after the photo by Jonathan Bachman

Our bodies run with ink dark blood.
Blood pools in the pavement’s seams.

Is it strange to say love is a language
Few practice, but all, or near all speak?

Even the men in black armor, the ones
Jangling handcuffs and keys, what else

Are they so buffered against, if not love’s blade
Sizing up the heart’s familiar meat?

We watch and grieve. We sleep, stir, eat.
Love: the heart sliced open, gutted, clean.

Love: naked almost in the everlasting street,
Skirt lifted by a different kind of breeze.

From Wade in the Water (Graywolf Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Tracy K. Smith. Used with the permission of Graywolf Press.

All day the clouds
   Grow cold and fall,
And soft the white fleece shrouds
   Field, hill and wall;
And now I know
   Why comes the snow:
The bare black places lie
   Too near the sky.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 18, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.