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.

Heart free, hand free,
    Blue above, brown under,
All the world to me
    Is a place of wonder.
Sun shine, moon shine,
    Stars, and winds a-blowing.
All into this heart of mine
    Flowing, flowing, flowing!

Mind free, step free,
    Days to follow after,
Joys of life sold to me
    For the price of laughter.
Girl’s love, man’s love,
    Love of work and duty,
Just a will of God’s to prove
    Beauty, beauty, beauty!

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.

I kissed a kiss in youth
   Upon a dead man’s brow;
And that was long ago,—
   And I’m a grown man now,
 
It’s lain there in the dust,
   Thirty years and more;—
My lips that set a light
   At a dead man’s door.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 15, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

This morning I didn’t even honi you when I came in.
I just walked right by your shallow breath,
your eyes shut in the living room, and that bed
stuffed with pulu. And all the blurred words
projecting onto the backs of your eyelids.

Ke alanui maʻawe ‘ula a Kanaloa…

I organize your prescription bottles like kiʻi
along the edges of the kitchen heiau
and try to remember how long it’s been
since you strung a sentence together
and draped it over my shoulders.

I grew up mountain view and I can always see
mauna kea and mauna loa same time

In the afternoon I thicken your drinking water,
obsessing on what you’ll want for the road, and pack
some paʻi ʻai a me ka iʻa. Bundled guesswork
disguised as intention once the oceans open up.
I keep a version of you in my pocket that asks,

Maybe this red road is not mine, but ours, Boy?
So make some food for you, too.

In the evening I sit you up and our eyes trace the octopus’s
footprints moonlit in the yard grass. You smile
and gulp the thick water, and I keep obsessing
about which muʻumuʻu you’ll want to wear in the waʻa.

Copyright © 2022 by Donovan Kūhiō Colleps. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 18, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

The shadow of thy curls I see
      Upon thy lovely face;
And just a little wish is mine—
      The shadow to embrace.

On thy black and silken tresses,
      Ah, one longs to feast the sight;
But the shadows of their beauty,
      Hanging on thy cheeks of light,

From my lips, exact a tribute,
      Which I pay here in this meadow:
Blush not, my most winsome maiden;
      I have only kissed the shadow.

From Myrtle and Myrrh (The Gorham Press, 1905) by Ameen Rihani. This poem is in the public domain.

At night on the radiant Rialto
   By the stars in their houses of glass,
I strolled with my soul in my pocket
   And prayed that my night might not pass; 
I have seen 'neath the high heels of Beauty
   My heart and my soul and my shame; 
That form! O, how often it lured me, 
   And how often I lost in the game! 

And how often I walked in the shadow 
   Of a Laila a mile and a mile! 
But the rapture and bliss of a vision
   Would end in a great gush of bile. 
To the hints that her garment would whisper 
    I have listened but I would not dare; 
I have seen every one of my fancies 
   Retreat in the dark of her hair. 

I have wished that each building around us 
   Was a cedar, a poplar, a pine; 
That the men and the women were statues, 
   And the rain that was falling was wine; 
That the lights were ethereal flowers; 
   That the cars were the nooks in the wood,—

"O, enough!" she exclaimed as she kissed me, 
    "This attic and couch are as good." 

From Myrtle and Myrrh (The Gorham Press, 1905) by Ameen Rihani. This poem is in the public domain.

At night on the radiant Rialto
   By the stars in their houses of glass,
I strolled with my soul in my pocket
   And prayed that my night might not pass; 
I have seen 'neath the high heels of Beauty
   My heart and my soul and my shame; 
That form! O, how often it lured me, 
   And how often I lost in the game! 

And how often I walked in the shadow 
   Of a Laila a mile and a mile! 
But the rapture and bliss of a vision
   Would end in a great gush of bile. 
To the hints that her garment would whisper 
    I have listened but I would not dare; 
I have seen every one of my fancies 
   Retreat in the dark of her hair. 

I have wished that each building around us 
   Was a cedar, a poplar, a pine; 
That the men and the women were statues, 
   And the rain that was falling was wine; 
That the lights were ethereal flowers; 
   That the cars were the nooks in the wood,—

"O, enough!" she exclaimed as she kissed me, 
    "This attic and couch are as good." 

From Myrtle and Myrrh (The Gorham Press, 1905) by Ameen Rihani. This poem is in the public domain.

NO more my little song comes back;
       And now of nights I lay
My head on down, to watch the black
     And wait the unfailing gray.

Oh, sad are winter nights, and slow;
     And sad’s a song that’s dumb
And sad it is to lie and know
     Another dawn will come.

From Enough Rope (Boni & Liveright, 1926) by Dorothy Parker. This poem is in the public domain.

When the spring boughs were told
Soon the rose will unfold
    Herself in the bower
           Of which she is queen,
Their blossoms, beguiling
The sad leaves, said smiling :
    “No slaves to a flower
        Have we ever been.”

Our lords are the birds.
And they love not in words ;
    They sing when we smile
           And sob when we fall ;
Her lord is the liar
The thief or the buyer—
    Who smells her the while
           She lives, and that’s all.

From Myrtle and Myrrh (The Gorham Press, 1905) by Ameen Rihani. This poem is in the public domain.