to the hills.
And all the cities
Are one with the plains again.
And the beauty of bronze,
And the strength of steel
Are blown over silent continents,
As the desert sand is blown—
My dust with yours forever.

                       II

When folly and wisdom are no more,
And fire is no more,
Because man is no more;
When the dead world slowly spinning
Drifts and falls through the void—
My light with yours
In the Light of Lights forever!
 

This poem is in the public domain.

and if
I were to say

I love you and
I do love you

and I say it
now and again

and again
would you say

parataxis
would you see

the world revolves
anew

its axis
you

From Same Life by Maureen McLane. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2008 by Maureen McLane. All rights reserved.

I am yours as the summer air at evening is
Possessed by the scent of linden blossoms,

As the snowcap gleams with light
Lent it by the brimming moon.

Without you I'd be an unleafed tree
Blasted in a bleakness with no Spring.

Your love is the weather of my being.
What is an island without the sea?

Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press from Beyond Silence: Selected Shorter Poems, 1948–2003 by Daniel Hoffman. Copyright © 2003 by Daniel Hoffman.

This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 3, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

You have been my love for so many years,
It makes me dizzy to think of so much hope,
And my dizziness won't be aged, or cooled;
Even by what waited for our death,
Or slowly learned how to fight us,
Even by what is foreign to us,
Or by my eclipses and my returns.

A boxwood shutter
Encloses our outrageous luck,
Our chain of mountains,
Our compressed splendor.

I say luck, my wounded one,
Each of us can receive
The mystery of the other
Without divulging it;
Moreover our grief, which comes from elsewhere,
That grief, which destroys and renews us,
Will dissolve itself
In the flesh of our union,
Will finally find its orbit
In our cloudy center.

I say luck; it's how I feel.
You have lifted the mountain top
Which my hope will have to climb
When tomorrow disappears.

From This Smoke That Carried Us by Rene Char. Copyright © 2004 by White Pine Press. Translation copyright © 2004 by Susanne Dubroff. All rights reserved.

—for Creativity and Crisis at the National Mall

queer me
shift me
transgress me
tell my students i’m gay
tell chick fil a i’m queer
tell the new york times i’m straight
tell the mail man i’m a lesbian
tell american airlines
i don’t know what my gender is
like me
liking you
like summer blockbuster armrest dates
armrest cinematic love
elbow to forearm in the dark
humor me queerly
fill me with laughter
make me high with queer gas
decompress me from centuries of spanish inquisition
& self-righteous judgment
like the blood my blood
that has mixed w/ the colonizer
& the colonized
in the extinct & instinct to love
bust memories of water & heat
& hot & breath
beating skin on skin fluttering
bruise me into vapors
bleed me into air
fly me over sub-saharan africa & asia & antarctica
explode me from the closet of my fears
graffiti me out of doubt
bend me like bamboo
propose to me
divorce me
divide me into your spirit 2 spirit half spirit
& shadow me w/ fluttering tongues
& caresses beyond head
heart chakras
fist smashing djembes
between my hesitations
haiku me into 17 bursts of blossoms & cold saki
de-ethnicize me
de-clothe me
de-gender me in brassieres
& prosthetic genitalias
burn me on a brazier
wearing a brassiere
in bitch braggadocio soprano bass
magnificat me in vespers
of hallelujah & amen
libate me in halos
heal me in halls of femmy troubadors
announcing my hiv status
or your status
i am not afraid to love you
implant dialects as if they were lilacs
in my ear
medicate me with a lick & a like
i am not afraid to love you
so demand me
reclaim me
queerify me

Copyright © 2014 by Regie Cabico. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Marlene Dietrich remembers the night of the Marilyn Monroe
Productions press conference, New York City, January 1955

I wanted to be that trace of scarlet lipstick
when you arrived, tipsy, a bit chartreuse
a subdued platinum angel, a white mink

stole. I am at heart—Come up for a drink
a gentleman. You, a question here to seduce,
a pink thought traced by scarlet lipstick

a deer drawn to a salt lick. I am the brick-
back, brick-thrown widow of a caboose.
I lift my black veil. I drop my black mink.

