Between me and the noise of strife
Are walls of mountains set with pine;
The dusty, care-strewn paths of life
Lead not to this retreat of mine.
I hear the morning wind awake
Beyond the purple height,
And, in the growing light,
The lap of lilies on the lake.
I live with Echo and with Song,
And Beauty leads me forth to see
Her temple’s colonnades, and long
Together do we love to be.
The mountains wall me in, complete,
And leave me but a bit blue
Above. All year, the days are sweet—
How sweet! And all the long nights thro’
I hear the river flowing by
Along its sandy bars;
Behold, far in the midnight sky,
An infinite of stars!
‘Tis sweet, when all is still,
When darkness gathers round,
To hear, from hill to hill,
The far, the wandering sound.
The cedar and the pine
Have pitched their tents with me.
What freedom vast is mine!
What room! What mystery!
Upon the dreamy southern breeze,
That steals in like a laden bee
And sighs for rest among the trees,
Are far-blown bits of melody.
What afterglows the twilight hold,
The darkening skies along!
And O, what rose-like dawns unfold,
That smite the hills to song!
High in the solitude of air,
The gray hawk circles on and on,
Till, like a spirit soaring there,
His image pales and he is gone!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 26, 2020.
Why do trees along the river
Lean so far out o’er the tide?
Very wise men tell me why, but
I am never satisfied;
And so I keep my fancy still,
That trees lean out to save
The drowning from the clutches of
The cold, remorseless wave.
From The Poems of Alexander Lawrence Posey (Crane & Co., 1910). This poem is in the public domain.
after Matthew Olzmann
Oh button, don’t go thinking we loved pianos
more than elephants, air conditioning more than air.
We loved honey, just loved it, and went into stores
to smell the sweet perfume of unworn leather shoes.
Did you know, on the coast of Africa, the Sea Rose
and Carpenter Bee used to depend on each other?
The petals only opened for the Middle C their wings
beat, so in the end, we protested with tuning forks.
You must think we hated the stars, the empty ladles,
because they conjured thirst. We didn’t. We thanked
them and called them lucky, we even bought the rights
to name them for our sweethearts. Believe it or not,
most people kept plants like pets and hired kids
like you to water them, whenever they went away.
And ice! Can you imagine? We put it in our coffee
and dumped it out at traffic lights, when it plugged up
our drinking straws. I had a dog once, a real dog,
who ate venison and golden yams from a plastic dish.
He was stubborn, but I taught him to dance and play
dead with a bucket full of chicken livers. And we danced
too, you know, at weddings and wakes, in basements
and churches, even when the war was on. Our cars
we mostly named for animals, and sometimes we drove
just to drive, to clear our heads of everything but wind.
Copyright © 2020 J.P. Grasser. Originally published in American Poets vol. 58. Distributed by the Academy of American Poets.
Once the world was perfect, and we were happy in that world.
Then we took it for granted.
Discontent began a small rumble in the earthly mind.
Then Doubt pushed through with its spiked head.
And once Doubt ruptured the web,
All manner of demon thoughts
We destroyed the world we had been given
For inspiration, for life—
Each stone of jealousy, each stone
Of fear, greed, envy, and hatred, put out the light.
No one was without a stone in his or her hand.
There we were,
Right back where we had started.
We were bumping into each other
In the dark.
And now we had no place to live, since we didn’t know
How to live with each other.
Then one of the stumbling ones took pity on another
And shared a blanket.
A spark of kindness made a light.
The light made an opening in the darkness.
Everyone worked together to make a ladder.
A Wind Clan person climbed out first into the next world,
And then the other clans, the children of those clans, their children,
And their children, all the way through time—
To now, into this morning light to you.
From Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
Once there was an opening, an operation: out of which oared the ocean, then oyster and oystercatcher, opal and opal-crowned tanager. From ornateness came the ornate flycatcher and ornate fruit dove. From oil, the oilbird. O is for opus, the Orphean warbler’s octaves, the oratorio of orioles. O for the osprey’s ostentation, the owl and its collection of ossicles. In October’s ochre, the orchard is overgrown with orange and olive, oleander and oxlip. Ovals of dew on the oatgrass. O for obsidian, onyx, ore, for boreholes like inverted obelisks. O for the onion’s concentric O’s, observable only when cut, for the opium oozing from the poppy’s globe only when scored. O for our organs, for the os of the cervix, the double O’s of the ovaries plotted on the body’s plane to mark the origin. O is the orbit that cradles the eye. The oculus opens an O to the sky, where the starry outlines of men float like air bubbles between us and oblivion. Once there were oarfish, opaleyes, olive flounders. Once the oxbows were not overrun with nitrogen. O for the mussels opening in the ocean’s oven. O for the rising ozone, the dropping oxygen, for algae overblooming like an omen or an oracle. O Earth, out-gunned and out-manned. O who holds the void inside itself. O who has made orphans of our hands.
