we won’t tell you where it lies, as in time
we might need the minor intimacy
of that secret. just creatures, heavy with hope
& begging against the grave song inside
our living, we have agreed his death is
the one cold chord we refuse to endure

from the sorry endlessness of the blues.
& if ever we fail to bear the rate at which
we feel the world pining for the body
of our boy, we can conjure that mole—the small
brown presence of it tucked where only tenderness
would think to look—& recall when it seemed

nothing about our child could drift beyond
the terrible certainty of love’s reach.

Copyright © 2019 by Geffrey Davis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 26, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Before you kissed me only winds of heaven
Had kissed me, and the tenderness of rain—
Now you have come, how can I care for kisses
Like theirs again?

I sought the sea, she sent her winds to meet me,
They surged about me singing of the south—
I turned my head away to keep still holy
Your kiss upon my mouth.

And swift sweet rains of shining April weather
Found not my lips where living kisses are;
I bowed my head lest they put out my glory
As rain puts out a star.

I am my love's and he is mine forever,
Sealed with a seal and safe forevermore—
Think you that I could let a beggar enter
Where a king stood before?

This poem is in the public domain.

                                     for Yehuda Amichai

You threw off your exile
by clothing yourself in praise,
Yehuda, saying, my nation
is alive, Amichai, in me,

inhabiting your own body, 
your mother-beloved skin.
I’m hairy like you, and afraid,
like you, I’m half-animal

and half-angel, uncertain 
where my tenderness ends
and cruelty begins. We
did what we had to do,

you wrote, which in translation
reads:                                    .
Yehuda, I want your clarity—
to love you, not close the gates

of my heart like a nation
trying to make itself a home
but winding up with a state. 
Psalmist, you spoke so tenderly

of peace, but the war persists. 
All I have for you is this poem:
a man photographs the sudden
undulating hills. Behind him, 

a woman he loves now dreams
that their bed’s legs grow roots
beneath, overnight, and spreads
a canopy of branches that shoot

pink blooms open and open,
now green with shushing leaves 
that shelter and shadow the rucked
bedsheets, the branches burdened

with red apples, apples like eyes
ready to be praised
                                      and plucked.  

 

Copyright © 2019 by Philip Metres. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 28, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Everyone’s so quick to blame my
tenderness. My wound opening like a mouth
to kiss an arrow’s steel beak.

A beautiful man, now, plants his face
in Trojan sand while I tell
the secrets of his body—

make the ground red with truth.
Red with the death of Achilles, felled
by an arrow’s bite when nothing—

nothing—could puncture his Kevlar skin.
Everyone skips ahead to the moral: don’t
be a heel. For just one day I felt

sun where the chafing bonds of sandal
should have been. Without me, he’d be
just more fodder for the cannon.

I made him a hero, Troy’s poster
boy. Everyone forgets I was part of him,
I needed him—that even as he died,

I tasted each pulse—
that I could not hold back its rush of red
birds or the season to which they flew.

Copyright © 2013 by Charles Jensen. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on June 13, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.