To the bird, flown—we toast with a clink.
You created '‘the girl.’ “Their golden goose
is now a scarlet smudge.” Your lips stick

to the wine glass and all I can do is wink
out a song, the tricks of an aging chanteuse.
You call a cab and grab your white mink

while I play my saw, and all I can think
is I am not a myth a recluse who will recuse
you to remain a trace of scarlet lipstick
caught on the collar of a white mink.

Copyright @ 2014 by Matthew Hittinger. Used with permission of the author. 

for Marcelo

Some maps have blue borders
like the blue of your name
or the tributary lacing of
veins running through your
father’s hands. & how the last
time I saw you, you held
me for so long I saw whole
lifetimes flooding by me
small tentacles reaching
for both our faces. I wish
maps would be without
borders & that we belonged
to no one & to everyone
at once, what a world that
would be. Or not a world
maybe we would call it
something more intrinsic
like forgiving or something
simplistic like river or dirt.
& if I were to see you
tomorrow & everyone you
came from had disappeared
I would weep with you & drown
out any black lines that this
earth allowed us to give it—
because what is a map but
a useless prison? We are all
so lost & no naming of blank
spaces can save us. & what
is a map but the delusion of
safety? The line drawn is always
in the sand & folds on itself
before we’re done making it.
& that line, there, south of
el rio, how it dares to cover
up the bodies, as though we
would forget who died there
& for what? As if we could
forget that if you spin a globe
& stop it with your finger
you’ll land it on top of someone
living, someone who was not
expecting to be crushed by thirst—

Copyright © 2017 by Yesenia Montilla. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 28, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

again, playing with fire
unpleasant reminders burnt away
fumed extreme flat
again, playing
hollowed out body
boundaries left wall'd
status stand-ins
in cement house
where concrete slogans
armed with body conflict
expunge paradise
from later day subdivisions
clear of all excessive green
impending chaos classed encased
this sub communion
burns present state
planned projects illuminated
shop window redemption
burning impending chaos from
premiere profiles
surrounds geographic definition
again, something’s burning
a sentence interrogation
uniform playing fields
for level capital
for later gender compromise
unquestioned calculus
between country and ministry
heaps of miles
codes sent
which way
where, when
no since
since
it is the will
a burning universal

Copyright © 2016 by kari edwards. Used with permission of Frances Blau.

un-shaken, moving un-restricted through the blank season, counting the dead, counting the days, counting heart beats, back to worms, back to dustvback to this un-necessary burden, sometimes in terror, sometimes a reversal crushed beneath another categorical persistence, another dream creature who does not speak.

this is what death is, everything that has ever been seen, everything that has ever been done, will have been done and still nowhere is anywhere for nothing moving towards un-becoming, greased for passage down a pipe, trickling down the throat, against the will preserved, well built lonely insistence on column willing, to be a real body in a real existence, around other bodies gathered up for dead.

Copyright © 2016 by kari edwards. Used with permission of Frances Blau.

I could complain. I’ve done it before.
I could explain. I could say, for instance, that
I’m sick of being slaughtered in my life’s mountain passes,
covering my own long retreat,
the rear guard of my own brutal defeat—
dysentery and frostbite and snipers,
the mules freezing to death,
blizzards whipping the famished fires until they expire, 
the pathetic mosquito notes of my horn . . .
But, instead, for once, I’m keeping quiet, and maybe tomorrow
or maybe the day after or maybe the day after that
I’m just going to drive away down the coast
and not come back.
I haven’t told anyone, and I won’t.
I won’t dim with words the radiance of my gesture.
And besides, the ones who care have guessed already.
Looking at them looking at me, I know they know
when they turn their backs I’ll go.
The secrets I was planning to floor them with?
They’re already packed in my trunk, in straw,
in a reinforced casket.
The bitter but herbal and medicinal truths I concocted
to revive them with?
Tomorrow or the day after or the day after that,
on the volcano beaches fringed with black sand
and heaped with tangled beds of kelp,
by the obsidian tide pools that cradle the ribbed limpet
and the rockbound star,
I’ll scatter those truths to the sea breezes,
and float the secrets on the waters that the moon
reels in and plays out,
reels in and plays out,
with a little votive candle burning on their casket,
and then I’ll just be there, in the sunset’s coppery sheen,
in the dawn pearled by discrete, oblong, intimate clouds
that move without desire or motive.
Look at the clouds. Look how close they are.

