Please tell me that I was a good child
And that I did everything right
And that the atmosphere was exactly certain
I want you to love me
In ways that you never have
So that I become a forgotten world
With rainbow sunrises over dark green trees
And the cooling of the day
Becomes normal again
We will sit and watch the body of water
That we once called a sort of death
You know even in my dreams
You say I’ll never get it right
This is not a dream
We are burning here with no escape
But no matter how many times
They talk about the moon
It does not take a poet
To know that the moon
Is still only an illusion
Only an illusion
The moon calls out to all of us
Come back, it says
But we don’t hear it
Already on our way
Copyright © 2023 by Dorothea Lasky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 31, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
I said, in drunken pride of youth and you
That mischief-making Time would never dare
Play his ill-humored tricks upon us two,
Strange and defiant lovers that we were.
I said that even Death, Highwayman Death,
Could never master lovers such as we,
That even when his clutch had throttled breath,
My hymns would float in praise, undauntedly.
I did not think such words were bravado.
Oh, I think honestly we knew no fear,
We loved each other so.
And thus, with you believing me, I made
My prophecies, rebellious, unafraid . . . .
And that was foolish, wasn’t it, my dear?
From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.
O peerless marble marvel! what of grace,
Or matchless symmetry is not enshrined
In thy rare contours! Could we hope to find
The regal dignity of that fair face
In aught less beautiful? We would retrace,
At sight of thee, our willing steps where wind
The paths great Homer trod. Within whose mind
Wast thou a dream, O Goddess? Nearer pace
Brave Hector, reckless Paris, as we gaze;
Then stately temples, fluted colonnades
Rise in their sculptured beauty. Yes! ’tis Greece,
With all the splendor of her lordliest days,
That comes to haunt us: ere the glory fades
Let Fancy bid the rapture never cease.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 11, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
Always at dusk, the same tearless experience,
The same dragging of feet up the same well-worn path
To the same well-worn rock;
The same crimson or gold dropping away of the sun
The same tints—rose, saffron, violet, lavender, grey
Meeting, mingling, mixing mistily;
Before me the same blue black cedar rising jaggedly to a point;
Over it, the same slow unlidding of twin stars,
Two eyes, unfathomable, soul-searing,
Watching, watching—watching me;
The same two eyes that draw me forth, against my will dusk after dusk;
The same two eyes that keep me sitting late into the night, chin on knees
Keep me there lonely, rigid, tearless, numbly miserable,
—The eyes of my Regret.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 18, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
Like a tree, he interprets light.
Papa Bois, old woodsman, come see
how this golden son paints your domain—
sycamore’s plainsong, pine’s keen sigh,
aspen’s conspiring laughter—be
a witness to his legerdemain.
When branches thrash outside your window
you sometimes believe you’re the storm
that moves them, displaced hurricane.
You tell no one. That’s nothing new.
The South taught you early to conform,
to wear a mask that’s become urbane.
From star to star the mental optics rove.
If only your hard labor conjured love.
Copyright © 2023 by Arlene Keizer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 7, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
Parchman Farm Chain Gang, Sunflower County Mississippi, 1911
How long since my left foot has known a day
It did not spend drug along by your right? Since the first
Rust-iron rattlers made fields of cattails kneel, fronds
Curdling like browlines in brutal heat? I forget
My name, its sins, when I march behind you. I know nothing
Of before. Nothing but your nape, its tributary of creases;
But your gait, pressing smooth miles of streetside weeds.
What else can a lonesome roadboy do but look
At the one to his front: you, with keloid scars inside
Even your ears, you with long lashes that, when blinked,
Seem heavier than these chains, all the men they carry.
What I wouldn’t give to see your eyes open again
After that brief, merciful closing. What I don’t have
to give. What I know, if I did, I would.
Copyright © 2023 by Ariana Benson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 8, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.