We live in toppled times under a feat of tyranny; let’s not
fake getting lost, let’s do it, let’s not do it intermittently, let’s be
lost, disoriented and never to be bound so all can hear
the hiss of the adverbs we shoot into tyrants’ eyes, quivering
shafts slippery from limbs and aimed by eyes under feathered
lids. Our features are like stale bread, my headache bad
as a blueprint for butter. Windows: how stupidly the intensity
of glass returns to us the terror of love. Things diverge, separate
like the forks of the Eel River to which the competing lies
of two tyrants are but split stones shaken by earthquakes
of stupefying times, of minutes through a glorious forest, of women
who are personal friends, the flanks of a prevented rabbit: to scatter
and ambiguate, obviate, surreptitiously
flesh and hurry to find things to recombine.

From Tribunal by Lyn Hejinian, published by Omnidawn. Copyright © 2019 by Lyn Hejinian. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

          —kept losing self control
     but how could one lose the self
  after reading so much literary theory?
The shorter “i” stood under the cork trees,
     the taller “I” remained rather passive;
  the brendas were angry at the greed, angry
that the trees would die, had lost interest
  in the posturing of the privileged,

   the gaps between can’t & won’t . . .
  Stood outside the gate of permissible
      sound & the wind came soughing
through the doubt debris
(soughing comes from sw~gh—to resound . . .
echo actually comes from this also—)
    we thought of old Hegel across
 the sea—the Weltgeist—& clouds

went by like the bones of a Kleenex . . .
        it’s too late for countries
but it’s not too late for trees . . .
   & the wind kept soughing
   with its sound sash, wind with
         its sound sash, increasing
bold wind with its sound sash,
         increasing bold—

From Extra Hidden Life, among the Days. Copyright © 2018 by Brenda Hillman. Reprinted with the permission of the author and Wesleyan University Press.

Dedicated to the Poet Agostinho Neto,
President of The People’s Republic of Angola: 1976

1
I will no longer lightly walk behind
a one of you who fear me:
                                     Be afraid.
I plan to give you reasons for your jumpy fits
and facial tics
I will not walk politely on the pavements anymore
and this is dedicated in particular
to those who hear my footsteps
or the insubstantial rattling of my grocery
cart
then turn around
see me
and hurry on
away from this impressive terror I must be:
I plan to blossom bloody on an afternoon
surrounded by my comrades singing
terrible revenge in merciless
accelerating
rhythms
But
I have watched a blind man studying his face.
I have set the table in the evening and sat down
to eat the news.
Regularly
I have gone to sleep.
There is no one to forgive me.
The dead do not give a damn.
I live like a lover
who drops her dime into the phone
just as the subway shakes into the station
wasting her message
canceling the question of her call:
fulminating or forgetful but late
and always after the fact that could save or 
condemn me

I must become the action of my fate.

2
How many of my brothers and my sisters
will they kill
before I teach myself
retaliation?
Shall we pick a number? 
South Africa for instance:
do we agree that more than ten thousand
in less than a year but that less than
five thousand slaughtered in more than six
months will
WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH ME?

I must become a menace to my enemies.

3
And if I 
if I ever let you slide
who should be extirpated from my universe
who should be cauterized from earth
completely
(lawandorder jerkoffs of the first the
                   terrorist degree)
then let my body fail my soul
in its bedeviled lecheries

And if I 
if I ever let love go
because the hatred and the whisperings
become a phantom dictate I o-
bey in lieu of impulse and realities
(the blossoming flamingos of my
                   wild mimosa trees)
then let love freeze me
out.
I must become
I must become a menace to my enemies.

Copyright © 2017 by the June M. Jordan Literary Estate. Used with the permission of the June M. Jordan Literary Estate, www.junejordan.com.

This morning—jeweled mannequins
In glass in a frame. Shadows. Bergdorf’s, Saks
5th Avenue. A dress of Coco Chanel an opera
A ballet A world away—
                                                      Past—
Lower East Side. I hear louder & louder
Faster, faster Delancey, Mott Street, rising
Above the hum the spinning the throbbing of
The bobbin-winder. Sweatshop din. Women
From Hong Kong, Mong Kok, choked in demonic
Heat. The fiber-dust-heat. 12 hours seated: 
In shirt-waist-dust. No break no ventilation
& Stooped over her Singer, Mother
                                                       —I never saw her
—There.  Her satin-scented hands
The faint scent of ginger & almond—
Fingers quickly—feeding
                                    —the machine—fingers
Cutting up garments, fragments How
Could it have been each piece, pennies
To the tick of the clock?
                                                      I am 9—
Before there are words to know
What it means to be 9Happy & did not know
What being happy meant.  Or innocence—

Standing there, Midtown, outside
Harold’s Broadway & 14th—where she
Did take me. Couture wool scraps. Ribbons.
Bullion fringes. Faux suede
                                                         Fabric— fleshy—
Appliqués. Mother’s eyes in the window
Flashing: looking in. Always constructing—
The same French coat, draping it over Jackie O’s
Shoulder; would it look runway-stunning
On me? On her shoulder too why not
—On hers? Denim In 12 metallic versions
I clutched My mother’s arm clutched them all the
Beaded Trimmings—
Followed her inside where eyes
                                                          Wide: dilated—lives—
Yards & yards piled high: bolts of
Dupioni, silk-shantung. Charmeuse.
I caressed them with my fingers. 
After my mother, fumbled into their folds
Fibers creases—infinite
                                        Dresses: of vermilion,
Gold. The palpable—
Hem—of the city Gum San Gold
Mountain America I was a child &
                                                          Everything! was there—
Mother’s taffeta dresses: hand-sewn
& Sewn—for me. Had I known, consigned
To the stars. And then even not
That, nothing better than those dresses that dressed
—Her wounds. What did I know? Only that her signature
Begins in the looping style: tiny embroidered ladybugs or
Butterflies swooping down
                                              From another—realm
I think I saw heaven—where she
Was, & for awhile & in her dreams: There-then
                                                                —As in : moments: silences
Precisely—
Sewn. Threaded: each seam, each
Crease. The recesses. Over & over the way
—A breath—is held; is
                                   —A sharp pain—stitched
                                                            —Unstitched—

Copyright © 2020 by Emily Yong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 23, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

The dive starts
on the board….
                                                                    
something Steve
often said,

or Rub some dirt
in it, Princess,
when in his lesser

inscrutable mood;                         

Steve of the hair gel,
and whistle, a man
who was her
                                                          
diving coach,
who never seemed
to like her much.