Copyright © 2016 by Vijay Seshadri. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 14, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

we could send you out there
to join the cackle squad,
but hey, that highly accomplished,
thinly regarded equestrian—well there was no way
he was going to join the others’ field trip.
Wouldn’t put his head on the table.
But here’s the thing:

They had owned great dread,
knew of a way to get away from here
through ice and smoke
always clutching her fingers, like it says
to do.

Once we were passionate about the police,
yawned in the teeth of pixels,
but a far rumor blanked us out.
We bathed in moonshine.
Now, experts disagree.
Were we unhappy or sublime?
We’ll have to wait until the next time
an angel comes rapping at the door
to rejoice docently.

(I know there’s a way to do this.)

Copyright © 2015 by John Ashbery. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 1, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

I skim sadness like fat off the surface
of cooling soup. Don't care about
metaphor but wish it would arrive
me. There’s a cool current of air
this hot day I want to ride.
I have no lover, not even my love.
I have no other, not even I.

Copyright @ 2014 by Rachel Zucker. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on May 28, 2014.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Knopf and Vintage Books. Copyright © 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated.

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
    Dark like me—
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening . . .
A tall, slim tree . . .
Night coming tenderly
    Black like me.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used with permission.

You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one—
by—one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion—dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on a mangrove swamp—buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry—tome of memory
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph—who you were—
will be waiting when you return

"Theories of Time and Space" from Native Guard: Poems by Natasha Trethewey. Copyright © 2006 by Natasha Trethewey. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc.

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.

From The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton, published by Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright © 1981 by Linda Gray Sexton. Used with permission.

The last light has gone out of the world, except
This moonlight lying on the grass like frost
Beyond the brink of the tall elm’s shadow.
It is as if everything else had slept
Many an age, unforgotten and lost
The men that were, the things done, long ago,
All I have thought; and but the moon and I
Live yet and here stand idle over the grave
Where all is buried. Both have liberty
To dream what we could do if we were free
To do some thing we had desired long,
The moon and I. There’s none less free than who
Does nothing and has nothing else to do,
Being free only for what is not to his mind,
And nothing is to his mind. If every hour
Like this one passing that I have spent among
The wiser others when I have forgot
To wonder whether I was free or not,
Were piled before me, and not lost behind,
And I could take and carry them away
I should be rich; or if I had the power
To wipe out every one and not again
Regret, I should be rich to be so poor.
And yet I still am half in love with pain,
With what is imperfect, with both tears and mirth,
With things that have an end, with life and earth,
And this moon that leaves me dark within the door.

This poem is in the public domain.

Lift every voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast'ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

From Saint Peter Relates an Incident by James Weldon Johnson. Copyright © 1917, 1921, 1935 James Weldon Johnson, renewed 1963 by Grace Nail Johnson. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc.

Out here the surf rewrites our silences.
This smell of ocean may never leave me;
our humble life or the sea a dark page

I am trying to turn: Today my mother’s words
sound final. And perhaps this is her first true thing.
Her hands have not been her hands

since she was twelve,
motherless and shucking whatever the sea
could offer, each day orphaned in the tide

of her own necessity—where the men-o-war
ballooned, wearing her face, her anchor of a heart
reaching, mooring for any blasted thing:

sea-roach and black-haired kelp, jeweled perch
or a drop of pearl made with her smallest self,
her night-prayers a hushed word of thanks.

But out here the salt-depths refuse tragedy.
This hand-me-down life burns sufficiently tragic—
here what was cannibal masters the colonial

curse, carved our own language of the macabre,
sucking on the thumb of our own disparity. Holding
her spliff in the wind, she probes and squalls,

trying to remember the face of her own mother,
our island or some strange word she once found
amongst the filth of sailors whose beds she made,

whose shoes she shined, whose guns
she cleaned, while the white bullet of America
ricocheted in her brain. Still that face she can’t recall

made her chew her fingernails, scratch the day down
to its blood, the rusty sunset of this wonder,
this smashed archipelago. Our wild sea-grape kingdom

overrun, gold and belonging in all its glory
to no one. How being twelve-fingered she took her father’s
fishing line to the deviation, and starved

of blood what grew savage and unwanted. Pulled
until they shriveled away, two hungry mouths
askance and blooming, reminding her

that she was still woman                    always multiplying
as life’s little nubs and dreams came bucking up
in her disjointed. How on the god-teeth

she cut this life, offered her hands and vessel
to be made wide, made purposeful,
her body opalescent with all our clamoring,

our bloodline of what once lived
and will live and live again.
In the sea’s one voice she hears her answer.

