Drop fire from the sky but don’t name me
as reason. My sister is lost on the longest lit road
in the world. She wanders into shoe stores
the hour before close and chews the stock
back to rawhide. My father’s workshop tools
have broken into open rebellion—he worked
and worked them to the bone. Any second now
the circular saw will churn through the basement door
and into the kitchen, gnawing the floor to spit
and sawdust. Out West my cousin has soldered
the mirrored lenses of police-issue sunglasses
over his ocular cavities. All he sees is wrong.
Alert the Department of the Interior: our enemies
are inside the fence. Drop fire from the sky
but don’t expect it to purify their hate.
Or, if it does, it’ll burn me clean with the rest.
Here’s my hope for salvation: when the stranger
comes knocking, open my arms wide with the door
and give him whatever he takes.
Copyright © 2017 by Iain Haley Pollock. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 3, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
for Colin Channer
For these cramped fragments of Thomas,
stir: ‘I had never loved England,’ and stir:
‘I had loved it foolishly,’ stir, transmuted:
‘like a slave, not having realized it was not mine.’
Ah, there, saint, captive, the sentinel is at the door,
beating upon the bulwark of its silence.
I, a late remnant in that still, unceasing circuit
scaling down the dock, I am a mystery among faces, know
injustice and illusion, and laughter
that is silver lashing, lashing the hummingbird
in the breeze. I know something drastic is
waiting release, some instrument to measure,
in one stroke, paradise, and when it strikes again,
emptiness, the city gripped with emptiness.
It is happening, right here, as you see, in syntax;
my circadian fortress is pitching me. Rocksteady.
And because our enmity is strong and our love
is strong, they bring us together, divided:
fire into fire: first, sea; and of sea, cane;
the lasting enmity, faithless and haunting.
The mass and strength of our love, the blades
of our imagined empathy, our compassion,
crossed from an abridged womb, the sea;
wind lifts the balance sheets of the dead, unbalanced;
names are fluttering against the divided sun.
I look up on what’s mine and not, nettled
first in literature, now drained to a grey core:
‘the worlds whole sap is sunke,’ utterly dry.
Progress at rest, resting of a vacant peace,
after four centuries, laden with perish
and gain. Everywhere touched by the rain,
ending, a ‘work that’s finished to our hands.’ Rocksteady.
Copyright © 2017 by Ishion Hutchinson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 2, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
My father’s mother grew a garden of zinnias
to divide the house from the woods:
pop art tops in every color—cream,
peach, royal purple, and even envy
(white-green, I knew, and when the pale
petals opened in early August,
I thought they’d blush like an heirloom
tomato, heir-loom, how strings of wine-dyed
wool lay over the frame of an idea,
how my cheeks look in the mirror
after a run, always the wrong
time of day, thunder rolling around the stadium
of trees, or the sun striking the boughs
with light over and over as though to plead
the green right out of the leaves,
or so it seems to me,
too sensitive, she would say, her love
scientific)—the sunburst petals
a full spectrum except for the sea
returning to you, blue, blue,
the color appearing in language only
when we could know it like a cluster of stars
in the arms of another galaxy
while ours spirals around a black hole,
and now they grow in space, in the satellite
where we live out an idea of permanence
among galactic debris, acquiring stars,
losing vision, the skin touching nothing,
the heads little suns you watch die
on the stem if you want the bloom back.
Copyright © 2017 by Tyler Mills. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 1, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
the sap that I am springtime
makes me want to reread Virgil’s
Georgics while eating cacio
e pepe with fresh-shelled
peas this morning over coffee I
watched a video of spinach
leaves washed of their cellular
information and bathed in stem
cells until they became miniature
hearts vascular hopes capable
of want to roll down a hill
of clover to cold-spoon chrysanthemum
gelato or to stop whenever
their phones autocorrect gps
to god the sublime is a suspension
of disbelief the earth has gotten
sentimental this late in the game
with its smells of gasoline
rosemary and woodsmoke the Rorschach
of vitiligo on my eyes mouth
and throat the ongoing
argument between self
and selfhood the recognition
of the storm the howling
wind I wish I could scream
into someone else’s rain
Copyright © 2017 by Emilia Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 31, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
If lilies are lily white if they exhaust noise and distance and even dust, if they dusty will dirt a surface that has no extreme grace, if they do this and it is not necessary it is not at all necessary if they do this they need a catalogue.
This poem is in the public domain.
Where are the loves that we have loved before
When once we are alone, and shut the door?
No matter whose the arms that held me fast,
The arms of Darkness hold me at the last.
No matter down what primrose path I tend,
I kiss the lips of Silence in the end.
No matter on what heart I found delight,
I come again unto the breast of Night.
No matter when or how love did befall,
’Tis Loneliness that loves me best of all,
And in the end she claims me, and I know
That she will stay, though all the rest may go.
No matter whose the eyes that I would keep
Near in the dark, ’tis in the eyes of Sleep
That I must look and look forever more,
When once I am alone, and shut the door.
This poem is in the public domain.