Which was odd,

given, objectively,
her admirable discipline,
and natural gifts,

the years and years                                                          
of practice, and the long                                                          
row of golden
trophies she won
                                                                    
for his team. The girl
she was then,

confused, partly
feral, like the outdoor
cat you feed,

when you remember
to, but won’t allow

to come inside….

She’s thinking of Steve
now, many years
later, while swimming

naked in her wealthy
landlord’s pool. Or

“grotto,” to call it
properly, an ugly,
Italian word for

something lovely,

ringed, as it is,
with red hibiscus;                                                  

white lights
in the mimosa trees                                                                  
draping their blurry
pearls along
the water’s skin.

It’s 3 am,

which seemed
the safest time for
this experiment,

in which she’s turned
her strange and aging
body loose. Once,

a man she loved
observed, You’re
the kind of woman

who feels embarrassed
just standing in 

a room alone,
a comment, like him,
two parts ill spirited,

and one perceptive.

But this night she’s
dropped her robe,                                                            
come here to be

the kind of woman
who swims naked                                                             
without asking
for permission, risking
a stray neighbor

getting the full gander,

buoyed by saltwater;
all the tough and sag
of her softened by

this moonlight’s near-
sighted courtesy.

Look at her: how
the woman is floating,

while trying to recall
the exact last
moment of her girlhood—

where she was,
what she was doing—

when she finally
learned what she’d                                               
been taught: to hate

this fleshy sack
of boring anecdotes                                                          
and moles she’s lived

inside so long,
nemesis without                                                                           
a zipper for escape.

A pearl is the oyster’s

autobiography,
Fellini said. How  
clean and weightless

the dive returns
to the woman now;

climbing the high
metal ladder, then

launching herself,
no fear, no notion

of self-preservation,

the arc of her
trajectory pretty
as any arrow’s

in St. Sebastian’s
side. How keen                                                                              
that girl, and sleek,

tumbling more
gorgeous than two                                                            
hawks courting

in a dead drop.                                                                             

Floating, the woman
remembers this again,

how pristine she was
in pike, or tucked
tighter than a socialite, or

twisting in reverse
like a barber’s pole,

her body flying
toward its pivot,
which is, in those seconds,

the Infinite,

before each
possible outcome
tears itself away

(the woman climbing
from the water now)

like the silvery tissue
swaddling a costly
gift.

Copyright © 2020 by Erin Belieu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 25, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

for Tarfia and Fita

             The rabbit has a funny set of tools. He jumps.
             or kicks. muffled and punching up. In pose
             the rabbit knows, each side of his face to whom.
             he should belong. He hobbles and eyes. This
             is the dumb bun allegiance. This bunny, even dry and fluff
             is aware, be vicious. will bite down your finger stalk.
             will nick you good in the cheery web of your palm.
             Those claws are good for traction. and defense.
             This bunny, forgive him. There is no ease. His lack
             of neck is all the senses about a stillness.
             stuck in a calm. until household numbers upend
             his floor. until the family upsets the nest
             and traipses off. Then stuck in a bunny panic.

             We each stab at gratitude. In our nubbing, none
             of us do well. We jump. We kangaroo. We soft seeming,
             scatter and gnaw. Maybe the only way forward
             is to sleep all day. one eye open. under the sink.
             Like the rabbit, we could sit in our shit.
             Chew at the leaf of others’ dinner. Make
             of each tile on the floor a good spot to piss. No,
             it doesn’t get much better. And like the rabbit
             we do not jump well from heights. We linger the dark
             until it is safe to come out. To offer a nose.
             a cheek for touch. the top of a crown. Nothing
             makes us happier than another rabbit.

Copyright © 2020 by francine j. harris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 26, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

A.k.a.

          the other gold.

                    Now that’s the stuff,

                               shredded or melted

                                         or powdered

                                                 or canned.

                                                             Behold

                                         the pinnacle of man

                     in a cheeto puff!

Now that’s the stuff

                      you’ve been primed for:

                                             fatty & salty & crunchy

          and poof—gone. There’s the proof.

Though your grandmother

                        never even had one. You can’t

                                    have just one. You

                                              inhale them puff—

                                                                     after puff—

                                                                after puff—

                               You’re a chain smoker. Tongue

                      coated & coaxed

but not saturated or satiated.

                       It’s like pure flavor,

                                   but sadder. Each pink ping

                                                       in your pinball-mouth

                                                                expertly played

                             by the makers who have studied you,

                               the human animal, and culled

                    from the rind

         your Eve in the shape

                                 of a cheese curl.

                                              Girl,

                                come curl in the dim light of the TV.

                           Veg out on the verge of no urge

                  of anything.

         Long ago we beached ourselves,

                                 climbed up the trees then

                                          down the trees,

                                                knuckled across the dirt

                               & grasses & thorns & Berber carpet.

                                           Now is the age of sitting,

                                   so sit.

           And I must say,

                       crouched on the couch like that,

                             you resemble no animal.

                                    Smug in your Snuggie and snug

                                                     in your sloth, you look

                                           nothing like a sloth.

           And you are not an anteater,

                                   an anteater eats ants

                                                   without fear

                                       of diabetes. Though breathing,

                 one could say, resembles a chronic disease. 

                                                                                            What’s real

                             cheese and what is cheese product?

                              It’s difficult to say

               but being alive today

                                      is real-

                                                real-

                                                       really

                                like a book you can’t put down, a stone

                       that plummets from a great height. Life’s

                      a “page-turner” alright.

               But don’t worry

                                      if you miss the finale

                                                of your favorite show, you can

                                                   catch in on queue. Make room

                                      for me and I’ll binge on this,

                                                            the final season with you.

Copyright © 2020 by Benjamin Garcia. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 27, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

This morning I love everyone,
even Jerome, the neighbor I hate,
and the sun. And the sun

has pre-warmed my bucket seat 
for the drive up Arsenal Street 
with the hot car effect, 

a phenomenon climatologists
use to explain global warming
to senators and kids.

I love the limited edition
Swingline gold stapler
in the oil change lounge

which can, like a poem,
affix anything to anything
on paper. One sheet of paper,

for instance, for that cloud of gnats,
one for this lady’s pit mix
wagging his tail so violently

I fear he’ll hurt his hips. 
One sheet for glittered lip balm,
for eye contact, Bitcoin extortion

and the imperfect tense. 
Sheets for each unfulfilled wish
I left in a penny in a mall fountain.

Sun spills into the lounge 
through the window decal
in geometric Tetris wedges.

I have a sheet for Tetris,
its random sequence of pieces
falling toward me in this well

like color coded aspects of the life
I neglected to live, for the pleasure
of making line after line

disappear. The gold stapler
has twenty-sheet capacity
so I straighten my stack

on the reception counter
and staple the day together
with an echoing chunk.