Beneath her gravid belly
my gliding hull
a conger eel.

Copyright © 2015 by Safiya Sinclair. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 17, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

O poorest country, this is not your name.
You should be called beacon. You should

be called flame. Almond and bougainvillea,
garden and green mountain, villa and hut,

girl with red ribbons in her hair,
books under arm, charmed by the light

of morning, charcoal seller in black skirt,
encircled by dead trees. You, country,

are merchant woman and eager clerk,
grandfather at the gate, at the crossroads

with the flashlight, with all in sight.

Copyright © 2010 by Danielle Legros Georges. Originally featured on Public Broadcasting Service's Bill Moyers Journal. Used with permission of the author.

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

This poem originally appeared in Waxwing, Issue 10, in June 2016. Used with permission of the author.

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. The desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Wait.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

Copyright © 1980 by Galway Kinnell. From Mortal Acts, Mortal Words (Mariner Books, 1980). Used with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Do you still remember: falling stars,
how they leapt slantwise through the sky
like horses over suddenly held-out hurdles
of our wishes—did we have so many?—
for stars, innumerable, leapt everywhere;
almost every gaze upward became
wedded to the swift hazard of their play,
and our heart felt like a single thing
beneath that vast disintegration of their brilliance—
and was whole, as if it would survive them!

“Do you still remember: falling stars,” from Uncollected Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Edward Snow. Translation copyright © 1996 by Edward Snow.

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
     But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
     Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
     On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
     That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
     At least no one ever has done it”;
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
     And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
     Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
     That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
     There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
     The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
     Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
     That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

This poem is in the public domain.

Turns out my inner clown is full of hope.
She wants a gavel.
She wants to stencil her name on a wooden gavel:
Esperanza's Gavel.
Clowns are clichés and they aren't afraid of clichés.
Mine just sleeps when she's tired.
But she can't shake the hopes.
She's got a bad case of it, something congenital perhaps.
Maybe it was sexually transmitted,
something to do with oxytocin or contractions or nipple stimulation,
maybe that's it, a little goes a long way.
Hope is also the name of a bakery in Queens.
And there's a lake in Ohio called Hope Lake where you can get nachos.
I'm so stuffed with it the comedians in the Cellar never call on me,
even when I'm sitting right there in the front row with a dumb look of hope on my face.
Look at these books: hope.
Look at this face: hope.
When I was young I studied with Richard Rorty, that was lucky,
I stared out the window and couldn't understand a word he said,
he drew a long flat line after the C he gave me,
the class was called metaphysics and epistemology,
that's eleven syllables, that's
hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope.
Just before he died, Rorty said his sense of the holy was bound up with the hope
that some day our remote descendants will live in a global civilization
in which love is pretty much the only law.

Copyright © 2015 by Catherine Barnett. Originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of Tin House and reprinted in Best American Poetry 2016 (Simon & Schuster, 2016). Used with permission of the author.

Now that we have come out of hiding,
Why would we live again in the tombs we’d made out of our     souls?

And the sundered bodies that we’ve reassembled
With prayers and consolations,
What would their torn parts be, other than flesh?

Now that we have tasted hope
And dressed each other’s wounds with the legends of our
     oneness
Would we not prefer to close our mouths forever shut
On the wine that swilled inside them?

Having dreamed the same dream,
Having found the water behind a thousand mirages,
Why would we hide from the sun again
Or fear the night sky after we’ve reached the ends of
     darkness,
Live in death again after all the life our dead have given         us?

Listen to me Zow’ya, Beida, Ajdabya, Tobruk, Nalut,
Listen to me Derna, Musrata, Benghazi, Zintan,
Listen to me houses, alleys, courtyards, and streets that
     throng my veins,
Some day soon, in your freed light, in the shade of your
     proud trees,
Your excavated heroes will return to their thrones in your
     martyrs’ squares,
Lovers will hold each other’s hands.

I need not look far to imagine the nerves dying,
Rejecting the life that blood sends them.
I need not look deep into my past to seek a thousand         hopeless vistas.
But now that I have tasted hope
I have fallen into the embrace of my own rugged          innocence.