Lord, I ain’t asking to be the Beastmaster
gym-ripped in a jungle loincloth
or a Doctor Dolittle or even the expensive vet
down the street, that stethoscoped redhead,
her diamond ring big as a Cracker Jack toy.
All I want is for you to help me flip
off this lightbox and its scroll of dread, to rip
a tiny tear between this world and that, a slit
in the veil, Lord, one of those old-fashioned peeping
keyholes through which I can press my dumb
lips and speak. If you will, Lord, make me the teeth
hot in the mouth of a raccoon scraping
the junk I scraped from last night’s plates,
make me the blue eye of that young crow cocked to
me—too selfish to even look up from the black
of my damn phone. Oh, forgive me, Lord,
how human I’ve become, busy clicking
what I like, busy pushing
my cuticles back and back to expose
all ten pale, useless moons. Would you let me
tell your creatures how sorry
I am, let them know exactly
what we’ve done? Am I not an animal
too? If so, Lord, make me one again.
Give me back my dirty claws and blood-warm
horns, braid back those long-
frayed endings of every nerve tingling
with all I thought I had to do today.
Fork my tongue, Lord. There is a sorrow on the air
I taste but cannot name. I want to open
my mouth and know the exact
flavor of what’s to come, I want to open
my mouth and sound a language
that calls all language home.
Copyright © 2017 by Nickole Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 28, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
The war ships bobbing off the coast.
The outdated oil drills painted
so to blend into the clouds. The gold thin
stitched to the water’s edge. Errant dolphin.
Balled up piece of trash on PCH with the list: Eggs, whole milk, butterflies.
You cry like a peacock, she says,
every time you get close to being the thing you want to be.
What if God is the people around us:
watching, listening? What a relief that would be.
But it’s so easy to forget we’re not
only being watched by the people in front of us, but
also by the people in places we cannot see. What is it
to be allowed back again? On the bike path, my father
ahead of me, saying, look at the wind,
meaning: look at the thing doing the moving,
moving orange-coned flags holding on for dear life.
The salt rolling off the ocean rots everything in its jowls
& my skin so close to turning, I can feel
becoming the metal shard you will learn to protect yourself from,
capable of catching the light drawing you in.
Everything rusted is a story beginning
once upon a time, I was young, standing in front of the ocean,
beneath the sun without consequence or query
for time, just standing, looking out into the thing
unaware of its indifference. There’s something Greek in that. Did Odysseus need the monsters more
than they needed him? Does it matter? A kind of antiquity
in that line of thinking but also something very American. Akin to sparklers.
They only dance if you light them & wave. Birds do not
abandon their young merely because of human touch.
This & so many other myths my mother breaks
in her search for palatable colors, for mixing,
for making what was lost whole again.
Copyright © 2017 by Keegan Lester. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
One borrows time not to be left out.
Been in the pattern of sun—secure, re-creating.
One needs one thing.
One father is left with new limits, but one
father is left. This repeat is filled with above and below.
(Do you understand that it won't cease?)
Every hour compared to dozens of previous
hours and angers, and the daughters post pictures
of vanishing. Such is a comfort.
One agrees to ask for nothing.
Under time lives silence.
Copyright © 2017 by Lauren Camp. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 26, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
translated by Sarah Arvio
To find a kiss of yours
what would I give
A kiss that strayed from your lips
dead to love
My lips taste
the dirt of shadows
To gaze at your dark eyes
what would I give
Dawns of rainbow garnet
fanning open before God—
The stars blinded them
one morning in May
And to kiss your pure thighs
what would I give
Raw rose crystal
sediment of the sun
[Por encontrar un beso tuyo]
Por encontrar un beso tuyo,
¿qué daría yo?
¡Un beso errante de tu boca
muerta para el amor!
(Tierra de sombra
come mi boca.)
Por contemplar tus ojos negros,
¿qué daría yo?
¡Auroras de carbunclos irisados
abiertas frente a Dios!
(Las estrellas los cegaron
una mañana de mayo.)
Y por besar tus muslos castos,
¿qué daría yo?
(Cristal de rosa primitiva,
sedimento de sol.)
Translation copyright © 2017 by Sarah Arvio. Original text copyright © The Estate of Federico García Lorca. From Poet in Spain (Knopf, 2017). Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
In the thick brush
they spend the hottest part of the day,
soaking their hooves
in the trickle of mountain water
the ravine hoards
on behalf of the oleander.
You slung your gun
across your back in order to heave
a huge grey stone
over the edge, so it rolled, then leaped
and crashed below.
This is what it took to break the shade,
to drive the beast,
not to mention a thrumming of wings
into the sky,
a wild confetti of frantic grouse,
but we had slugs,
not shot, and weren’t after their small meat,
but the huge ram’s,
whose rack you’d seen last spring, and whose stench
now parted air,
that scat-caked, rut-ripe perfume of beast.
Watch now, he runs,
you said, launching another boulder,
then out it sprang
through a gap in some pine, brown and black
with spiraled horns
impossibly agile for its size.
But, yes, he fell
with one shot, already an idea
of meat for fire
by the time we’d scrambled through the scree.
And that was all.
