The full September moon sheds floods of light,
And all the bayou’s face is gemmed with stars,
Save where are dropped fantastic shadows down
From sycamores and moss-hung cypress trees.
With slumberous sound the waters half asleep
Creep on and on their way, ’twixt rankish reeds,
Through marsh and lowlands stretching to the Gulf.
Begirt with cotton fields, Anguilla sits
Half bird-like, dreaming on her Summer nest.
Amid her spreading figs and roses, still
In bloom with all their Spring and Summer hues,
Pomegranates hang with dapple cheeks full ripe,
And over all the town a dreamy haze
Drops down. The great plantations, stretching far
Away, are plains of cotton, downy white.
O, glorious is this night of joyous sounds;
Too full for sleep. Aromas wild and sweet,
From muscadine, late blooming jessamine,
And roses, all the heavy air suffuse.
Faint bellows from the alligators come
From swamps afar, where sluggish lagoons give
To them a peaceful home. The katydids
Make ceaseless cries. Ten thousand insects’ wings
Stir in the moonlight haze and joyous shouts
Of Negro song and mirth awake hard by
The cabin dance. O, glorious is this night!
The Summer sweetness fills my heart with songs,
I can not sing, with loves I can not speak.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 30, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
How much like angels are these tall gladiolas in a vase on my coffee table, as if in a bunch whispering. How slender and artless, how scandalously alive, each with its own humors and pulse. Each weight- bearing stem is the stem of a thought through which aspires the blood-metal of stars. Each heart is a gift for the king. When I was a child, my mother and aunts would sit in the kitchen gossiping. One would tip her head toward me, “Little Ears,” she’d warn, and the whole room went silent. Now, before sunrise, what secrets I am told!—being quieter than blossoms and near invisible.
Copyright © 2018 by Toi Derricotte. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 8, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Are atoms made of lots of circles? is the first thing my small son says when he wakes up. My mind swims around, trying to remember if molecules are bigger than atoms. In models of atoms, when they show what they look like, there are lots of circles, I say. The new chair of women’s studies at my alma mater is a man. He writes me without using my professional title to ask what I’ve been up to since graduation. His work, the letter says, has been mentioned on NPR. Quarks? I think, imagining electrons swimming in circles around neutrons. Before bed, I tell my son a story about when he was a small bear living with his bear family in a remote part of the forest. I describe the white snow, the black branches, the brightness of the cardinal on a top branch who greets him when he leaves his cottage. This is meant to be lulling. Bears hibernate in winter, he says. Do you want to be hibernating? I say. No! he is seized by a narrative impulse, his little body trembles with it. Tell how I could turn into a polar bear when I was cold and into a fearsome desert bear when I got hot! Tell how surprised everyone was. I tell all about it, the fearsomeness and the changing fur. How he once sat there half-polar and half-desert bear, sipping hot cocoa with marshmallows by the cozy fire. In the morning, I leave my son at school. I am dissatisfied with how they greet him. The teachers do not know of his powers. His fearsome magic. Have a good day, I say, kissing his crown. Have a good Friday at home, he says, following me to the door. Have a good shopping trip. At home I straighten my bed, turn it down, and slip back in. I lie very still, with pillow levees on either side of my body. My son is safe at school... I think. Most likely safe at school… I try not to think about what the ER doctor said, what machine guns do to human organs. I only tremble a little bit. A molecule, an atom, a particle, a quark, I think. A mourning dove calls, and it is lulling. Particle was the word that I forgot. This is what I’ve been up to since graduation.
Copyright © 2018 by Joanna Penn Cooper. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door—
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more."
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is and nothing more."
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"—
Merely this and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
'Tis the wind and nothing more!"
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."
But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered "Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said "Nevermore."
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
But the Raven still beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."
"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting—
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!
This version appeared in the Richmond Semi-Weekly Examiner, September 25, 1849. For other versions, please visit the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore's site: http://www.eapoe.org/works/poems/index.htm#R.
Before you returned from treatment I rearranged our room: turned the bed ninety degrees switched the nightstands. I didn’t want you to come home to see that everything has changed nothing is familiar. On the other hand, I wanted you to see that everything has changed nothing is familiar.
Copyright © 2018 by Kayte Young. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Someone else used to do this before. Someone responsible, someone who loved me enough to protect me from my own filth piling up. But I’m over 40 now & live alone, & if I don’t remember it's Thursday & rise with the cardinals & bluejays calling up the sun, I’m stuck with what’s left rotting for another week. I swing my legs like anchors over the side of the bed & use the wall for leverage to stand, shuffle to the bathroom. In summer, I slide into a pair of shorts & flip flops, wandering room to room to collect what no longer serves me. I shimmy the large kitchen bag from the steel canister, careful not to spill what’s inside or rip it somehow & gross myself out. Sometimes I double bag for insurance, tying loose ends together, cinching it tightly for the journey. Still combing through webs of dreams, of spiders’ handiwork glistening above the wheeled container on the back patio, I drag my refuse down the driveway past the chrysanthemums & azaleas, the huge Magnolia tree shading the living room from Georgia’s heat, flattening hordes of unsuspecting ants in my path to park it next to the mailbox for merciful elves to take off my hands. It is not lost on me that one day someone responsible, someone who loves me enough will dispose of this worn, wrinkled container after my spirit soars on. I don’t wait to say thank you to those doing this grueling, necessary work. But I do stand in the young, faintly lit air for a long moment to inhale deeply, & like clockwork when he strides by, watch the jogger’s strong, wet back fade over the slight rise of the road.