How long were my ancient days?
I no longer care to count.
I no longer care to measure.
How bitter was the bread of bitterness?
I no longer care to recall.

Now that we have tasted hope, this hard-earned crust,
We would sooner die than seek any other taste to life,
Any other way of being human.

Copyright © 2012 by Khaled Mattawa. From Beloit Poetry Journal, Split This Rock Edition. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

Admit it—
you wanted the end

with a serpentine
greed. How to negotiate

that strangling
mist, the fibrous

whisper?

To cease to exist
and to die

are two different things entirely.

But you knew this,
didn't you?

Some days you knelt on coins
in those yellow hours.

You lit a flame

to your shadow
and ate

scorpions with your naked fingers.

So touched by the sadness of hair
in a dirty sink.

The malevolent smell
of soap.

When instead of swallowing a fistful
of white pills,

you decided to shower,

the palm trees
nodded in agreement,

a choir
of crickets singing

behind your swollen eyes.

The masked bird
turned to you

with a shred of paper hanging
from its beak.

At dusk,
hair wet and fragrant,

you cupped a goat's face

and kissed
his trembling horns.

The ghost?

It fell prostrate,
passed through you

like a swift
and generous storm.

"Six Months After Contemplating Suicide" first appeared in the December 2015 issue of Poetry. Copyright © 2015 Erika L. Sánchez.

     I was outside St. Cecelia's Rectory
smoking a cigarette when a goat appeared beside me.
It was mostly black and white, with a little reddish
brown here and there. When I started to walk away,
it followed. I was amused and delighted, but wondered
what the laws were on this kind of thing. There's
a leash law for dogs, but what about goats? People
smiled at me and admired the goat. "It's not my goat,"
I explained. "It's the town's goat. I'm just taking
my turn caring for it." "I didn't know we had a goat,"
one of them said. "I wonder when my turn is." "Soon,"
I said. "Be patient. Your time is coming." The goat
stayed by my side. It stopped when I stopped. It looked
up at me and I stared into its eyes. I felt he knew
everything essential about me. We walked on. A police-
man on his beat looked us over. "That's a mighty
fine goat you got there," he said, stopping to admire.
"It's the town's goat," I said. "His family goes back
three-hundred years with us," I said, "from the beginning."
The officer leaned forward to touch him, then stopped
and looked up at me. "Mind if I pat him?" he asked.
"Touching this goat will change your life," I said.
"It's your decision." He thought real hard for a minute,
and then stood up and said, "What's his name?" "He's
called the Prince of Peace," I said. "God! This town
is like a fairy tale. Everywhere you turn there's mystery 
and wonder. And I'm just a child playing cops and robbers
forever. Please forgive me if I cry." "We forgive you,
Officer," I said. "And we understand why you, more than
anybody, should never touch the Prince." The goat and
I walked on. It was getting dark and we were beginning
to wonder where we would spend the night.

From Lost River by James Tate, published by Sarabande Books, Inc. Copyright © 2003 by James Tate. Reprinted by permission of Sarabande Books and the author. All rights reserved.

When I rise up above the earth,
And look down on the things that fetter me,
I beat my wings upon the air,
Or tranquil lie,
Surge after surge of potent strength
Like incense comes to me
When I rise up above the earth
And look down upon the things that fetter me.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.


My hero bares his nerves along my wrist
That rules from wrist to shoulder,
Unpacks the head that, like a sleepy ghost,
Leans on my mortal ruler,
The proud spine spurning turn and twist.

And these poor nerves so wired to the skull
Ache on the lovelorn paper
I hug to love with my unruly scrawl
That utters all love hunger
And tells the page the empty ill.

My hero bares my side and sees his heart
Tread, like a naked Venus,
The beach of flesh, and wind her bloodred plait;
Stripping my loin of promise,
He promises a secret heat.

He holds the wire from the box of nerves
Praising the mortal error
Of birth and death, the two sad knaves of thieves,
And the hunger's emperor;
He pulls the chain, the cistern moves.

From Selected Poems by Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 2003 by New Directions Publishing Corp. Reprinted by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.

My life closed twice before its close—
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

This poem is in the public domain.