No, you were careful, even tender,
with the knife-work,
slitting the body wide with one stroke
then with your hands
lifting entire the miraculous
liver and heart,
emptying the beast on the mountain.
Later, it rained,
knocking dust off the patio stones.
Small frogs returned
from abroad to sing in the stream beds.
We sat and drank.
The beast talked to its rope in the tree.
And then you spoke:
no more, you said, enough with mourning,
then rose to turn
our guts, already searing on the fire.
Copyright © 2017 by Christopher Bakken. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 19, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Somewhere the long mellow note of the blackbird
Quickens the unclasping hands of hazel,
Somewhere the wind-flowers fling their heads back,
Stirred by an impetuous wind. Some ways’ll
All be sweet with white and blue violet.
(Hush now, hush. Where am I?—Biuret—)
On the green wood's edge a shy girl hovers
From out of the hazel-screen on to the grass,
Where wheeling and screaming the petulant plovers
Wave frighted. Who comes? A labourer, alas!
Oh the sunset swims in her eyes' swift pool.
(Work, work, you fool—!)
Somewhere the lamp hanging low from the ceiling
Lights the soft hair of a girl as she reads,
And the red firelight steadily wheeling
Weaves the hard hands of my friend in sleep.
And the white dog snuffs the warmth, appealing
For the man to heed lest the girl shall weep.
(Tears and dreams for them; for me
Bitter science—the exams. are near.
I wish I bore it more patiently.
I wish you did not wait, my dear,
For me to come: since work I must:
Though it's all the same when we are dead.—
I wish I was only a bust,
This poem is in the public domain.
Good-night, my love, for I have dreamed of thee
In waking dreams, until my soul is lost—
Is lost in passion’s wide and shoreless sea,
Where, like a ship, unruddered, it is tost
Hither and thither at the wild waves’ will.
There is no potent Master’s voice to still
This newer, more tempestuous Galilee!
The stormy petrels of my fancy fly
In warning course across the darkening green,
And, like a frightened bird, my heart doth cry
And seek to find some rock of rest between
The threatening sky and the relentless wave.
It is not length of life that grief doth crave,
But only calm and peace in which to die.
Here let me rest upon this single hope,
For oh, my wings are weary of the wind,
And with its stress no more may strive or cope.
One cry has dulled mine ears, mine eyes are blind,—
Would that o’er all the intervening space,
I might fly forth and see thee face to face.
I fly; I search, but, love, in gloom I grope.
Fly home, far bird, unto thy waiting nest;
Spread thy strong wings above the wind-swept sea.
Beat the grim breeze with thy unruffled breast
Until thou sittest wing to wing with me.
Then, let the past bring up its tales of wrong;
We shall chant low our sweet connubial song,
Till storm and doubt and past no more shall be!
This poem is in the public domain.
The socks came in a pack of five.
What is the most boring subject
possible? Translucent blue
with punctures pierced to shape
a star around the ankle.
I carried them along the aisles
as if I needed them. I fingered
lacquered dishes and the rubber heads
of mallets, crystal trinkets
stitched to underwear.
Wherever you go, this buffering.
A dull hour. All that time
I could have touched you and didn’t
or did absentminded, getting in
or out of bed or trying to reach
something behind you.
I didn’t need anything
I could buy. I bought the socks
and a slatted spoon I haven’t used.
Blue interrupted by the living points
of constellated skin. I’ve been
looking for a long time
at the stretch of table where you had
your hand. I am afraid
to touch it. Love, all I’ve ever
seen is things in airless dense
configuration and no transparency.
Copyright © 2017 by Margaret Ross. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
You remind them
of weighted tumbleweeds,
hen-egg brown. Don’t let
them take the rag-
time beneath your skin.
It stirs earth’s curvature
and a choir
when you enter
or leave a room. Don’t
leave a swallow of juice
or milk in the fridge.
A body grieved
is a whole new body.
Give your shadow a name
big as a star, see
yourself out loud.
Pick wild irises the best gifts
roll under a ribcage, leave
open mouths splendid.
I like your smile unpenned.
Keep your bird-
song close, imagine
an hourglass full
of architects and dreamers,
the first taste of fresh
scooped ice cream.
You will learn to master
camouflage among ordinary things—
men who spill words
not thoughts, trigger fingers
to brand loose.
I love your smile unpenned.
Copyright © 2017 by Cynthia Manick. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 4, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Silence again. The glorious symphony
Hath need of pause and interval of peace.
Some subtle signal bids all sweet sounds cease,
Save hum of insects’ aimless industry.
Pathetic summer seeks by blazonry
Of color to conceal her swift decrease.
Weak subterfuge! Each mocking day doth fleece
A blossom, and lay bare her poverty.
Poor middle-agèd summer! Vain this show!
Whole fields of golden-rod cannot offset
One meadow with a single violet;
And well the singing thrush and lily know,
Spite of all artifice which her regret
Can deck in splendid guise, their time to go!
This poem is in the public domain.
I’m not sure about this gift. This tangle
of dried roots curled into a fist. This gnarl
I’ve let sit for weeks beside the toaster
and cookbooks on a bed of speckled granite.