Copyright © 2018 by Kamilah Aisha Moon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Is there a solitary wretch who hies To the tall cliff, with starting pace or slow, And, measuring, views with wild and hollow eyes Its distance from the waves that chide below; Who, as the sea-born gale with frequent sighs Chills with cold bed upon the mountain turf, With hoarse, half-utter’d lamentation, lies Murmuring responses to the dashing surf? In moody sadness, on the giddy brink, I see him more with envy than with fear; He has no nice felicities that shrink From giant horrors; wildly wandering here, He seems (uncursed with reason) not to know The depth or the duration of his woe.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
’Tis bitter, yet ’tis sweet; Scratching effects but transient ease; Pleasure and pain together meet And vanish as they please. My nails, the only balm, To every bump are oft applied, And thus the rage will sweetly calm Which aggravates my hide. It soon returns again: A frown succeeds to every smile; Grinning I scratch and curse the pain But grieve to be so vile. In fine, I know not which Can play the most deceitful game: The devil, sulphur, or the itch. The three are but the same. The devil sows the itch, And sulphur has a loathsome smell, And with my clothes as black as pitch I stink where’er I dwell. Excoriated deep, By friction played on every part, It oft deprives me of my sleep And plagues me to my heart.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 28, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
She walketh veiled and sleeping, For she knoweth not her power; She obeyeth but the pleading Of her heart, and the high leading Of her soul, unto this hour. Slow advancing, halting, creeping, Comes the Woman to the hour!— She walketh veiled and sleeping, For she knoweth not her power.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 3, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I am wasted on thought-so’s and photo-ops so-so’s and S-O-S cries and the lit flare I burn I intuit I follow your light look at the way you go into the tall grass into it you light you moth look at your shirtless body behind the tall grass look at me on my knees a poem is a lot like a grass stain I want to do what a grass stain does
Copyright © 2018 by Paul Cunningham. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 6, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Carpenter ants picked the T-bone clean.
The dog’s leash tautened toward
a square of sun.
A hallway lamp wavered.
Slice of lit motes through
the cracked bedroom door.
Her slipper under the bed, another on the armchair.
On the shell comb, a single strand.
Her blue robe still damp.
a narrow bed in an endless
row of beds tucked tight
like chalk-white pills
cocooned in plastic
no visitors no cellphone no
end to night but the nurse
who relayed messages
bathrobe Saint Jude
Jell-O chenille slippers
boar bristle brush
why am I here?
pressed in her suitcase
between terrycloth and silk
where is my husband?
on a prescription slip, scribbled
in her physician scrawl
when will I go home?
barely three days before
the words slowed to a trickle
Copyright © 2019 Angela Narciso Torres. This poem was originally published in Quarterly West. Used with permission of the author.
The old kitten is replaced by a new baby kitten the old dog by a new pup like a dead Monday by Tuesday. They stroke the new kitten in their laps so that their excess affection won't go sour, so that it will love them in return, like the old one did. But for me they aren't replaceable, not the kitten, not the Monday, not anything else; for me they never die. They only distance themselves, or dwell in me disappearing into the distance: they dwell in my heart and ears, like the Moonlight Sonata dwells in a piano. Gone? No new rain rinses the shower-scent of an old Monday from me, no matter how hard it pours, hisses, streams. Ridiculous, maybe, but it feels good to me, like an old stone in the cemetery, on which a bird might drop its feather. Out there in the City Park and everywhere, where forgetting fattens fresh ice, how many, attentively oblivious, are skating! I understand them, that on slippery ground they alone possess life while living, as long as is possible, and as best as is possible. But for me easy grief's loathsome, and the easy solace of what's easily replaced; if I'm no more, they'll replace me soon. I know, if I'm no more, they'll have someone else, who'll lie in their beds for me, pant, talk, suffer, love. But why shouldn't it be this way? It might need to be this way— why expect the unexpectable, the too hard, the too much?... I understand. And yet, for me, it's irreplaceable and what used to be dear doesn't stop being dear. And it is still too early to love the new kitten. I don't put it in my lap, because the old one's absence still burns there. I know if I'm no more, there'll be someone else.
Copyright © 2010 by Michael Blumenthal and Pleasure Boat Studio. Used by permission of the translator.