When you're up against a trouble, 
    Meet it squarely, face to face; 
Lift your chin and set your shoulders, 
    Plant your feet and take a brace. 
When it's vain to try to dodge it, 
    Do the best that you can do; 
You may fail, but you may conquer, 
    See it through! 

Black may be the clouds about you 
    And your future may seem grim, 
But don't let your nerve desert you; 
    Keep yourself in fighting trim. 
If the worst is bound to happen, 
    Spite of all that you can do, 
Running from it will not save you, 
    See it through! 

Even hope may seem but futile, 
    When with troubles you're beset, 
But remember you are facing 
    Just what other men have met. 
You may fail, but fall still fighting; 
    Don't give up, whate'er you do; 
Eyes front, head high to the finish. 
    See it through!

This poem is in the public domain.

Any day now you will have the ability to feed the name
Of anyone into an engine & your long lost half brother
As well as whoever else possesses a version of his name
Will appear before your face in bits of pixels & data
Displaying his monikers (like Gitmo for trapping, Bang
Bang
for banging, Dopamine for dope or brains),
The country he would most like to visit (Heaven),
His nine & middle finger pointing towards the arms
Of the last trill trees of Bluff Estates & the arms
Of the slim fly girls the color of trees cut down & shaped
Into something a nail penetrates. I admit, right now
Technology is insufficient, but you will find them
Flashing grins & money in the photos they took
Before they were ghosts when you click here tomorrow.

Copyright © 2017 by Terrance Hayes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

They say brave but I don’t want it.
Who will we mourn today. Or won’t we.

Black all the windows. Lower
down the afternoon. I barricade

all my belonging. I am mostly never real
American or anything

availing. But I do take. And take
what’s given. The smell of blood.

I breathe it in. The dirt so thick with our good
fortune. And who pays for it. And what am I

but fear, but wanting. I’ll bite
the feeding hand until I’m fed

and buried. In the shining day.
All deadly good

intentions. A catalogue of virtues.
This is how I’ll disappear.

Copyright © 2017 by Camille Rankine. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.


              To —

In vision I roamed the flashing Firmament,
So fierce in blazon that the Night waxed wan,
As though with awe at orbs of such ostént;
And as I thought my spirit ranged on and on

In footless traverse through ghast heights of sky,
To the last chambers of the monstrous Dome,
Where stars the brightest here are lost to the eye:
Then, any spot on our own Earth seemed Home!

And the sick grief that you were far away
Grew pleasant thankfulness that you were near,
Who might have been, set on some foreign Sphere,
Less than a Want to me, as day by day
I lived unware, uncaring all that lay
Locked in that Universe taciturn and drear.
 

 

This poem is in the public domain. 

Full of rebellion, I would die,
Or fight, or travell, or denie
That thou hast ought to do with me.
                          O tame my heart; 
                   It is thy highest art
To captivate strong holds to thee.

If thou shalt let this venome lurk,
And in suggestions fume and work,
My soul will turn to bubbles straight,
                          And thence by kinde
                   Vanish into a winde,
Making thy workmanship deceit.

O smooth my rugged heart, and there
Engrave thy rev’rend law and fear;
Or make a new one, since the old
                          Is saplesse grown,
                   And a much fitter stone
To hide my dust, then thee to hold.

This poem is in the public domain.

Most likely, you think we hated the elephant,
the golden toad, the thylacine and all variations
of whale harpooned or hacked into extinction.

It must seem like we sought to leave you nothing
but benzene, mercury, the stomachs
of seagulls rippled with jet fuel and plastic. 

You probably doubt that we were capable of joy,
but I assure you we were.

We still had the night sky back then,
and like our ancestors, we admired
its illuminated doodles
of scorpion outlines and upside-down ladles.

Absolutely, there were some forests left!
Absolutely, we still had some lakes!

I’m saying, it wasn’t all lead paint and sulfur dioxide.
There were bees back then, and they pollinated
a euphoria of flowers so we might
contemplate the great mysteries and finally ask,
“Hey guys, what’s transcendence?”   

And then all the bees were dead.