Copyright © 2020 by Claire Wahmanholm. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 2, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Lark of my house,
this little lark says hi
to the rain—she calls
river as she slaps
the air with both wings—
she doesn’t know pine
from ash or cedar
from linden—she greets
drizzle & downpour
know iceberg from melt—
can’t say sea level
doesn’t know wildfire—
tax or emission—
does not legislate
a fear she can’t yet
feel—only knows cats
& birds & small dogs
& the sway of some
tall trees make her squeal
with delight—it shakes
her tiny body—
this thrill of the live
the taste of wild blue-
berries on her tongue—
the ache of thorn-prick
from blackberry bush—
oh dear girl—look here—
there’s so much to save—
horizon’s pink hue—
we gather lifetimes
on one small petal—
the river’s our friend—
the world: an atom—
name for: hope—rain—change
begins when you hail
the sky sun & wind
the verdure inside
your heart’s four chambers
even garter snakes
and unnamed insects
in the underbrush
as you would a love
that rivers: hi—hi
Copyright © 2020 by Dante Di Stefano. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 9, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
“Remember.” Copyright © 1983 by Joy Harjo from She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
The windshield’s dirty, the squirter stuff’s all gone, so
we drive on together into a sun-gray pane of grime
and dust. My son
puts the passenger seat back as far as it will go, closes
his eyes. I crack my window open for a bit
of fresher air. It’s so
incredibly fresh out there.
in ditches. Black mirrors with our passing
reflected in them, I suppose, but I’d
have to pull over and kneel down at the side
of the road to know.
The day ahead—
for this, the radio
doesn’t need to be played.
The house we used to live in
in a snapshot, in which
it yellows in another family’s scrapbook.
And a man on a bicycle
rides beside us
for a long time, very swiftly, until finally
he can’t keep up—
but before he slips
behind us, he salutes us
with his left hand—
that every single second—
that every prisoner on death row—
that every name on every tombstone—
that everywhere we go—
that every day, like this one, will
be like every other, having never been, never
thank you. And, oh—
I almost forgot to say it: amen.
Copyright © 2020 by Laura Kasischke. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Light o’ the lodge, how I love thee,
Light o’ the lodge, how I love thee,
Mianza, my wild-wood fawn!
To wait and to watch for thy passing.
On hill-top I linger at dawn.
Glimmer of morn, how I love thee,
Glimmer of morn, how I love thee!
My flute to the ground now I fling,
As you tread the steep trail to the spring,
For thy coming has silenced my song.
Shimmer of moon on the river,
Sheen of soft star on the lake!
Moonlight and starlight are naught;
Their gleam and their glow is ne’er fraught
With such love-light as falls from thine eyes.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 17, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
when the tide
then with the paddle
of your tongue
the letters to form
Copyright © 2020 by Craig Santos Perez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 22, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Once I freed myself of my duties to tasks and people and went down to the cleansing sea...
The air was like wine to my spirit,
The sky bathed my eyes with infinity,
The sun followed me, casting golden snares on the tide,
And the ocean—masses of molten surfaces, faintly gray-blue—sang to my heart...
Then I found myself, all here in the body and brain, and all there on the shore:
Content to be myself: free, and strong, and enlarged:
Then I knew the depths of myself were the depths of space.
And all living beings were of those depths (my brothers and sisters)
And that by going inward and away from duties, cities, street-cars and greetings,
I was dipping behind all surfaces, piercing cities and people,
And entering in and possessing them, more than a brother,
The surge of all life in them and in me...
So I swore I would be myself (there by the ocean)
And I swore I would cease to neglect myself, but would take myself as my mate,
Solemn marriage and deep: midnights of thought to be:
Long mornings of sacred communion, and twilights of talk,
Myself and I, long parted, clasping and married till death.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 24, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
You made tomatoes laugh
& warned me
some words die in cages.
I met you first in the desert.
You burned sage, greeted,
each of the four directions
with plumed syllables.
The ritual embarrassed me—
your stout body, your
mischievous smile did not.
You were familial.
The first poem I wrote
that sounded like me
echoed your work.
Copal, popote, tocayo, cacahuate:
you taught me Spanish
is a colonial tongue.
Some Mesoamerican elders
believed there’s a fifth direction.
Not the sky or the ground
but the person right next to you.
I’m turning to face you, maestro.
I’m greeting you.
Copyright © 2020 by Eduardo C. Corral. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 27, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
Those years are foliage of trees
their trunks hidden by bushes;
behind them a gray haze topped with silver
hides the swinging steps of my first love
On its face
grave steel palaces with smoking torches,
parading monasteries moved slowly to the Black Sea
till the bared branches scratched the north wind.
On its bed
a great Leviathan waited
for the ceremonies on the arrival of Messiah
and bobbing small fishes snapped sun splinters
for the pleasure of the monster.
Along its shores
red capped little hours danced
with rainbow colored kites,
messengers to heaven.