Copyright © 2020 by Ted Mathys. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 31, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

so I count my hopes: the bumblebees
are making a comeback, one snug tight
in a purple flower I passed to get to you;

your favorite color is purple but Prince’s
was orange & we both find this hard to believe;
today the park is green, we take grass for granted

the leaves chuckle around us; behind
your head a butterfly rests on a tree; it’s been
there our whole conversation; by my old apartment

was a butterfly sanctuary where I would read
& two little girls would sit next to me; you caught
a butterfly once but didn’t know what to feed it

so you trapped it in a jar & gave it to a girl
you liked. I asked if it died. you say you like
to think it lived a long life. yes, it lived a long life.

Copyright © 2019 by Fatimah Asghar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 8, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Nobody wants to die on the way
caught between ghosts of whiteness
and the real water
none of us wanted to leave
our bones
on the way to salvation
three planets to the left
a century of light years ago
our spices are separate and particular
but our skins sing in complimentary keys
at a quarter to eight mean time
we were telling the same stories
over and over and over.

Broken down gods survive
in the crevasses and mudpots
of every beleaguered city
where it is obvious
there are too many bodies
to cart to the ovens
or gallows
and our uses have become
more important than our silence
after the fall
too many empty cases
of blood to bury or burn
and there will be no body left
to listen
and our labor
has become more important
than our silence

Our labor has become
more important
than our silence.

Copyright © 1978 by Audre Lorde, from THE COLLECTED POEMS OF AUDRE LORDE by Audre Lorde. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.

Copyright © 2015 by Ross Gay. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

You, selling roses out of a silver grocery cart

You, in the park, feeding the pigeons
You cheering for the bees

You with cats in your voice in the morning, feeding cats

You protecting the river   You are who I love
delivering babies, nursing the sick

You with henna on your feet and a gold star in your nose

You taking your medicine, reading the magazines

You looking into the faces of young people as they pass, smiling and saying, Alright! which, they know it, means I see you, Family. I love you. Keep on.

You dancing in the kitchen, on the sidewalk, in the subway waiting for the train because Stevie Wonder, Héctor Lavoe, La Lupe

You stirring the pot of beans, you, washing your father’s feet

You are who I love, you
reciting Darwish, then June

Feeding your heart, teaching your parents how to do The Dougie, counting to 10, reading your patients’ charts

You are who I love, changing policies, standing in line for water, stocking the food pantries, making a meal

You are who I love, writing letters, calling the senators, you who, with the seconds of your body (with your time here), arrive on buses, on trains, in cars, by foot to stand in the January streets against the cool and brutal offices, saying: YOUR CRUELTY DOES NOT SPEAK FOR ME

You are who I love, you struggling to see

You struggling to love or find a question

You better than me, you kinder and so blistering with anger, you are who I love, standing in the wind, salvaging the umbrellas, graduating from school, wearing holes in your shoes

You are who I love
weeping or touching the faces of the weeping

You, Violeta Parra, grateful for the alphabet, for sound, singing toward us in the dream

You carrying your brother home
You noticing the butterflies

Sharing your water, sharing your potatoes and greens

You who did and did not survive
You who cleaned the kitchens
You who built the railroad tracks and roads
You who replanted the trees, listening to the work of squirrels and birds, you are who I love
You whose blood was taken, whose hands and lives were taken, with or without your saying
Yes, I mean to give. You are who I love.

You who the borders crossed
You whose fires
You decent with rage, so in love with the earth
You writing poems alongside children

You cactus, water, sparrow, crow      You, my elder
You are who I love,
summoning the courage, making the cobbler,

getting the blood drawn, sharing the difficult news, you always planting the marigolds, learning to walk wherever you are, learning to read wherever you are, you baking the bread, you come to me in dreams, you kissing the faces of your dead wherever you are, speaking to your children in your mother’s languages, tootsing the birds

You are who I love, behind the library desk, leaving who might kill you, crying with the love songs, polishing your shoes, lighting the candles, getting through the first day despite the whisperers sniping fail fail fail

You are who I love, you who beat and did not beat the odds, you who knows that any good thing you have is the result of someone else’s sacrifice, work, you who fights for reparations

You are who I love, you who stands at the courthouse with the sign that reads NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE

You are who I love, singing Leonard Cohen to the snow, you with glitter on your face, wearing a kilt and violet lipstick

You are who I love, sighing in your sleep

You, playing drums in the procession, you feeding the chickens and humming as you hem the skirt, you sharpening the pencil, you writing the poem about the loneliness of the astronaut

You wanting to listen, you trying to be so still

You are who I love, mothering the dogs, standing with horses

You in brightness and in darkness, throwing your head back as you laugh, kissing your hand

You carrying the berbere from the mill, and the jug of oil pressed from the olives of the trees you belong to

You studying stars, you are who I love
braiding your child’s hair

You are who I love, crossing the desert and trying to cross the desert

You are who I love, working the shifts to buy books, rice, tomatoes,

bathing your children as you listen to the lecture, heating the kitchen with the oven, up early, up late

You are who I love, learning English, learning Spanish, drawing flowers on your hand with a ballpoint pen, taking the bus home

You are who I love, speaking plainly about your pain, sucking your teeth at the airport terminal television every time the politicians say something that offends your sense of decency, of thought, which is often

You are who I love, throwing your hands up in agony or disbelief, shaking your head, arguing back, out loud or inside of yourself, holding close your incredulity which, yes, too, I love    I love

your working heart, how each of its gestures, tiny or big, stand beside my own agony, building a forest there

How “Fuck you” becomes a love song

You are who I love, carrying the signs, packing the lunches, with the rain on your face

You at the edges and shores, in the rooms of quiet, in the rooms of shouting, in the airport terminal, at the bus depot saying “No!” and each of us looking out from the gorgeous unlikelihood of our lives at all, finding ourselves here, witnesses to each other’s tenderness, which, this moment, is fury, is rage, which, this moment, is another way of saying: You are who I love   You are who I love  You and you and you are who

Copyright © 2017 by Aracelis Girmay. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

On balconies, sunlight. On poplars, sunlight on our lips.
Today no one is shooting.
A girl cuts her hair with imaginary scissors—
the scissors in sunlight, her hair in sunlight.
Another girl steals a pair of shoes from a sleeping soldier, skewered with light.
As soldier wakes and looks at us looking at them
what do they see?
Tonight they shot fifty women at Lerna St.,
I sit down to write and tell you what I know:
a child learns the world by putting it in her mouth,
a girl becomes a woman and a woman, earth.
Body, they blame you for all things and they
seek in the body what does not live in the body.

