you wanted the end
with a serpentine
greed. How to negotiate
mist, the fibrous
To cease to exist
and to die
are two different things entirely.
But you knew this,
Some days you knelt on coins
in those yellow hours.
You lit a flame
to your shadow
scorpions with your naked fingers.
So touched by the sadness of hair
in a dirty sink.
The malevolent smell
When instead of swallowing a fistful
of white pills,
you decided to shower,
the palm trees
nodded in agreement,
of crickets singing
behind your swollen eyes.
The masked bird
turned to you
with a shred of paper hanging
from its beak.
hair wet and fragrant,
you cupped a goat's face
his trembling horns.
It fell prostrate,
passed through you
like a swift
and generous storm.
"Six Months After Contemplating Suicide" first appeared in the December 2015 issue of Poetry. Copyright © 2015 Erika L. Sánchez.
in which it will be impossible
what is now immediate.
in which everyone discovers
they’re next in line.
for dying horribly in an
it doesn’t have to be this way,
but clearly knowing the secret isn’t enough.
wonder how time will betray
this desire to control outcome.
look at us wishing on a world
that remains unmoved by
all the right words.
what we’ve learned
could make a utopia
hasn’t changed the way
we punch each other
enabling the worst in us.
we resigned attitude
towards the collateral
of this chaos
we perpetuate in the name of.
as if the planet wants to know first
how you wanna extinct?
keep living in everyone’s favorite
painting the house a different color
isn’t storm prevention.
when the planet comes for us,
it will be because
of what we did to each other
when we thought we weren’t.
when we were
fussing with the perfection
when we decided
that it’s better to look the part
than earn the way.
From Well Played (Not a Cult, 2020) by Beau Sia. Copyright © 2020 by Beau Sia. Used with the permission of the publisher.
translated from the Arabic by Reynold A. Nicholson
When night draws on, remembering keeps me wakeful
And hinders my rest with grief upon grief returning
For Ṣakhr. What a man was he on the day of battle,
When, snatching their chance, they swiftly exchange the spear-thrusts!
Ah, never of woe like this in the world of spirits
I heard, or of loss like mine in the heart of woman.
What Fortune might send, none stronger than he to bear it;
None better to meet the trouble with mind unshaken;
The kindest to help, wherever the need was sorest:
They all had of him a boon—wife, friend, and suitor.
O Ṣakhr! I will ne’er forget thee until in dying
part from my soul, and earth for my tomb is cloven.
The rise of the sun recalls to me Ṣakhr my brother,
And him I remember also at every sunset.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 1, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
What is beheld through glass seems glass.
The quality of what I am
Encases what I am not,
Smooths the strange world.
I perceive it slowly
In my time,
In my material,
As my pride,
As my possession:
The vision is love.
When life crashes like a cracked pane,
Still shall I love
Even the slight grass and the patient dust.
Death also sees, though darkly,
And I must trust then as now
Only another kind of prism
Through which I may not put my hands to touch.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 18, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
Once this soft turf, this rivulet’s sands,
Were trampled by a hurrying crowd,
And fiery hearts and armed hands
Encountered in the battle cloud.
Ah! I never shall the land forget
How gushed the life-blood of her brave—
Gushed, warm with hope and courage yet,
Upon the soil they fought to save.
Now all is calm, and fresh, and still,
Alone the chirp of flitting bird,
And talk of children on the hill,
And bell of wandering kine are heard.
No solemn host goes trailing by
The black-mouthed gun and staggering wain;
Men start not at the battle-cry,
Oh, be it never heard again!
Soon rested those who fought; but thou
Who minglest in the harder strife
For truths which men receive not now
Thy warfare only ends with life.
A friendless warfare! lingering long
Through weary day and weary year.
A wild and many-weaponed throng
Hang on thy front, and flank, and rear.
Yet nerve thy spirit to the proof,
And blench not at thy chosen lot.
The timid good may stand aloof,
The sage may frown—yet faint thou not.
Nor heed the shaft too surely cast,
The foul and hissing bolt of scorn;
For with thy side shall dwell, at last,
The victory of endurance born.
Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again;
The eternal years of God are hers;
But Error, wounded, writhes with pain,
And dies among his worshippers.
Yea, though thou lie upon the dust,
When they who helped thee flee in fear,
Die full of hope and manly trust,
Like those who fell in battle here.
Another hand thy sword shall wield,
Another hand the standard wave,
Till from the trumpet’s mouth is pealed
The blast of triumph o’er thy grave.
From Poetical Works of William Cullen Bryant (D. Appleton and Company, 1878). This poem is in the public domain.
It probably started
in a whisper, a murmur,
a low tone hardly caught by the papers,
a sticker, a poster,
a brick wall with slogans in fresh, black paint
it probably started with a shove,
some bluster, a gunshot,
crushed fingers, it probably started
with a speech that caught the right ears
on an otherwise happy day,
yellow flowers in a wooden stand on the sidewalk,
red apples, radio
trying hard to smooth out the mood,
kid hurrying past, thinking,
God, he’s shouting
pulls his hat low,
it probably started
with another man
drunk on swagger,
it probably started
with a small crowd
coaxing exciting lies,
it probably started
with a neighborhood’s head bowed
as the drone grows each day
(though they’ll claim
in a quick, monstrous surprise).
Copyright © 2021 by Matt Mason. This poem was originally published in the New York Times, 2021. Used with the permission of the poet.
Life, this charade of not-death.
Amnesiac of our nights together,
overheard talking in some other voice.
The great fruits of my failure:
silk milk pills with little bitter pits.
Who talks like that? Says we are
ever-locked, leaving everything
petalled and veined the way nature
pretended. Synthesized within
an inch of its life. O the many faces
of facelessness, breathing in the dark—
as if we could shape softness itself,
mold it around us like yams mashed
against a trough by a snuffling snout.
Our own. There’s no way out. Born
to such extra, we are born to lose.
No hairy fingers tapering to threads,
grasping for some lost last use.
Once we were hungry on earth,
soon buried like root vegetables—
to starve the soil as beets do,
growing in our graves.
But now we must remember
our way back to face-to-face,
to eye to eye and hand in hand,
and lock and step and key in hole.
Remembering how not to fall asleep,
we become so desperately drowsy,
and all cells strain to slow to a stop.
All desire to choose otherwise quiets.
No, no one can say we didn’t suffer,
that we weren’t swallowed whole.
Copyright © 2016 by Brenda Shaughnessy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 12, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.