What am I waiting for? Online I find
Rose of Jericho prayers and rituals for safe birth,
well-being, warding off the evil eye.
At first I thought I’d buy some white stones,
a porcelain bowl. But I didn’t and I didn’t.
I don’t believe in omens. This still fist
of possibility all wrapped up in itself.
There it sat through the holidays, into the New Year.
Through all the days I’ve been gone. Dormant.
But today, in an inch of water,
out of curiosity, I awakened
the soul of Jericho. Limb by limb it unfolded
and turned moss green. It reminded me
of the northwest, its lush undergrowth,
how twice despite the leaden clouds,
the rain, I found happiness there.
From tumbleweed to lush fern flower,
reversible, repeatable. And what am I
to make of this? Me, this woman who doesn’t
believe. Doesn’t take anything on faith. I won’t
let it rot. I’ll monitor the water level. Keep the mold
at bay. I tend things, but I do not pray.
Copyright © 2017 by Cindy Veach. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 8, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
To everything, there is a season of parrots. Instead of feathers, we searched the sky for meteors on our last night. Salamanders use the stars to find their way home. Who knew they could see that far, fix the tiny beads of their eyes on distant arrangements of lights so as to return to wet and wild nests? Our heads tilt up and up and we are careful to never look at each other. You were born on a day of peaches splitting from so much rain and the slick smell of fresh tar and asphalt pushed over a cracked parking lot. You were strong enough—even as a baby—to clutch a fistful of thistle and the sun himself was proud to light up your teeth when they first swelled and pushed up from your gums. And this is how I will always remember you when we are covered up again: by the pale mica flecks on your shoulders. Some thrown there from your own smile. Some from my own teeth. There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night. I want to spread those little meteors on a hunk of still-warm bread this winter. Any trace left on the knife will make a kitchen sink like that evening air
the cool night before
star showers: so sticky so
warm so full of light
Copyright © 2017 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 7, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I do not look for love that is a dream—
I only seek for courage to be still;
To bear my grief with an unbending will,
And when I am a-weary not to seem.
Let the round world roll on; let the sun beam;
Let the wind blow, and let the rivers fill
The everlasting sea, and on the hill
The palms almost touch heaven, as children deem.
And, though young spring and summer pass away,
And autumn and cold winter come again,
And though my soul, being tired of its pain,
Pass from the ancient earth, and though my clay
Return to dust, my tongue shall not complain;—
No man shall mock me after this my day.
This poem is in the public domain.
Copyright © 2017 by Geoffrey G. O'Brien. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 4, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o’er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden Daffodils;
Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:—
A Poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the shew to me had brought:
For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.
This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on October 1, 2017. This poem is in the public domain.
Brightness appears showing us everything
it reveals the splendors it calls everything
but shows it to each of us alone
and only once and only to look at
not to touch or hold in our shadows
what we see is never what we touch
what we take turns out to be something else
what we see that one time departs untouched
while other shadows gather around us
the world’s shadows mingle with our own
we had forgotten them but they know us
they remember us as we always were
they were at home here before the first came
everything will leave us except the shadows
but the shadows carry the whole story
at first daybreak they open their long wings
W. S. Merwin, “The Wings of Daylight” from Garden Time. Copyright © 2016 by W. S. Merwin. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.
Copyright © 2017 by Kevin Carey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Traci Brimhall. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 26, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
out how it began.
Copyright © 2017 by Linda Bierds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
1. O Karma, Dharma, pudding & pie, gimme a break before I die: grant me wisdom, will, & wit, purity, probity, pluck, & grit. Trustworthy, helpful, friendly, kind, gimme great abs and a steel-trap mind. And forgive, Ye Gods, some humble advice - these little blessings would suffice to beget an earthly paradise: make the bad people good and the good people nice, and before our world goes over the brink, teach the believers how to think. 2. O Venus, Cupid, Aphrodite, teach us Thy horsepower lingam, Thy firecracker yoni. Show us Thy hundreds of sacred & tingling positions, each orifice panting for every groping tumescence. O lead us into the back rooms of silky temptation and deliver us over to midnights of trembling desire. But before all the nectar & honey leak out of this planet, give us our passion in marble, commitment in granite. 3. O Shiva, relentless Spirit of Outrage: in this vale of tearful True Believers, teach us to repeat again and again: No, your Reverences, we will not serve your Gross National Voodoo, your Church Militant – we will not flatter the double faces of those who pray in the Temple of Incendiary Salvation. Gentle Preserver, preserve the pure irreverence of our stubborn minds. Target the priests, Implacable Destroyer – and hire a lawyer. 4. O Mammon, Thou who art daily dissed by everyone, yet boast more true disciples than all other gods together, Thou whose eerie sheen gleameth from Corporate Headquarters and Vatican Treasury alike, Thou whose glittering eye impales us in the X-ray vision of plastic surgeons, the golden leer of televangelists, the star-spangled gloat of politicos – O Mammon, come down to us in the form of Treasuries, Annuities, & High-Grade Bonds, yield unto us those Benedict Arnold Funds, those Quicksand Convertible Securities, even the wet Judas Kiss of Futures Contracts – for unto the least of these Thy supplicants art Thou welcome in all Thy many forms. But when Thou comest to say we’re finally in the gentry – use the service entry. 5. O flaky Goddess of Fortune, we beseech Thee: in the random thrust of Thy fluky favor, vector the luminous lasers of Thy shifty eyes down upon these, Thy needy & oh-so-deserving petitioners. Bend down to us the sexy curve of Thine indifferent ear, and hear our passionate invocation: let Thy lovely, lying lips murmur to us the news of all our true-false guesses A-OK, our firm & final offers come up rainbows, our hangnails & hang-ups & hangovers suddenly zapped, and then, O Goddess, give us your slippery word that the faithless Lady Luck will hang around in our faithful love, friendships less fickle than youth, and a steady view of our world in its barefoot truth.
