I like the lady horses best,
how they make it all look easy,
like running 40 miles per hour
is as fun as taking a nap, or grass.
I like their lady horse swagger,
after winning. Ears up, girls, ears up!
But mainly, let's be honest, I like
that they're ladies. As if this big
dangerous animal is also a part of me,
that somewhere inside the delicate
skin of my body, there pumps
an 8-pound female horse heart,
giant with power, heavy with blood.
Don't you want to believe it?
Don't you want to lift my shirt and see
the huge beating genius machine
that thinks, no, it knows,
it's going to come in first.
From Bright Dead Things (Milkweed Editions, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Ada Limón. Used with permission from Milkweed Editions, milkweed.org.
—Poetry was an Olympic event from 1912-1948.
Think of the records you have held:
For one second, you were the world’s youngest person.
It was a long time ago, but still.
At this moment, you are living
In the farthest thousandth-of-a-second in the history of time.
You have beaten yesterday’s record, again.
You were perhaps the only participant,
But in the race to get from your bedroom to the bathroom,
You win so much, all the time in all things.
Your heart simply beats and beats and beats—
It does not lose, although perhaps one day.
Nevertheless, the lists of firsts for you is endless—
Doing what you have not done before,
Tasting sake and mole, smelling bergamot, hearing
Less well than you used to—
Not all records are for the scrapbook, of course—
Sometimes you are the best at being the worst.
Some records are secret—you know which ones.
Some records you’re not even aware of.
In general, however, at the end of a long day, you are—
Unlikely as it may seem—the record holder of note.
Copyright © 2021 Alberto Ríos. Originally published in the newsletter for the Academy of American Poets on July 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets. Published by permission of the poet.
after Tyehimba Jess Freedom is what you can buy with a left jab & a right cross. You’ve got the uppercut of a champ. On a sweaty August night, you watch Ramos v Ramos from the Olympic on TV. You turn off the blaring AC, want to hear the fighters’ tssiiuu tssiiuu, exhaling as they attempt to break each other’s skin. You’re light on your feet like Mando, got Sugar’s hand speed. Freedom is your girl by your side telling you to fight. She brings your boxing license in a lunch bag while you labor at Lockheed, roots for you in Rocky Lane’s garage on a Sunday as you spar any man who dares. She wipes your burning face with a cool towel, the sinewed shape of your body surfacing quick after you trade in Budweiser for a jump rope. Freedom is the rattle in your jaw the first time you take a hook to the gut, the way a glove slides across your nose slick with Vaseline as you size up the weary contender, know that look in his eyes that whispers across the canvas between rounds. Finish me already, body shriveling in the corner, you’ve won.
Copyright © 2018 by Eloisa Amezcua. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Into the air like dandelion seed
Or like the spiral of lark into the light
Or fountain into sun. All former sight
From hill or mountain was a mere hint of this.
We gain a new dimension. What had been
Our prison, where we crawled and clung like ants,
We spurn, and vision lying far beneath us.
O naked shape of earth! What green mammelles,
Arteries of gold and silver, turquoise flanks,
Plush jungles now are patterned! As we bank,
The earth tilts; we are level and aloof,
And it spins on and on among the stars.
We poise in air, hang motionless, and see
The planet turns with slow grace of a dancer.
From Roses and Revolutions: The Selected Writings of Dudley Randall, edited by Melba Joyce Boyd © 2009 by Dudley Randall. Reprinted with permission of the editor.