She wears, my beloved, a rose upon her head.
Walk softly angels, lest your gentle tread
Awake her to the turmoil and the strife,
The dissonance and hates called life.

She sleeps, my beloved, a rose upon her head.
Who says she will not hear, that she is dead?
The rose will fade and lose its lovely hue,
But not, my beloved, will fading wither you.

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. 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.

I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn't,
So I jumped in and sank.

I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn't a-been so cold
I might've sunk and died.

     But it was      Cold in that water!      It was cold!

I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
And thought I would jump down.

I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn't a-been so high
I might've jumped and died.

     But it was      High up there!      It was high!

So since I'm still here livin',
I guess I will live on.
I could've died for love—
But for livin' I was born

Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry—
I'll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.

     Life is fine!      Fine as wine!      Life is fine!

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

She kneeled before me begging
    That I should with a prayer
Give her absolution
    (How golden was her hair!)

She begged an absolution
    While the moments fled
She thought my tears were pity
    (My soul her lips were red!)

She begged of me forgiveness
    God you understand
(For pale and soft and slender
    Was her dainty hand!)

She begged that I should pray You
    That her Soul might rest
But I could not pray O Master
    (Ivory was her breast!)

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.


                                               moon   —



This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 4, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

All the time they were praying
He watched the shadow of a tree
Flicker on the wall.

There is no need of prayer,
He said,
No need at all.

The kin-folk thought it strange
That he should ask them from a dying bed.
But they left all in a row
And it seemed to ease him
To see them go.

There were some who kept on praying
In a room across the hall
And some who listened to the breeze
That made the shadows waver
On the wall.

He tried his nerve
On a song he knew
And made an empty note
That might have come,
From a bird’s harsh throat.

And all the time it worried him
That they were in there praying
And all the time he wondered
What it was they could be saying.

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

The psychotherapist has a sad dove 
dying in his eye. He looks at the light
like wood holding fire in it
reflected in small caves 
and tells me there is a window where love weeps
over what it cannot know. The dove's

trembling, flickering like a sun alone
in the dark nest of his face, and the psychotherapist 
is saying, there is nothing like losing your Self
for a Demon. We walk in to each other 
as into a museum, and our portraits gleam. This sounds
like he's saying our deaths are old, they
may not even belong to us. In the end, our meeting
is just the fantasy

we've been looking for all along. Yes,
Yes, I say, I've come here to burn for you 
all my illusions. Yes, I say, I can see
you for who you are like I can see
the mother huddling her chicks in the sea cliff
in your inkblot, before she pecks their eyes large 
as blood grapes and eats them 
alive, the storm 

clouds rupturing that purple 
slag of lightning. What I want is to hold you
like a bell holds space 
between the hours. What I want is to get back
one with the other, self 
with dove, desire with the storm

inside that destroys
absence like a murderous blood. What I want
is a therapy like a first love—merciless 
fascination—my eyes looking in 
like the crazed bells of silence
to startle the mortal 
coil. This 
romance of self

you can't escape, and you don't want to.

Copyright © 2011 by Miguel Murphy. Used with permission of the author.

The music on TV turned gloomy. Sharks,
she said, and sure enough. A blunt snout,
jumbled cemetery of teeth, and quick black
depthless eye thrashed the screen. Coffee
and oranges made the morning acidic.
She said, the cello is the instrument
of the inevitable. White clouds
of jasmine devoured a trellis. He said,
no, the cello is an instrument of caution.
And with that they splashed overboard into
the swells and chop and chum and his lust
for control took dominion everywhere,
like a shark, like he fucked, always either
much too much or nothing at all. He said
he'd make her a deal. If she could face
the mirror a hundred mornings straight and
say out loud she wanted one and mean it
she could have a child. That wasn't bad
enough. Six days later he came off in her
without a condom. And wanted to hug
and cry about it. Brought a warm washcloth.
Said she'd misunderstood. Was this
fate or warning? Punishment or praise?
She didn't even ask; she understood
he didn't understand the difference.
She idled in the Rite Aid parking lot,
adding the omen of the stiff kitten
near the dumpster to the omen of the goth girl
flashing past on her skateboard with a bright
pink bubble perched in her mouth. Called it
a draw. Tore up the prescription and drove
home to coffee, oranges, the inevitable
cello. A hundred mornings and no telling
on which the shark will or won't rip
her open, turn the bitter pith and grounds
of her insides out. The music might warn her
but the shark never will. She's gone. She's here.

"Coffee and Oranges" from And So © by Joel Brouwer, 2009. Reprinted with permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.

I hear you
Outside my winter studio
Moaning in the alley below my bedroom window
Calling for god the machine of all magics
All spells written on our bodies
All the right incense of rank summer
The flowers breaking through the confusion

You speak for all of us
By that I mean me
You speak for me myself and I
This morning tomorrow’s and
My midnight always now, moan for me
I moan full bridge
Field of lavender
The bridge to Olosega
White sand road and men’s voices
Beneath the road flows the sea between two islands
Lavender stream
The spirits of the sea
My lovers

Copyright © 2022 by Dan Taulapapa McMullin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 24, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

The Hello Kitty piñata’s head
swings from the pepper tree—
a sweet decapitation. Glitter
across the rental table & pink
paper flowers wilt in the succulents.
This is the stale beer & cigarettes
of seven-year-olds. “My fluffy puppy
is so soft” still means “my fluffy
puppy is so soft.” I’m seducing
my wife the way good men
of my generation do, by rinsing
blue & red sticky plates & taking out
heavy cake trash. I’m celebrating
their lack of cool. No fights
over girls or boys to save face,
just face paint, just little
leopards everywhere.

Copyright © 2018 Noah Blaustein. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2018.