Copyright © 1998 by Philip Appleman. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.
Come, blunt your spear with us,
our pace is hot
and our bare heels
in the heel-prints—
we stand tense—do you see—
are you already beaten
by the chase?
We lead the pace
for the wind on the hills,
the low hill is spattered
with loose earth—
our feet cut into the crust
as with spears.
We climbed the ploughed land,
dragged the seed from the clefts,
broke the clods with our heels,
whirled with a parched cry
into the woods:
Can you come,
can you come,
can you follow the hound trail,
can you trample the hot froth?
Spring up—sway forward—
follow the quickest one,
aye, though you leave the trail
and drop exhausted at our feet.
This poem is in the public domain.
Upon that night, when fairies light
On Cassilis Downans dance,
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly coursers prance;
Or for Colean the route is ta'en,
Beneath the moon's pale beams;
There, up the cove, to stray and rove,
Among the rocks and streams
To sport that night.
Among the bonny winding banks,
Where Doon rins, wimplin' clear,
Where Bruce ance ruled the martial ranks,
And shook his Carrick spear,
Some merry, friendly, country-folks,
Together did convene,
To burn their nits, and pou their stocks,
And haud their Halloween
Fu' blithe that night.
The lasses feat, and cleanly neat,
Mair braw than when they're fine;
Their faces blithe, fu' sweetly kythe,
Hearts leal, and warm, and kin';
The lads sae trig, wi' wooer-babs,
Weel knotted on their garten,
Some unco blate, and some wi' gabs,
Gar lasses' hearts gang startin'
Whiles fast at night.
Then, first and foremost, through the kail,
Their stocks maun a' be sought ance;
They steek their een, and graip and wale,
For muckle anes and straught anes.
Poor hav'rel Will fell aff the drift,
And wander'd through the bow-kail,
And pou't, for want o' better shift,
A runt was like a sow-tail,
Sae bow't that night.
Then, staught or crooked, yird or nane,
They roar and cry a' throu'ther;
The very wee things, todlin', rin,
Wi' stocks out owre their shouther;
And gif the custoc's sweet or sour.
Wi' joctelegs they taste them;
Syne cozily, aboon the door,
Wi cannie care, they've placed them
To lie that night.
The lasses staw frae 'mang them a'
To pou their stalks of corn:
But Rab slips out, and jinks about,
Behint the muckle thorn:
He grippet Nelly hard and fast;
Loud skirl'd a' the lasses;
But her tap-pickle maist was lost,
When kitlin' in the fause-house
Wi' him that night.
The auld guidwife's well-hoordit nits,
Are round and round divided,
And monie lads' and lasses' fates
Are there that night decided:
Some kindle coothie, side by side,
And burn thegither trimly;
Some start awa, wi' saucy pride,
And jump out-owre the chimlie
Fu' high that night.
Jean slips in twa wi' tentie ee;
Wha 'twas she wadna tell;
But this is Jock, and this is me,
She says in to hersel:
He bleezed owre her, and she owre him,
As they wad never mair part;
Till, fuff! he started up the lum,
And Jean had e'en a sair heart
To see't that night.
Poor Willie, wi' his bow-kail runt,
Was brunt wi' primsie Mallie;
And Mallie, nae doubt, took the drunt,
To be compared to Willie;
Mall's nit lap out wi' pridefu' fling,
And her ain fit it brunt it;
While Willie lap, and swore by jing,
'Twas just the way he wanted
To be that night.
Nell had the fause-house in her min',
She pits hersel and Rob in;
In loving bleeze they sweetly join,
Till white in ase they're sobbin';
Nell's heart was dancin' at the view,
She whisper'd Rob to leuk for't:
Rob, stowlins, prie'd her bonny mou',
Fu' cozie in the neuk for't,
Unseen that night.
But Merran sat behint their backs,
Her thoughts on Andrew Bell;
She lea'es them gashin' at their cracks,
And slips out by hersel:
She through the yard the nearest taks,
And to the kiln goes then,
And darklins graipit for the bauks,
And in the blue-clue throws then,
Right fear't that night.
And aye she win't, and aye she swat,
I wat she made nae jaukin',
Till something held within the pat,
Guid Lord! but she was quakin'!
But whether 'was the deil himsel,
Or whether 'twas a bauk-en',
Or whether it was Andrew Bell,
She didna wait on talkin'
To spier that night.