Copyright © 2017 by Matthew Olzmann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

I was light from the mouth from every part of me
I was of the earth or a scar in the earth rent through
the ruins of late civilization and bubbled from it and
became a saint’s reptilian spirit and I could taste
the wheat and coal and gold like a trinity of bounty
and I was vapor like a smog that becomes a wraith
over the city then back to its animal form decompressed
and atomized into its past life as star and I was that animal
truth the spirit I had dreamt about being more cloud
and star then given I was just the density of water
a reciprocity in and out the fade of my fugitive
substance going south and the yearn for decadence
disappears in the annals yet leaves a taste in the mouth
metallic and lime the sense of dissolution and I was speed
and insistence to reset the orb of gravity I was risen from foam
necessitated by colony sired in violence exported as luxury

Copyright © 2017 by Carmen Giménez Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

In the republic of flowers I studied
the secrets of hanging clothes I didn't
know if it was raining or someone
was frying eggs I held the skulls
of words that mean nothing you left
between the hour of the ox and the hour
of the rat I heard the sound of two
braids I watched it rain through
a mirror am I asking to be spared
or am I asking to be spread your body
smelled like cathedrals and I kept
your photo in a bottle of mezcal
semen-salt wolf’s teeth you should have
touched my eyes until they blistered
kissed the skin of my instep for thousands
of years sealed honey never spoils
won’t crystallize I saw myself snapping
a swan's neck I needed to air out
my eyes the droplets on a spiderweb
and the grace they held who gave me
permission to be this person to drag
my misfortune on this leash made of gold

Copyright © 2017 by Erika L. Sánchez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore
Alone upon the threshold of my door
Of individual life, I shall command
The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand
Serenely in the sunshine as before,
Without the sense of that which I forbore—
Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land
Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine
With pulses that beat double. What I do
And what I dream include thee, as the wine
Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue
God for myself, He hears that name of thine,
And sees within my eyes the tears of two.

This poem is in the public domain. 

An erasure of Grant Allen’s Recalled to Life

I don’t believe
I thought

or gave names
in any known language.

I spoke
of myself always

in the third person.
What led up to it,

I hadn’t the faintest idea. 
I only knew the Event

itself took place. Constant
discrepancies. To throw them

off, I laughed,
talked—all games

and amusements—to escape
from the burden of my own

internal history. 
But I was there

trying for once
to see you,

longed so
to see you.

I might meet you
in the street:

a bicycle leaning
up against the wall

by the window. Rendered
laws of my country

played before my face. 
Historical, two-souled,

forgotten, unknown
freaks of memory.
 
The matter of debts,
the violent death

of a near relation,
and all landing

at the faintest conception.
Dark. Blue. And then.

All I can remember
is when I saw you. 

It was you
or anyone else. 

The shot
seemed to end

all. It belongs
to the New World:

the Present
all entangled, unable

to move. Everything
turned round

and looked
at you.

Copyright © 2017 by Robin Coste Lewis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 5, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Mysterious shapes, with wands of joy and pain,
Which seize us unaware in helpless sleep,
And lead us to the houses where we keep
Our secrets hid, well barred by every chain
That we can forge and bind: the crime whose stain
Is slowly fading ’neath the tears we weep;
Dead bliss which, dead, can make our pulses leap—
Oh, cruelty! To make these live again!
They say that death is sleep, and heaven’s rest
Ends earth’s short day, as, on the last faint gleam
Of sun, our nights shut down, and we are blest.
Let this, then, be of heaven’s joy the test,
The proof if heaven be, or only seem,
That we forever choose what we will dream!

This poem is in the public domain. 

interrogates whoever walks
this shadow-lane, this hour
not reserved for you: who

are you to enter it?
Orion’s head over heels
above the road, jewel-belt

flinting starlight
to fuel two eyes looking
down from the air:

beacons in reverse,
since light pours in
toward her appetite

until she wings her noiseless outline
between our rooftop and the stars,
over this door and all the doors

hidden in the grass:
dreaming voles,

firefly province,

wasps in the palace
they’ve hollowed under the hill.

Mole resting his face against his splayed hands.

Perch, blink. Pose
the evening’s question
to the sleepless

while the moon if there is one
scatters islands
on a field of ink. Who


maps this? The owner
of the night looks down
to mirror and admit the hours

before the upper vaults
begin to lighten and recede.
Did you hear what I said,

a face looks down from the night?
Did who hear me? Who
reads this page, who writes it?
 

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Doty. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 8, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

    1

We encountered a problem

sending
a command

to the program.

Did I say that
aloud?