Copyright © 2018 by Ilya Kaminsky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 26, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care.
 
Let’s go back to that.
Rice? Pine nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.
 
No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That’s the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.
 
I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.

Copyright © by Naomi Shihab Nye. Used with the permission of the author.

’Tis a time for much rejoicing;
      Let each heart be lured away;
Let each tongue, its thanks be voicing
      For Emancipation Day.
Day of victory, day of glory,
For thee, many a field was gory!

Many a time in days now ended,
      Hath our fathers’ courage failed,
Patiently their tears they blended;
      Ne’er they to their, Maker, railed,
Well we know their groans, He numbered,
When dominions fell, asundered.

As of old the Red Sea parted,
      And oppressed passed safely through,
Back from the North, the bold South, started,
      And a fissure wide she drew;
Drew a cleft of Liberty,
Through it, marched our people free.

And, in memory, ever grateful,
      Of the day they reached the shore,
Meet we now, with hearts e’er faithful,
      Joyous that the storm is o’er.
Storm of Torture! May grim Past,
Hurl thee down his torrents fast.

Bring your harpers, bring your sages,
      Bid each one the story tell;
Waft it on to future ages,
      Bid descendants learn it well.
Kept it bright in minds now tender,
Teach the young their thanks to render.

Come with hearts all firm united,
      In the union of a race;
With your loyalty well plighted,
      Look your brother in the face,
Stand by him, forsake him never,
God is with us now, forever.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 19, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

the return of poem to be read from right to left

"[for] when you are ready
to follow a tendency of anonymous feathers
Zaina Alsous

say i ،well
particular in one no to
backed ive time first the isnt this
disaster a of out us

*scratch record*

here got we how wondering aint you nah

*frame freeze*

NDE an like feel doesnt it if and
right living aint probably you
that get dont you if and
you for aint poem this

*scene the to back pan now*
(out FBI NSA CIA the kicked we’ve that now)

12 on hand left
seat passenger the of top the gripping hand right
here out cantered i oh
back galloping im now

return i
،reader dear ،you and
return i ،saying my of tired are

belt his unbuckles man a
security entering before
aroused is someone and
state our is this

asks poem this of draft shorter a see to professor first the
device stylistic this sustain could i long how
think you do long how ،prof dunno i ،w counter i
™ pneumoic hegemonic demonic heteronormative khwhite the
؟itself sustain can
rage road and clown class the all and american im now
be never could i

device no is this ،besides

lolololol palindrome is lol
pandemic global whole a took it
yourselves institutionalize to you for
lol
bioterrorism took it
antiracism in training get to you for
lol
well are unwell the why is it
unwell are well the and
duress under

11:11 is it
many am i
air the in miles thousand

sound a without poem a make to trying

words english of number the counting of tired grew i wrote i
capture to takes it
another in one
writing of tired grown have i now but
limitations inherent your towards

compassion
yes
have i
it

up woke you
iraq in
you among dull the
metaphor a is that think still
storm / desert am i then hello ،well
up wake woke the watch and dawn at sill your on sit i
gender had sandman the thought you haha
eye your out sleep the wipe i

evr nevr was iraq :news breaking)
spreading creamcheese your on waiting
(democracy cube ice free BPA infused charcoal

species Invasive i
Ante i
body
language own your in you

how look
light we
n
language
we so
fly
toni like
who elmaz taught
me taught

so were you
w up caught
make(r) my
model and
missed you
glory the
flight this of
creature mythical i
future the in far so gone1 [already]
own my made i
country
two only w
citizenship
:questions

؟real who2
؟free who

reading hologram my this
you to
me showed book a writing coz
yourselves save to read cant yall
english you teach to arabic an write to had i guess

steph yo
pushin still im
brooklyn from ،yea
/n yall did
n nvaders
؟yet doors those open
i thought you know i)
humbled am i all be would
(review semiTYN that for grateful am i
iraq that is how and...
؟you for going revision

window the at still you or
؟pm 8 it was or 7 at clappin
applause yr needed ever one no
protection need we

:question another
it at are we while
؟bulletproof window the is

hate assassin i
nonviolent a this
up stick

slow bullets your
timelines future as fast mine
me end to tried still you where

infinity infinite i
can i only
me unend

:write you when read i what is this
bar bar bar
how at look
yourselves reveal you

me tell you before now
is anger my how
،well
justified well
you for translate me let
vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv=angry
smart v  v vv
fools suffer to afford longer no can=angry
you carry longer no can

you welcome i and
me join to

to moved supremacists white the all why that’s
themselves reproduce to racing carolina north

meanwhile
it has legend
born was i when
:mean name / myself named i
injustice to surrender to refuse who those
mmmmany many many many am i and

wind was i
me make to tried they and
language
/ translate to tried
me empire to
free this catch cant they

appearance third my is this but
me paid have they time first the and
it say so
:me with

loot the gimme
gimme
gimme
gimmee
me mind dont
mean i
me mine dont
donate humbly i
to back peanuts 50 these
elephants of academy the
royalties own my am i
tatted already book next my
body this on

morrie w tuesdays got they yea
charleen w thursdays got i
؟we is we how see you dont
together
history of lock the picking

come
something you show to want i

؟too poems makes kusama yayoi know you did
see to here are we what isnt that but
now painting is she there
dots just are those think might you
trauma every transforming is she but....

tacumeh friend my and me with walk a take let’s now
published get to how know to wants and grandma his about me telling is he
conversation the before
:turn a takes
convenient is it when black only are egyptians says he
anything say dont i and
ends black his where know i because
begins mine and
try would who seminar senior our in wife now his was it
...africa of part isnt egypt ،me tell to

see never you egypt of part the from im
me fool cant you
ourselves colonize we when hate i besides
+looted they while looking wasnt yall like
hand one with history country’s my whitewashed
other the with plantations the moved and
that love you why know dont you like
...much so cotton N-A-I-T-P-Y-G-E zero zero one

why wondering still im
uncomfortable so me makes it
truth the tell to
myself for up stand and
remember i then and
you of 99.9% because is it ،oh
gaslight to how me taught
self my

word strange a about ask to calls ounie sister my
book her of review recent a in used
nialism-de says she
DENIHILISM :hear i and
unsound sonically
correct etymologically but
attempt would that everything de-nihilate to seek i
me annihilate to
me of many the
finger a lift to have never we and
denihiliate to
lack and mediocrity own your
competence of
end your be will