Wee Jennie to her grannie says,
"Will ye go wi' me, grannie?
I'll eat the apple at the glass
I gat frae Uncle Johnnie:"
She fuff't her pipe wi' sic a lunt,
In wrath she was sae vap'rin',
She notice't na, an aizle brunt
Her braw new worset apron
Out through that night.
"Ye little skelpie-limmer's face!
I daur you try sic sportin',
As seek the foul thief ony place,
For him to spae your fortune.
Nae doubt but ye may get a sight!
Great cause ye hae to fear it;
For mony a ane has gotten a fright,
And lived and died deleeret
On sic a night.
"Ae hairst afore the Sherramoor, —
I mind't as weel's yestreen,
I was a gilpey then, I'm sure
I wasna past fifteen;
The simmer had been cauld and wat,
And stuff was unco green;
And aye a rantin' kirn we gat,
And just on Halloween
It fell that night.
"Our stibble-rig was Rab M'Graen,
A clever sturdy fallow:
His son gat Eppie Sim wi' wean,
That lived in Achmacalla:
He gat hemp-seed, I mind it weel,
And he made unco light o't;
But mony a day was by himsel,
He was sae sairly frighted
That very night."
Then up gat fechtin' Jamie Fleck,
And he swore by his conscience,
That he could saw hemp-seed a peck;
For it was a' but nonsense.
The auld guidman raught down the pock,
And out a hanfu' gied him;
Syne bade him slip frae 'mang the folk,
Some time when nae ane see'd him,
And try't that night.
He marches through amang the stacks,
Though he was something sturtin;
The graip he for a harrow taks.
And haurls it at his curpin;
And every now and then he says,
"Hemp-seed, I saw thee,
And her that is to be my lass,
Come after me, and draw thee
As fast this night."
He whistled up Lord Lennox' march
To keep his courage cheery;
Although his hair began to arch,
He was say fley'd and eerie:
Till presently he hears a squeak,
And then a grane and gruntle;
He by his shouther gae a keek,
And tumbled wi' a wintle
Out-owre that night.
He roar'd a horrid murder-shout,
In dreadfu' desperation!
And young and auld came runnin' out
To hear the sad narration;
He swore 'twas hilchin Jean M'Craw,
Or crouchie Merran Humphie,
Till, stop! she trotted through them
And wha was it but grumphie
Asteer that night!
Meg fain wad to the barn hae gaen,
To win three wechts o' naething;
But for to meet the deil her lane,
She pat but little faith in:
She gies the herd a pickle nits,
And two red-cheekit apples,
To watch, while for the barn she sets,
In hopes to see Tam Kipples
That very nicht.
She turns the key wi cannie thraw,
And owre the threshold ventures;
But first on Sawnie gies a ca'
Syne bauldly in she enters:
A ratton rattled up the wa',
And she cried, Lord, preserve her!
And ran through midden-hole and a',
And pray'd wi' zeal and fervour,
Fu' fast that night;
They hoy't out Will wi' sair advice;
They hecht him some fine braw ane;
It chanced the stack he faddom'd thrice
Was timmer-propt for thrawin';
He taks a swirlie, auld moss-oak,
For some black grousome carlin;
And loot a winze, and drew a stroke,
Till skin in blypes cam haurlin'
Aff's nieves that night.
A wanton widow Leezie was,
As canty as a kittlin;
But, och! that night amang the shaws,
She got a fearfu' settlin'!
She through the whins, and by the cairn,
And owre the hill gaed scrievin,
Whare three lairds' lands met at a burn
To dip her left sark-sleeve in,
Was bent that night.
Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays,
As through the glen it wimpl't;
Whyles round a rocky scaur it strays;
Whyles in a wiel it dimpl't;
Whyles glitter'd to the nightly rays,
Wi' bickering, dancing dazzle;
Whyles cookit underneath the braes,
Below the spreading hazel,
Unseen that night.
Among the brackens, on the brae,
Between her and the moon,
The deil, or else an outler quey,
Gat up and gae a croon:
Poor Leezie's heart maist lap the hool!
Near lav'rock-height she jumpit;
but mist a fit, and in the pool
Out-owre the lugs she plumpit,
Wi' a plunge that night.
In order, on the clean hearth-stane,
The luggies three are ranged,
And every time great care is ta'en',
To see them duly changed:
Auld Uncle John, wha wedlock joys
Sin' Mar's year did desire,
Because he gat the toom dish thrice,
He heaved them on the fire
In wrath that night.
Wi' merry sangs, and friendly cracks,
I wat they didna weary;
And unco tales, and funny jokes,
Their sports were cheap and cheery;
Till butter'd so'ns, wi' fragrant lunt,
Set a' their gabs a-steerin';
Syne, wi' a social glass o' strunt,
They parted aff careerin'
Fu' blythe that night.
This poem is in the public domain.
