the beauty of jazz & blues voices,
syncopation of syllables flowing
free form through improvising sentences
sluicing, embracing, metaphors glowing
eyes in the dark are words imitating
fireflies pulsating bright in a black sky
are gleaming eyes of a prowling black panther
suddenly clicking on bright as flashlight beams
under moon rays probing hidden places
isolated mysterious somewhere
deep in a buzzing alive countryside

Copyright © 2021 by Quincy Troupe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 23, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Work out. Ten laps.
Chin ups. Look good.

Steam room. Dress warm.
Call home. Fresh air.

Eat right. Rest well.
Sweetheart. Safe sex.

Sore throat. Long flu.
Hard nodes. Beware.

Test blood. Count cells.
Reds thin. Whites low.

Dress warm. Eat well.
Short breath. Fatigue.

Night sweats. Dry cough.
Loose stools. Weight loss.

Get mad. Fight back.
Call home. Rest well.

Don’t cry. Take charge.
No sex. Eat right.

Call home. Talk slow.
Chin up. No air.

Arms wide. Nodes hard.
Cough dry. Hold on.

Mouth wide. Drink this.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

No air. Breathe in.
Breathe in. No air.

Black out. White rooms.
Head hot. Feet cold.

No work. Eat right.
CAT scan. Chin up.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
No air. No air.

Thin blood. Sore lungs.
Mouth dry. Mind gone.

Six months? Three weeks?
Can’t eat. No air.

Today? Tonight?
It waits. For me.

Sweet heart. Don’t stop.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

"Heartbeats" from Love's Instruments (Tia Chucha Press, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Melvin Dixon. Used with the permission of the Estate of Melvin Dixon.

A ruby crocus near the porch sends up
hope—winter of sorrow is waning
the dire moon of almost-spring rises
full with promise of renewal,
shaming twinkling city lights in its splendor.

I search for my faith, wonder where
I lost it, find it in deep cinnamon
mud smushing up between my toes.
Across a spent field, a lake in shadow
serenades curvature of earth.
As if on cue, a comet streaks
across somber roiling river of sky.

Originally published in Oklahoma Humanities Magazine. Copyright © 2017 by Jeanetta Calhoun Mish. Used with the permission of the author. 

translated by Pierre Joris

The bright
stones pass through the air, the bright-
white, the light-
bringers

They don’t
want to come down, nor fall,
nor hit. They open
up
like humble
dog roses, that’s how they open,
they float
toward you, my quiet one,
you, my true one—:

I see you, you gather them with my
new, my
everyman’s hands, you put them
into the Bright-Again no one
has to weep for or name.

 


Die Hellen Steine

Die hellen
Steine gehn durch die Luft, die hell-
weißen, die Licht-
bringer.

Sie wollen
nicht niedergehen, nicht stürzen,
nicht treffen. Sie gehen
auf,
wie die geringen
Heckenrosen, so tun sie sich auf,
sie schweben
dir zu, du meine Leise,
du meine Wahre—:

ich seh dich, du pflückst sie mit meinen
neuen, meinen
Jedermannshänden, du tust sie
ins Abermals-Helle, das niemand
zu weinen braucht noch zu nennen.

Copyright © 2020 by Pierre Joris. From Memory Rose into Threshold Speech: The Collected Earlier Poetry (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2020) by Paul Celan, translated by Pierre Joris. Used with the permission of the translator.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

This poem is in the public domain.

Not the bottle
Not the burn on the lips
lit throat glow
Not even wild     really
but a small-town bird
whose burgundy throat
shimmers like nothing ever
A huge bird    impressive
who lurches and stalks me
window to window in this
desert retreat
What does he want?
Clearly he is lonely
pecks his reflection
and speaks to it in a low gubble
(not gobble) gubbles so tenderly
Soon as I think of him     his eye hits on me
We have watched each other for days
His shifting colors fascinate me  his territorial strut
But it is his bald and blue-red head
his old man habits and gait that move me
If I even think of him        I taste whiskey
Drunk on solitude    I’d talk to anybody
I try his language on my lips
His keen response burns     like shame

Copyright © 2020 Heid E. Erdrich. This poem originally appeared in Arkansas International. Used with permission of the poet.

stdnt sks                  
             hw s th flyng thng splld?