ALIVE AM I 858 72020
listening and
last capitalism’s to
scream

say kawara on days many how and
AM I
LIVE A

recorded been has anger my
assurance quality your for
minor in
key major and

treasure hidden a was i
known be to wished i and

creation created i
known be could i so

in came i ،yea
high riding
horse trojan thoroughbred hotblooded a on
arab or black is it
whose on depending
on or in rollin we house

palestine in up wake will you soon

؟yet there we are
؟progress your at
us killin they how
؟here still p---t but
chief in predator

؟doubt the of benefit
haa
name another by hope that’s

narrative national the written finally i have
possible it makes that
؟me w reckon to you for

precog that this
speak postverbal
the get you did
؟yet EXTRATRANSMISSION3

good what’s knows poet the
living time hard a has but
it

؟cages in children the put they why know you
fly can we know they because
wings got passport every why reason same
long too for mine hold they when like dont i why that’s
envelope an just is body the and
stamps the forgetting about dream same the having keep i why be must

condescension your and condensation in grew i
cumulus i
you radius and circumference i

fractal i
dahlia i
dunyah i

abstract i
conceptual i

:story out coming my

:one no

:store supply art the in one no absolutely

؟with you help can I anything there is ،hi :employee store art

brushes these all up feeling am i way the question that expecting was i :me

...soon closing are we that just it’s no *expression shocked*:employee store art

am i
now learning
color about
blend to
of instead
mute

bristle every but brush your clean can you
pigment of memory the has

chosen and given: families two got
:you for translate also will i this / long very name last our
favored highly and blessed are who we
see to yet have you whom we
other each find who we
be me letting for you thank

you thank
you love i
now niece my call i
say
nok knock
bok bok
؟say cowcat the did what
mooo
yowww

ring ring
matrix the from calling
arabophone the up pick

up taking of me accused who everyone to sorry oops and
this before space queer
!delimited was it know didnt i
condition(s) the shame but poets the love we
kstksttsktsk
grace saving our
low go they when said
flow nile the way the that’s becoz high go we

say josé hear i now
one this for wild you

wild n wile i
poem this teach you when
state Avatar in it wrote i kids the tell

astral i
last i
me qualify can test DNA no
say to is which
me standardize modern evr never will you

ask i now

؟america in surveillve will who
؟america in surveillve will who
؟america in surveillve will who

            “ ”

                        “ ”

            “ ”

                        “ ”

            “ ”

                        “ ”
؟real who
؟free who
                        real who

؟free who

r           e           a           l           who

؟free who



*This poem is best viewed on desktop.


“Sun Ra’s consistent statement, musically and spoken, is that this is a primitive world. Its practices, beliefs, religions, are uneducated, unenlightened, savage, destructive, already in the past. . . .That’s why Sun Ra returned only to say he left. Into the Future. Into Space.” —Amiri Baraka

Instead of an Arabic footnote, here is a list of artists who inspire, and were with me in the making of this poem...and so much more (in some kind of order of appearance): Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Elmaz Abinader, Suheir Hammad, Toni Morrison, Tavonne S. Carson, Ava Duvernay, Solmaz Sharif, Monica Sok, Justin Phillip Reed, Xandria Phillips, Charleen McClure, Nabila Lovelace, Ashley M. Jones, Danez Smith, René Magritte, Jay Deshpande, José Olivarez, Jonah Mixon-Webster, The Desert Crew, Fred Moten, John Rufo, S*ean D. Henry-Smith, Andrea Abi-Karam, Belal Mobarak, Jess Rizkallah, Hayan Charara, Randa Jarrar, Zaina Alsous, Roberto Montes, James Baldwin, Mo Browne, Audre Lorde, Adrian Piper, Evie Shockley, Airea D. Matthews, Tyehimba Jess, Harryette Mullen, Safia Elhillo, Ricardo Maldonado, Mejdulene B. Shomali, Philip Metres, and Raymond Antrobus. Shokran.

“The word Black, has geographic power, pulls everybody in:” —Gwendolyn Brooks, Primer for Blacks

 

Copyright © 2020 by Marwa Helal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 27, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated from Vietnamese by the author

The dead don't let us go, I say to my friend Sirius, putting my father's letters in a drawer. It is the plight of Mezentius that I endure, attached to a dead man, hand in hand, mouth in mouth, in a sad embrace. The letters stopped arriving from the country of my childhood. The man who wrote them died a solitary death and was buried at the edge of a stream. But he is there, his skin touches my skin, my breath gives life to his lips. He is there, I say to Sirius, when I speak to you, when I eat, when I sleep, when I take a walk. It seems to me that I am dead, whereas my father, the dead man who refuses to leave me in peace, overflows with life. He possesses me, sucks my blood, gnaws my bones, feeds on my thoughts. 1

 

“Die fresh. Die withered.
Die sore. Die throbbing.
Die hard.  Die standing up.
Die lying down. Die
nightwise. Die more. Die
horrified. Die gradual. Die
corroding. Die squashed.
Die choking. Die fainting.
Die everything. Die all.
Die falling. Die swooning.
Die tense. Die loose. Die
now. Die spinning. Die
quashed. Die quelled. Die
rotting. Die crushed. Die
everyone. Die clean. Die
raw. Die bruised. Die
sitting. Die morningwise.
Die afternoonwise. Die
departing. Die undoing.”2
 

In the last letter, the dying man taught me a lesson of 36 deadly tricks. He called them the 36 documentations of secret agencies, 36 spells of horror, 36 faces of vanity, 36 tactics of being deadly, 36 stratagems of dying. All night long, I chant his weird song over and over like a crazy heart. Dripping drops of time, the tune flies far from the propaganda of a human life. When Sirius asks why I keep murmuring the lines, I say, It helps me learn my fathertongue, glide into my childhood siesta, melt into my red hot girdle of earth. The letters of the dead burn me, urge me to speak to them, speak them, have them speak me, even in my sleep. Every dream is a chamber where the language drills, like vital winds, hum me anew, blowing me closer to the waters where my father lies. Every night he still sleeptalks his fatal rhythm through my broken tongue.

1 Linda Lê, Thư Chết, trans. Bùi Thu Thuỷ (Hà Nội: NXB Văn Học, Nhã Nam, 2013), 7.
2 Trần Dần, Những Ngã Tư và Những Cột Đèn (Hà Nội: NXB Hội Nhà Văn, Nhã Nam, 2017), 259.