There are no angels yet
here comes an angel one
with a man's face young
shut-off the dark
side of the moon turning to me
and saying: I am the plumed
serpent the beast
with fangs of fire and a gentle
But he doesn't say that His message
drenches his body
he'd want to kill me
for using words to name him
I sit in the bare apartment
words stream past me poetry
disturbed surfaces reflecting clouds
reflecting wrinkled neon
but clogged and mostly
nothing alive left
in their depths
The angel is barely
speaking to me
Once in a horn of light
he stood or someone like him
salutations in gold-leaf
ribboning from his lips
Today again the hair streams
to his shoulders
the eyes reflect something
like a lost country or so I think
but the ribbon has reeled itself
he isn't giving
or taking any shit
We glance miserably
across the room at each other
It's true there are moments
closer and closer together
when words stick in my throat
'the art of love'
'the art of words'
I get your message Gabriel
just will you stay looking
straight at me
"Gabriel." Copyright © 1993 by Adrienne Rich. Copyright © 1969 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, from Collected Early Poems: 1950-1970 by Adrienne Rich. Used with permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
I had a dream, which was not all a dream. The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars Did wander darkling in the eternal space, Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air; Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day, And men forgot their passions in the dread Of this their desolation; and all hearts Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light: And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones, The palaces of crowned kings—the huts, The habitations of all things which dwell, Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum'd, And men were gather'd round their blazing homes To look once more into each other's face; Happy were those who dwelt within the eye Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch: A fearful hope was all the world contain'd; Forests were set on fire—but hour by hour They fell and faded—and the crackling trunks Extinguish'd with a crash—and all was black. The brows of men by the despairing light Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits The flashes fell upon them; some lay down And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil'd; And others hurried to and fro, and fed Their funeral piles with fuel, and look'd up With mad disquietude on the dull sky, The pall of a past world; and then again With curses cast them down upon the dust, And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds shriek'd And, terrified, did flutter on the ground, And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'd And twin'd themselves among the multitude, Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food. And War, which for a moment was no more, Did glut himself again: a meal was bought With blood, and each sate sullenly apart Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left; All earth was but one thought—and that was death Immediate and inglorious; and the pang Of famine fed upon all entrails—men Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh; The meagre by the meagre were devour'd, Even dogs assail'd their masters, all save one, And he was faithful to a corse, and kept The birds and beasts and famish'd men at bay, Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead Lur'd their lank jaws; himself sought out no food, But with a piteous and perpetual moan, And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand Which answer'd not with a caress—he died. The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but two Of an enormous city did survive, And they were enemies: they met beside The dying embers of an altar-place Where had been heap'd a mass of holy things For an unholy usage; they rak'd up, And shivering scrap'd with their cold skeleton hands The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath Blew for a little life, and made a flame Which was a mockery; then they lifted up Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld Each other's aspects—saw, and shriek'd, and died— Even of their mutual hideousness they died, Unknowing who he was upon whose brow Famine had written Fiend. The world was void, The populous and the powerful was a lump, Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless— A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay. The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still, And nothing stirr'd within their silent depths; Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea, And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp'd They slept on the abyss without a surge— The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave, The moon, their mistress, had expir'd before; The winds were wither'd in the stagnant air, And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need Of aid from them—She was the Universe.
This poem is in the public domain.
Beside a stricken field I stood;
On the torn turf, on grass and wood,
Hung heavily the dew of blood.
Still in their fresh mounds lay the slain,
But all the air was quick with pain
And gusty sighs and tearful rain.
Two angels, each with drooping head
And folded wings and noiseless treads,
Watched by that valley of the dead.
The one, with forehead saintly bland
And lips of blessing, not command,
Leaned, weeping, on her olive wand.
The other’s brows were scarred and knit,
His restless eyes were watch-fires lit,
His hands for battle-gauntlets fit.
“How long!”—I knew the voice of Peace,
“Is there no respite? no release?
When shall the hopeless quarrel cease?
“O Lord, how long! One human soul
Is more than any parchment scroll,
Or any flag thy winds unroll.
“What price was Ellsworth’s, young and brave?
How weigh the gift that Lyon gave,
Or count the cost of Winthrop’s grave?
“O brother! if thine eye can see,
Tell how and when the end shall be,
What hope remains for thee and me.”
Then Freedom sternly said: “I shun
No strife nor pang beneath the sun,
When human rights are staked and won.
“I knelt with Ziska’s hunted flock,
I watched in Toussaint’s cell of rock,
I walked with Sidney to the block.
“The moor of Marston felt my tread,
Through Jersey snows the march I led,
My voice Magenta’s charges sped.
“But now, through weary day and night,
I watch a vague and aimless fight
For leave to strike one blow aright.
“On either side my foe they own:
One guards through love his ghastly throne,
And one through fear to reverence grown.
“Why wait we longer, mocked, betrayed,
By open foes, or those afraid
To speed thy coming through my aid?
“Why watch to see who win or fall?
I shake the dust against them all,
I leave them to their senseless brawl.”
“Nay,” Peace implored: “yet longer wait;
The doom is near, the stake is great:
God knoweth if it be too late.
“Still wait and watch; the way prepare
Where I with folded wings of prayer
May follow, weaponless and bare.”
“Too late!” the stern, sad voice replied,
“Too late!” its mournful echo sighed,
In low lament the answer died.