 

tchr sys        
             ll th sft lttrs hv blwn ff
             spll brd
                                                                            lk         brd

 

tchr tlls stry
                        frst mnfst dstny
                        th bffl wr hntd nd skltns stckd
                        th ntv ppl wr pshd n slghtrd
                      
             tk wht th y cn s

             thn crps plntd nd plntd nd plntd nd plntd
             thn dry nd ht nd dry nd cld nd dry nd ht
                        thn rbbts nd rbbts nd rbbts
                        thn mn clbbd ll th rbbts
             pld nd lghd
                        vrythng brnd
                        ll th ppl thrstd nd th lnd crckd
                        brd jst lft bfr snrs nd snst
                        brd dsspprd
                        thn nsts mpty
           

stdnt sks       
             wht hppnd t brd?

 

tchr sys         
             brd sys n brnchs t prch nd crps cllps nd hrvsts nd n wrms s hngry
                      
             brd sys           spk sky                        spk
                                                                                                 drk spk                      
             ll thngs trnd psdwn
                       
                                                                           thn blw wy
                      
             nd trnds nd hrrcns nd wrs nd dss
             nd nthng lvng


stdnt sks       
             dd brd knw?

 

tchr nswrs    
             brd knw          trd t spk
                                      thrt splt

             brd ndd wtr

 

stdnt sys       
             whts wtr?

Copyright © 2020 by Anthony Cody. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 2, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

                  I snap the twig to try to trap
the springing and I relearn the same lesson.
You cannot make a keepsake of this season. 
Your heart’s not the source of that sort of sap,
lacks what it takes to fuel, rejects the graft,
though for a moment it’s your guilty fist 
that’s flowering. You’re no good host to this
extremity that points now, broken, back at
the dirt as if to ask are we there yet.
You flatter this small turn tip of a larger 
book of matches that can’t refuse its end,
re-fuse itself, un-flare. Sure. Now forget
again. Here’s a new green vein, another
clutch to take, give, a handful of seconds.

Copyright © 2010 by Dora Malech. Used with permission of the author.

Four tickets left, I let her go—
Firstborn into a hurricane.

I thought she escaped
The floodwaters. No—but her

Head is empty of the drowned
For now—though she took

Her first breath below sea level.
Ahhh       awe       &       aw
Mama, let me go—she speaks

What every smart child knows—
To get grown you unlatch

Your hands from the grown
& up & up & up & up
She turns—latched in the seat

Of a hurricane. You let
Your girl what? You let

Your girl what?
I did so she do I did
so she do so—

Girl, you can ride
A hurricane & she do
& she do & she do & she do

She do make my river
An ocean. Memorial,
Baptist, Protestant birth—my girl

Walked away from a hurricane.
& she do & she do & she do & she do
She do take my hand a while longer.

The haunts in my pocket
I’ll keep to a hum: Katrina was
a woman I knew. When you were

an infant she rained on you & she

do & she do & she do & she do

From Hemming the Water. Copyright © 2013 by Yona Harvey. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Four Way Books, www.fourwaybooks.com.

I hesitate invoking that
my daughter's mouth
not her first vanity
she tastes & smoothes
her chin this way & that,
bones replacing the fallen. 
it repairs itself: two
   forming new words:
      brushing past


What is the tongue-
between trauma &
Incident &


Think


There is so much to fear.


& now my second-born,


brush, he says,



doubled emptiness: open—
in the bathroom mirror—
but first blook inkling
with her tongue. She turns
anticipating her future: new
If the body survives,
pillars—wider, stronger
   adolescent declarations
      seasoned gums


span
terror?
accident?


on these things.


How will we fear it all?


my son:          If I don't


a disease will attack my gums.
 

 

From Hemming the Water. Copyright © 2013 by Yona Harvey. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Four Way Books, www.fourwaybooks.com.