 

Chant Chữ Chết

Người chết không buông tha chúng ta, tôi vừa nói với anh bạn Sirius vừa xếp những lá thư của cha tôi vào ngăn kéo. Đó là nhục hình Mézence mà tôi phải chịu, tức là bị buộc vào một người chết, tay áp tay, miệng kề miệng, trong một nụ hôn buồn. Những lá thư đã ngừng đến từ đất nước của tuổi thơ tôi. Người viết thư đã chết, một cái chết cô đơn, và được chôn bên bờ nước. Nhưng người vẫn đây, da người chạm da tôi, hơi thở tôi thổi sống làn môi ấy. Tôi bảo Sirius, Người ở đây này, khi tôi đang nói chuyện với anh, khi tôi ăn, khi tôi ngủ, khi tôi dạo chơi. Dường như tôi mới chính là người chết, còn cha tôi, người chết không để tôi yên ấy, lại đang ngập tràn sự sống. Người ám tôi, hút máu tôi, gặm xương tôi, ngốn suy nghĩ tôi. 1

“Chết tươi. Chết
héo. Chết đau.
Chết điếng. Chết
cứng. Chêt đứng.
Chết nằm. Chết
đêm. Chết thêm.
Chết khiếp. Chết
dần. Chết mòn.
Chết toi. Chết
ngóp. Chết ngất.
Chết tất. Chết cả.
Chết lử. Chết lả.
Chết đứ. Chết đừ.
Chết ngay. Chết
quay. Chết ngỏm.
Chết ngoẻo. Chết
thối. Chết nát.
Chết hết. Chết
sạch. Chết tái.
Chết tím. Chết
ngồi. Chết sáng.
Chết chiều. Chết
bỏ. Chết dở.”2

 

Trong thư cuối, người dạy tôi tổng cộng 36 kế chết người. Người dặn đây là 36 tài liệu công tác nguỵ quân nguỵ quyền, 36 phép rùng rợn, 36 vẻ phù hoa, 36 món chết người, 36 món chết. Suốt đêm, tôi niệm bài ca quỷ ám của người, tụng đi tụng lại như một trái tim điên. Chảy ròng những giọt đồng hồ, giai điệu người bay xa kiếp giáo lý. Khi Sirius hỏi sao tôi cứ lẩm nhẩm lời người, tôi đáp, Để tôi học tiếng cha tôi, dạt vào giấc trưa tuổi thơ tôi, tan vào đất đỏ nhiệt đới tôi. Chữ người chết nung tôi, thúc tôi nói với họ, nói họ, rồi họ nói tôi, cả khi tôi ngủ. Mỗi giấc mơ là một căn phòng nơi những bài luyện chữ, như gió thổi, ngân tôi, tái thiết tôi, mang tôi cận kề con nước nơi cha tôi nằm. Hằng đêm người vẫn nói mớ một thứ phách nhịp chết người thấm xuyên lưỡi vỡ tôi.

1 Linda Lê, Thư Chết, Bùi Thu Thuỷ dịch (Hà Nội: NXB Văn Học, Nhã Nam, 2013), 7.
2 Trần Dần, Những Ngã Tư và Những Cột Đèn (Hà Nội: NXB Hội Nhà Văn, Nhã Nam, 2017), 259.

© 2020 Quyên Nguyễn-Hoàng. Published in Poem-a-Day in partnership with Words Without Borders (wordswithoutborders.org) on September 12, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by Chenxin Jiang

           as a door-nail
           and gone            to the world
           air             broke drop
nothing is certain but          and taxes
           mask             knell          grip
           blow              metal         rattle
food for worms sticky end brown bread
          or alive valiant to the             la la la
wish I were             yeah right you wish

 


預習

未知生焉知
不能復生視      如歸     而無憾
出生入      一線間    生契濶
輕於鴻毛     而後已而復生
     不瞑目不足惜
寧    不屈      鳴不默
一雞一鳴撐飯蓋鴨升天
憂患不終無安樂    啦    啦啦
未    得呢你就想

© 2020 Yau Ching and Chenxin Jiang. Published in Poem-a-Day in partnership with Words Without Borders (wordswithoutborders.org) on September 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by Bernard Capinpin

Not as a multitude, but as one. Caught in the rush of an instant only to be contained
In an illusion of light once depicted in a holographic existence
And to give weight to the meaning of lightness. Here, he pointed

To the directions of his imprisonment. How the wings
Have too much dulled and to take wing must orchestrate
The shattering of mirrors: fragile, fine, acicular. The yellowing

Brightness is in the proximity to the light, like how one recognizes beneath
The lightbulb the chick nesting within an egg, as to trace how thick
Illusions go in the labyrinth of plurality. Now, no matter what,

They seem a bouquet of bougainvillea on the palms, dreaming to be set free.

This may be true of desire. One first keeps to heart
The simplest things one loved in childhood: the chase after
A kite broken loose, not minding the prickling thorns,

The mimosa’s curtsey to the sole. That is what freedom simply is.
Not playing patintero with shadows. Not captive to the multiplicity
Of false geometry. Almost brittle but original.

 


BIRDS IN FLIGHT, 1965

Hindi marami, kundi iisa. Dinakip sa bilis ng mga iglap upang mapiit
Sa ilusyon ng liwanag nang maitanghal sa holograpikong pag-iral
At makapagbigay bigat sa kahulugan ng gaan. Dito, ganap niyang

Naituturo ang mga direksyon ng kanyang pagkakakulong. Lubos
Ang pagkakapurol ng mga pakpak at ang pagaspas ay orkestradong
Pagkabasag ng mga salamin: manipis, pino, linyado. Nasa lapit ng ilaw

Ang tingkad ng paninilaw, katulad kung papaano kinikikilala sa ilalim
Ng bombilya ang nanahang sisiw sa itlog, upang mabakas ang kapal
Ng pamamalikmata sa laberinto ng pluralidad. Ngayon, kahit papaano,

Tila pumpon ito ng mga bunggambilya sa palad, nangangarap makaalpas.

Na maaring totoo ito ukol sa pagnanasa. Unang isinilid sa dibdib
Ang mga simpleng bagay na minahal noong kabataan: ang paghabol
Sa napatid na guryon, ang hindi pag-alintana sa kalabit ng mga tinik,

Ang pagyukod ng makahiya sa talampakan. Ganoon lamang ang kalayaan.
Hindi nakikipagpatintero sa mga anino. Hindi nakapiit sa multiplisidad
Ng mga huwad na hubog. Halos babasagin ngunit orihinal.

Copyright © 2020 by Enrique Villasis and Bernard Capinpin. Published in Poem-a-Day in partnership with Words Without Borders (wordswithoutborders.org) on October 3, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Returning to the US, he asks
my occupation. Teacher.

What do you teach?
Poetry.

I hate poetry, the officer says,
I only like writing
where you can make an argument.

Anything he asks, I must answer.
This he likes, too.

I don’t tell him
he will be in a poem
where the argument will be

anti-American.