I’ve broken out
in imps.


     *

To be a blip
in a circuit

and to know it,
to relish

this knowledge
in your private

moments
as all moments

are gated
and switched.


    2

When I mentioned hatred
I was not thinking

                                           of you,

but you’d best not break
our momentum,

the thrill we get
from our own self-
loathing,

that guilty snigger
running round the room
 

Copyright © 2017 by Rae Armantrout. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 24, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Three paces down the shore, low sounds the lute,
The better that my longing you may know;
I’m not asking you to come,
But—can’t you go?

Three words, “I love you,” and the whole is said—
The greatness of it throbs from sun to sun;
I’m not asking you to walk,
But—can’t you run?

Three paces in the moonlight’s glow I stand,
And here within the twilight beats my heart.
I’m not asking you to finish,
But—to start.

This poem is in the public domain. 

Am I kin to Sorrow,
    That so oft
Falls the knocker of my door—
    Neither loud nor soft,
But as long accustomed,
    Under Sorrow’s hand?
Marigolds around the step
    And rosemary stand,
And then comes Sorrow—
    And what does Sorrow care
For the rosemary
    Or the marigolds there?
Am I kin to Sorrow?
    Are we kin?
That so oft upon my door—
    Oh, come in!

 

“Kin to Sorrow” was published in Renascence and Other Poems (Harper & Brothers, 1917). This poem is in the public domain. 

When Beauty and Beauty meet
   All naked, fair to fair,
The earth is crying-sweet,
   And scattering-bright the air,
Eddying, dizzying, closing round,
   With soft and drunken laughter;
Veiling all that may befall
   After—after—

Where Beauty and Beauty met,
   Earth’s still a-tremble there,
And winds are scented yet,
   And memory-soft the air,
Bosoming, folding glints of light,
   And shreds of shadowy laughter;
Not the tears that fill the years
   After—after—
 

This poem is in the public domain. 

I’ve just written six
or seven short poems
in about half an hour,
in a cabin
on a pond
with raindrops.
Maybe I should
just sit here
for a while, let
some time pass
so my wife will think
I’ve been working hard.

See that?
Some time just went past
but so quietly
you might have missed it.
Then it morphed
into the sky.
Look, another one!
It came out
of my wristwatch
and slipped away.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Ron Padgett. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 9, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

For myself
I like a pile of sorrow
Thought on a promontory

Tended in nightshade
Monastic and gilt
On cloistered walls

Tapestries aged over
Belladonna ardor 
In misericords

Of cantinas
Where scholar-faced
Liars drink.

Moonlit night-
Fall pied jonquil
Or narcissus

Begs luminance
Of plastic lilies
In potter’s field.

At least there
Is something
A little to oppose

Impose suppose
We love them back
Whose mad blossoms

Contradict
The colossal self
Of containment.

Who hold these
Words to atonement
At this altar

Married here
A fatal deftness
For the faint sublime.

Copyright © 2017 by Glenn Mott. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 8, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

There’s no law that says
life needs to get more complicated.
In fact, it’s difficult to grow big.
Humanity has always been improbable,

but occurred when two single cells
floated—perhaps they wanted
each other?—into one. Even a host
can learn to love a leech. This is molecular:

One thing cares for another, in a way
it could never care for itself. Everything
you know was born from this sacrifice. Red-
woods stretched, shellfish bristled the floor.

Life, in even the simplest form, has always
been a matter of finding the energy.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Lizzie Harris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 21, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

always the hopeless asked to give others hope
the ones pushed up against wall after wall

when you’re done unpinning yourself
from the wall, please give hope

those who work twice as hard to seem half as good
being asked to do one more thing

we need to be seen
because things are not going well
and the crows are up to no good
 

Copyright © 2017 by Ali Liebegott. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Right to property
Right to protect property
Encrypt everything
Make private
I am so right and if I’m not
   I’m gonna burn yr FB wall down
Be something for sale
Be a strategy
Last fall was tough on us
Ask after me
Ask after me again
Small business owners
Big pharma
There are said to be 7000
   bodies buried under
   that university
If we write, it’s identity
If they write, it’s Reflections
   on American Legacy

The ADA
Those aren’t just letters
Punk a bunch of coffins

Copyright © 2017 by Jillian Weise. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 19, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.