A rustling as of wings in flight,
An upward gleam of lessening white,
So passed the vision, sound and sight.
But round me, like a silver bell
Rung down the listening sky to tell
Of holy help, a sweet voice fell.
“Still hope and trust,” it sang; “the rod
Must fall, the wine-press must be trod,
But all is possible with God!”
This poem is in the public domain.
Just like as in a nest of boxes round, Degrees of sizes in each box are found: So, in this world, may many others be Thinner and less, and less still by degree: Although they are not subject to our sense, A world may be no bigger than two-pence. Nature is curious, and such works may shape, Which our dull senses easily escape: For creatures, small as atoms, may there be, If every one a creature’s figure bear. If atoms four, a world can make, then see What several worlds might in an ear-ring be: For, millions of those atoms may be in The head of one small, little, single pin. And if thus small, then ladies may well wear A world of worlds, as pendents in each ear.
This poem is in the public domain.
Copyright © 2017 by Alex Manley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
When you said people did you mean punish?
When you said friend did you mean fraud?
When you said thought did you mean terror?
When you said connection did you mean con?
When you said God did you mean greed?
When you said faith did you mean fanatic?
When you said hope did you mean hype?
When you said unity did you mean enmity?
When you said freedom did you mean forfeit?
When you said law did you mean lie?
When you said truth did you mean treason?
When you said feeling did you mean fool?
When you said together did you mean token?
When you said desire did you mean desert?
When you said sex did you mean savagery?
When you said need did you mean nought?
When you said blood did you mean bought?
When you said heart did you mean hard?
When you said head did you mean hide?
When you said health did you mean hurt?
When you said love did you mean loss?
When you said fate did you mean fight?
When you said destiny did you mean decimate?
When you said honor did you mean hunger?
When you said bread did you mean broke?
When you said feast did you mean fast?
When you said first did you mean forgotten?
When you said last did you mean least?
When you said woman did you mean wither?
When you said man did you mean master?
When you said mother did you mean smother?
When you said father did you mean fatal?
When you said sister did you mean surrender?
When you said brother did you mean brutal?
When you said fellow did you mean follow?
When you said couple did you mean capital?
When you said family did you mean failure?
When you said mankind did you mean market?
When you said society did you mean sickness?
When you said democracy did you mean indignity?
When you said equality did you mean empty?
When you said politics did you mean power?
When you said left did you mean lost?
When you said right did you mean might?
When you said republic did you mean rich?
When you said wealthy did you mean wall?
When you said poor did you mean prison?
When you said justice did you mean just us?
When you said immigrant did you mean enemy?
When you said refugee did you mean refusal?
When you said earth did you mean ownership?
When you said soil did you mean oil?
When you said community did you mean conflict?
When you said safety did you mean suspicion?
When you said security did you mean sabotage?
When you said army did you mean Armageddon?
When you said white did you mean welcome?
When you said black did you mean back?
When you said yellow did you mean yield?
When you said brown did you mean down?
When you said we did you mean war?
When you said you did you mean useless?
When you said she did you mean suffer?
When you said he did you mean horror?
When you said they did you mean threat?
When you said I did you mean island?
When you said tribe did you mean trouble?
When you said name did you mean nobody?
When you said news did you mean nonsense?
When you said media did you mean miasma?
When you said success did you mean sucker?
When you said fame did you mean game?
When you said ideal did you mean idol?
When you said yesterday did you mean travesty?
When you said today did you mean doomsday?
When you said tomorrow did you mean never?
When you said hear did you mean hush?
When you said listen did you mean limit?
When you said write did you mean wound?
When you said read did you mean retreat?
When you said literacy did you mean apathy?
When you said fiction did you mean forget?
When you said poetry did you mean passivity?
When you say art do you mean act?
Copyright © 2018 by John Keene. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
—After Ana Mendieta Did you carry around the matin star? Did you hold forest-fire in one hand? Would you wake to radiate, shimmer, gleam lucero-light? Through the morning would you measure the wingspan of an idea taking off— & by night would you read by the light of your own torso? Did you hear through the curtains a voice, through folds & folds of fabric a lowdown voice—How are you fallen from—How are you cut down to the ground? * Would gunpowder flash up in the other hand? Were you the most beautiful of them—the most beauty, full bew, teful, bu wtie, full be out, i full, btfl? Did the sky flutter & flower like bridal shrouds? Did a dog rise in the East in it? Did a wolf set in the West? Were they a thirsty pair? And was there a meadow? How many flowers to pick? And when no flowers, were you gathering bone chips & feathers & mud? Was music a circle that spun? * Did you spin it in reverse? Was your singing a rushlight, pyre light, a conflagration of dragonflies rushing out from your fire-throat? Did you lie down in the snow? Did it soften & thaw into a pool of your shape? Did you whisper to the graven thing, whisper a many lowdown phrase: How are you fallen my btfl? Would they trek closer, the animals? A grand iridium thirst, each arriving with their soft velour mouths to drink your silhouette?
Copyright © 2018 by Carolina Ebeid. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions
back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you
with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is
From Migration: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Copyright © 1988 by W. S. Merwin. Used by permission. All rights reserved.