I place him here, puffy,
pink, ringed in plexi, pleased

with his own wit
and spittle. Saving the argument
I am let in

I am let in until

Copyright © 2020 by Solmaz Sharif. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

                                                you think I’m kind on the daily
                                                —and my healing
                                                always soft
                   you don’t see me 
                                                beat to the ground 
                                                the Forehead Man 
                                                & his Mouse-God friend—how 
                                                I bonked the lights out 
           from their faces til one 
                          had no teeth 
                     and the other—
                                                only a mouth 
                                                stuffed full of them—
           across this white field
                                                I use my own Pointy thing
                                                Stabbing—after all is always 
                                                Personal
     you see—they did not see 
                my Rage coming—
                                                said they wanted me
                                                to go Home—Go back
                                                their jaws cajoled— 
                                   Go back 
                                                to where you’re from-from
                                         & so 
                      they saw me Go
                                                & Go
                                                —with each blue 
                                                wide-eyed Stab— 
                               and Stab—
                           into the bone 
                    & mush of them—
                                                Gone—Home—
                   Home to my Rage
                                                and they—such slabs 
                                                of meat—
                                                                       Stayed

Copyright © 2020 by Aldrin Valdez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 20, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

the day after the mulberry tree fell on its belly, the army bombed a truck
full of black umbrellas sent from russia against the tyranny of rain. they
said, the black umbrellas are no longer allowed in the mountains. hats
are. guns are. gods are. the trees are offensive to the sky. then
they called our language mountain, then they pronounced it dead.

we are in a dream, you said. undo the pain before you speak
against the gods with mouths full of rain. a tongue cut in half
becomes sharper, you said. date your wound.

Copyright © 2020 by Öykü Tekten. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 21, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The words “economic,” “family,” and “asylum” remain unspoken as I sit in the back of the courtroom scribbling on a legal pad, trying to structure a context and trace my relation to the seven men who stand before the judge shackled at the wrists, waists, and ankles.

Reader, can you improvise your relation to the phrase “illegal entry,” to the large seal of US District Court, District of Arizona, that hangs above the judge, eagle suspended with talons and arrows pointing?

Perhaps your relation stretches like a wall, bends like footprints towards a road, perhaps your relation spindles and barbs, chollas or ocotillos, twists like a razor wire on top of a fence.

Perhaps you do not improvise, perhaps you shackle, you type, you translate, you prosecute, you daily wage, your mouth goes dry when you speak—paper, palimpsests of silence, palimpsests of complicity and connection never made evident on the page.

Write down everything you need. How long is the list?
Sleep with it beneath your head, eat it, wear it.
Can you use it to make a little shade from an unrelenting gaze?

Speak into the court record the amount of profit extracted from such men as those before the judge shackled at the wrists, waists, and ankles not limited to the amount of profit that will be extracted from such bodies through the payments that will be made per prisoner per day to the Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, but also inclusive of all the profits generated by trade agreements that makes labor in the so-called developing countries so cheap.

Best of luck to you, the judge says.

Que le vaya bien, the lawyers say as the men begin their slow procession out of the courtroom in chains.

And in that moment, from the back of the courtroom, we can decide to accept or forget what we have seen, to bear it, or to change it

because we love it, we want it, we don’t care enough to stop it, we hate it,

we can’t imagine how to stop it, we can’t imagine it, we can’t imagine.

From Defacing the Monument (Noemi Press, 2020). Copyright © 2020 by Susan Briante. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

after Yvan Goll

In the absent oils of your eyes two brown ores
resting leisurely on the view of your children.

You uncoil casually. My hand slipping
to the west and what was felled fills me

until I fall forward injuring your already dead arm.
I am so sorry. Our wills in a twist. Electric.

Some pulse between the gurney and the distant coffin.
My camera shutter clicking wildly around my neck.

Back home tus rab hlau searches for your hands.
The soil to harden. Rapture on the way. Onions

sprouting passionately as neglected gardens do.
The seven prisms of my blood bursting through my ears.

Your living children still living. Your garden goddess
drying the last goods in her shrine. With spring-like

precision the sun weeps until I boil. My head cracked
in four places. The ribbed earth catching fatal drops

of your blood or mine. You beseech me but in my time
I’ve slept away the sun. The underside of distance.

But I behold you now in this cool church and for a ransom.
I photograph you again and again. Your form crystalizing.

Your parted mouth a new annex to the ancestral house.
Your bones at the table. O how fair the jaundiced skies.

You get up to close that clear brittle door.

Copyright © 2020 by Khaty Xiong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 10, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

after Olivia Gatwood

I get ready for my first day as the new girl in high school
already knowing what not to wear. I dress perfectly
to stand out and disappear. I know how to put on
makeup, and I do it exactly right. My hair
looks awesome, of course! I step onto the bus,
pause by the driver, raise my arms like a superstar,
and meet the eyes of my adoring audience.
Three different beautiful girls punch
each other in the face to have me sit next to them.
I decline and the school’s most lovely, artsy boy
slides over to make room. He knows his feelings
and only goes too far
when he honestly misunderstands. He’s one of the safer ones.

I walk down the halls and no one makes fun of me.
I pass the section of lockers where her locker is, and
she is there, taking a book out of her backpack.
She’ll go running this weekend, as usual, and won’t
be followed. The man who won’t be following
her has already followed half a dozen women
to rape and kill and leave in the woods. But she won’t be
followed. She’ll survive her fate this time, and come back

to school on Monday, avoid the mean girls in the bathroom.
She’ll pick on the new girl, call her a virgin of all things.
She’ll limp her way through math, cheat a bit in science,
do pretty good in history and English. She’ll graduate,
and go to the state school on a track scholarship. She’ll
have two girls and keep them safe. She’ll almost forget

about this other ending: her in the woods near her house,
staring at the ground beneath her, wondering why.

Copyright © 2020 by Melanie Figg. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 12, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

“These people, both men and women, seem amphibious, and to be able to live on water as well as on the land, so well do they swim and dive. Five pieces of iron were thrown into the sea to them for the pleasure of seeing them exercise themselves. One of them was skillful enough to get all five of them, and in so short a time, that one can regard it as marvelous.”
            —observations of indigenous Filipinos by the Dutch in 1600, from Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas, by Antonio de Morga

To be amphibious
is to breathe underwater          
gills and fins
illuminated in a flash of sun
to be sirenos1
es amar el mar
es tener cuerpos de agua2
desfrutar how the sea dances
along our spines
how it fills our hair
makes us weightless

We do not care if we are seen
taken as entertainment
desnudos
observados en un acto sagrado3

Our brown bodies split the water
no para conquista
kundi para sa unyon4

Our bangka5 are extensions
of our katawan ng tubig6.
Do you know which hands carved this wood?
Mula saang mga puno?7
Whose spirits guide us to the other side?