I am Ebenezer Bleezer,
I run BLEEZER’S ICE CREAM STORE,
there are flavors in my freezer
you have never seen before,
twenty-eight divine creations
too delicious to resist,
why not do yourself a favor,
try the flavors on my list:

COCOA MOCHA MACARONI
TAPIOCA SMOKED BALONEY
CHECKERBERRY CHEDDAR CHEW
CHICKEN CHERRY HONEYDEW
TUTTI-FRUTTI STEWED TOMATO
TUNA TACO BAKED POTATO
LOBSTER LITCHI LIMA BEAN
MOZZARELLA MANGOSTEEN
ALMOND HAM MERINGUE SALAMI
YAM ANCHOVY PRUNE PASTRAMI
SASSAFRAS SOUVLAKI HASH
SUKIYAKI SUCCOTASH
BUTTER BRICKLE PEPPER PICKLE
POMEGRANATE PUMPERNICKEL
PEACH PIMENTO PIZZA PLUM
PEANUT PUMPKIN BUBBLEGUM
BROCCOLI BANANA BLUSTER
CHOCOLATE CHOP SUEY CLUSTER
AVOCADO BRUSSELS SPROUT
PERIWINKLE SAUERKRAUT
COTTON CANDY CARROT CUSTARD
CAULIFLOWER COLA MUSTARD
ONION DUMPLING DOUBLE DIP
TURNIP TRUFFLE TRIPLE FLIP
GARLIC GUMBO GRAVY GUAVA
LENTIL LEMON LIVER LAVA
ORANGE OLIVE BAGEL BEET
WATERMELON WAFFLE WHEAT

I am Ebenezer Bleezer,
I run BLEEZER’S ICE CREAM STORE,
taste a flavor from my freezer,
you will surely ask for more.

From The New Kid on the Block, published by Greenwillow, 1984. Used with permission.

The westerly wind blows across a patch of desert outside my apartment window facing north: the Deutschland Radio, the ever-spinning ring of Mercedes Benz, and the metal fences set up for the construction of new housing. Only the fences remind me of home—the endless barbed wire across the waist of a nation. A cooler temperature expected this morning before the heat wave arrives in a day. On 28.6.1950, in Seoul, three days after the war had begun, my father washed his face and looked up at the stars on a clear night, then decided to head out to the city center. The photos of the war had yet to appear in the nation’s newspapers. No one was on the road. The East Gate was still standing, but the police station was empty. The tracks shone under the stars but there were no trams to be seen. I merely merrily washed my face and looked out to the ring of Benz lit at dawn, and finally caught a strand of remote signal from my father. V6. V frequently stands for violence and virtue. An understatement, perhaps. I didn’t know what to make of 6, except that 6 persists as June, and that it comes after number five, which has been discreetly established as 5=O in a glossary of translingual puns. As my father did seventy years ago to his unborn daughter, I channeled onto the most remote canyons of the desert—Are you OK, ROK? I’m childless, so I have no choice but to channel onto the desert of memory.

In my future city of two Koreas, I began reliving the acute feelings of separation from home. I would shake them off by midmorning, by pacing in my spacious apartment, then they’d return again the following day. The incessant chirping of the sparrows perched on tall birch trees outside my balcony only heightened my grief. This inexplicable ailment, which began in Hong Kong when we left South Korea during the dictatorship, had magnified over the years, then it had somewhat subsided as I settled, often numbing myself with work involving translation after translation. The unexpected return of my childhood grief prompted me to search for the remote waves of my father, my other universe. The ring of Benz was a radar of some sort. Like a compass, it operated magnetically and, not surprisingly, it also had tremendous capacity for sonic sensitivity. It didn’t take me long to detect the exact location. I spotted my father on a bridge, once again. This time he was standing on Glienicker Brücke, between Berlin and Potsdam. The fate of Korea’s waist was decided at the 1945 Potsdam Convention, by Churchill, Stalin, and Truman. From where I stand, facing north, the geopolitics of division have long been eroded by incessant wind, vanished or buried beneath the sand. Korea’s waist remains fatefully inconsequential. My father waved to me across a vast distance, from his present dimension: We are still not OK!

Copyright © 2021 by Don Mee Choi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 18, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.