Hindi namin kailangan ng mga mapa8
Hindi namin kailangan ng mga kumpas                 
Feel the immense dagat move beneath us        

Can you feel it, through the thick hulls
of your conquering vessels?

We do not disrupt the harmony of things.

Can you plunge your hand into the sea
and bring up a fish?
Can you split one into two thousand pieces
so that every mouth is filled?   
Can you perform such the miracles
you describe in your holy book?          

Watched by mga anito9,
todos los seres vivos
nos protegen10

Bawat plankton, bawat maliit na hipon,
bawat nabubuhay na bagay11

Ser anfibias
upang maging kasuwato sa dagat12
is to breathe underwater.

 


1Both in Filipino and Spanish, this refers to mermen, but in Filipino folklore, while also including a version of a tantalizing creature (usually female) that leads fishermen to their deaths, sirenas/sirenos are are also engkantos or spirit-guardians of the sea. The colonial and indigenous influences in this mythology are both evident.

2“is to love the sea/is to have bodies of water”

3“naked/observed in a sacred act”

4These two lines show how Tagalog incorporated Spanish as one sees the shared words; it goes from Spanish, “not for conquest” to Tagalog “but for union”

5Bangka are Filipino outrigger boats with ancient origins that are carved from wood; it was believed that the spirit of the tree or an anito (guardian spirit) was imbued in the boat, especially through ritual consecration.

6“Bodies of water”

7“From which trees?”

8“We do not need maps / We do not need compasses”

9anito are ancestors, nature spirits, or deities in precolonial, indigenous Filipino systems, which were animistic. The word also can refer to statues and figures representing the spirits.

10“All living beings / protect us”

11“Each plankton, each tiny shrimp / each living thing”

12“To be in harmony with the sea”

Copyright © 2020 by Aimee Suzara. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 13, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The night air is filled
with the scent of apples,
and the moon is nearly full.

In the next room, Jim
is reading; a small cat sleeps
in the crook of his arm.

The night singers are loud,
proclaiming themselves
every evening until they run

out of nights and die in
the cold, or burrow down into
the mud to dream away the winter.

My office is awash in books
and photographs, and the sepia/pink
sunset stains all its light touches.

I’ve never been a good traveler,
but there are days, like this one,
when I’d pay anything to be in

another country, or standing on
the cold, grey moon, staring back
at the disaster we call our world.

We crave change, but
turn away from it.
We drown in contradictions.

Tonight, I’ll sleep
blanketed in moonlight.
In my dreams, I’ll have

nothing to say about anything
important. I’ll simply live my life,
and let the night singers live theirs,

until all of us are gone.
I won’t say a word, and let
silence speak in my stead.

Copyright © 2020 by William Reichard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 19, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I keep thinking there’s a piano nearby.
I keep thinking it’s my favorite song. It’s my favorite song!

Below the marquee, I arrange the marquee:
Happy New Year, buddy. Happy ’nother one, sweetheart.

Out of ways to call you dead, I decide to call you busy,
call you at midnight from West Oakland.

These days I raise a glass to make sure it’s empty.
Even when I was a drunk, I thought champagne was pointless.

In my two-story civility, I stick my head out
each window & scream. S’cuse me, s’cuse me,

I’m trying to remember a story about gold,
about a giant falling from the sky.

Someone once asked who I prayed to.
I said a boy with a missing front tooth.

In this order, I ask, first, for water,
which might mean mercy,

which might mean swing by in an hour
& I’ll tell you the rest.

If you were here we’d dance, I think.
If you were here, you’d know what to do

what to do with all this time

Copyright © 2021 by Hieu Minh Nguyen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 4, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

My family never stopped migrating. We fight
so hard. With each other and ourselves. Don’t
talk about that. Not now. There is never
a good time and I learn that songs are the only
moments that last forever. But my mother
always brings me the instant coffee my
dede drank before he died. She wraps it
so carefully in a plastic bag from the market
that we go to when Caddebostan feels unreachable.
We don’t talk about that. Or the grief.
Or my short hair. I want to know what
dede would have said. I want to know that he
can feel the warm wind too if he tried.
We fight so hard. We open the tops of
each other’s heads and watch the birds
fly out. We still don’t talk about my dede.

Copyright © 2021 by beyza ozer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 6, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

basma & rudy were first         each holding
            a mirror in her arms    where i could see
my face as their faces             & we pierced

our noses & wore gamar boba
            in our ears & everyone at the party
thought them hoop earrings   & in the new york years

i crowd smoky bars alongside ladin
            & shadin & majid & linda & nedal   
atheel & amir & elkhair     & mo & mohammed & mo

& we are forever removing our shoes in each other’s
            apartments     ashing cigarettes
into the incense burner           making tea

with the good dried mint our mothers taught us
            to keep in the freezer              next to the chili
powder from home     making songs & dinner

& jokes in our parents’ accents     & i am funniest
            when i have two languages to cocktail            
when i can say remember & everyone was there             

the rented room at the middle school on sundays
            where our parents volunteered to teach us arabic 
to watch us bleat         alef baa taa thaa        & text

our american boyfriends that we were bored               
            & at restaurants everyone asks if we are related
& we say yes  we do not date because we are probably

cousins            we throw rent parties & project the video
            where albabil sing gitar alshoug & i am not
the only one crying     not the only one made & remade

by longing       the mutation that arabic makes of my english     
            metallic noises the english makes in my arabic 
we ululate at each other’s weddings   we ululate at the club          

& sarah & hana make the mulah vegan          & in english safia
            spells her name like mine but pronounces it
like purified    sews a patch of garmasees

to the back of my denim jacket          we wash our underwear
            in the sink & make group texts on whatsapp        
we go home & take pictures of the pyramids              

we go home & take pictures of the nile          we move
            to other cities & feel doubly diasporic            
& your cousin’s coworker’s little sister emails me

a list of bigalas in oakland      brings me crates
            of canned fava beans from her own parents’
basement         & i say sudanese-american & mean also

british sudanese          & canadian & australian & raised
            in the gulf        azza & yousra & amani & yassmin 
& it’s true that my people are everywhere    

the uncles driving taxis at the end of our nights               
            the pharmacist who fills my prescription
who is named for the mole denoting beauty  

adorning her left cheek           guardian spirits of my every
            hookah bar        of my every untagged photograph     
of crop tops & short shorts    & pierced cartilage & tattoos

of henna & headscarves & undercuts & shaved heads
            my tapestries               embroidered with hundreds
of little mirrors            glinting like sequins in the changing light

Copyright © 2021 by Safia Elhillo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 7, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.