My memory is a sigh
of swallows swinging
through a slow dormant summer
to a timid line on the horizon.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 31, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
I was called back into the dark during an early morning flyover onto a rusty mauve plain fields overrun with a low river of tar the smell of burning grass carried from the east flowing upward through neon bright signs of pharmaceuticals and snow a bronze liquid of promise a fleeting and always-ending sleep the remains of chipped concrete eating away the foundations of every building tables of salt rising over the whole country I was called onto a platform in the north a miles- wide outpost where I sat waiting to hear what new harm my sisters had conjured they reached me by phone through a star or their dreams a breaking request from our father that had traveled through a long and oily channel I could understand its beauty the rainbow-thick shimmer of pigment and poison a seeping fissure of love before the apocalypse the ruin or just the overhanging clouds yesterday a maker of brine and sauerkraut told me the world would end by corrosion and decay I’m not so sure I hear the eruption between refusal and insistence or maybe just a truck driving through
Copyright © 2020 by Samuel Ace. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 2, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
How is it you bring me back to the cliffs the bright heads of eagles the vessels of grief in the soil? I dig for you with a gentle bit of lighter fluid and three miniature rakes burning only a single speck of dirt to touch a twig as tiny as a neuron or even smaller one magic synapse inside the terminus limbs of your breath
The fighter jets fly over the house every hour no sound but inside our hands I hear a far chime and I am cold a north wind and the grit of night first the murmur then the corpse first the paddling then the banquet first the muzzle then the hanging the plea first the break then the tap the tap I hear your skin the reach of your arms the slick along your thighs more floorboard than step first the flannel then the gag first the bells then the exhale
I hear a dog who is always in my death the breath of a mother who holds a gun a pillow in the shape of a heart first the planes then the criminal ponds first the ghost boats then the trains first the gates then the bargain a child formed from my fingertip and the eye of my grandmother’s mother a child born at 90 the rise and rush of air a child who walks from the gas
Copyright © 2019 by Samuel Ace. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Why don’t more animals pass through here? Dale asked
There were none
shifting in thick oil
behind the cement wall
that kept precisely those animals out
the moon was rising
a bruise was rakish on the moon’s right brain
A coyote to the southwest on the roof of the hotel
birds, nightbirds a dog
Why didn’t more animals pass through
The strangulation of the self
to alert the family by way of torched skin
and a thin buoy of breathing
to one’s individuality
as a service
to extinction personal in-fruition
Is Jupiter red? One star was the question
meeting itself in the atom-sphere
Animals were parading eating the mustards
and ants fallen fruits
a grapefruit? I asked.
a pear, Dale said.
We were in the sly suburbs, sitting by a swimming pool
The lack of animals was the consequence
of enforcement the prospectus of looking
at oneself and seeing an end the end
when the ark has been sent off
depleted in the mirage of heat
curling the horizon
to the contemplation of the human
on the shore
the contemplation is impatient
Why stammer animals are on the roof
in the trees the wall that starts at the ground
hedgerows, motion lights
gates, kitchen windows,
animals are abundant
Why don’t more humans pass through here?
Copyright © 2018 by Brandon Shimoda. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
What would you like, little bone-star?
Would the suicided person please stand up?
Would they please tell the height of their pain
the very top of the trees of it
where it extends dentricles upward
would we prefer their death or this saying of it?
they would sit with the right person
the right person
and tell their pain.
that person would build a shield around the pain
a thin wooden structure half circle uneven
they would leave it there for three days.
on the third would pick it up
and say their words. What words they have.
This would be the listening & the telling.
Copyright © 2020 by Helen Dimos. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 5, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Glory of plums, femur of Glory.
Glory of ferns
on a dark platter.
Glory of willows, Glory of Stag beetles
Glory of the long obedience
of the kingfisher.
Glory of waterbirds, Glory
Glory of the Latin
of the dead and their grammar
composed entirely of decay.
Glory of the eyes of my father
which, when he died, closed
inside his grave,
and opened even more brightly
Glory of dark horses
inside their own
Copyright © 2020 by Gbenga Adesina. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 25, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
So oft our hearts, belovèd lute,
In blossomy haunts of song are mute;
So long we pore, ’mid murmurings dull,
O’er loveliness unutterable.
So vain is all our passion strong!
The dream is lovelier than the song.
The rose thought, touched by words, doth turn
Wan ashes. Still, from memory’s urn,
The lingering blossoms tenderly
Refute our wilding minstrelsy.
Alas! We work but beauty’s wrong!
The dream is lovelier than the song.
Yearned Shelley o’er the golden flame?
Left Keats for beauty’s lure, a name
But “writ in water”? Woe is me!
To grieve o’er flowerful faëry.
My Phasian doves are flown so long—
The dream is lovelier than the song!
Ah, though we build a bower of dawn,
The golden-wingèd bird is gone,
And morn may gild, through shimmering leaves,
Only the swallow-twittering eaves.
What art may house or gold prolong
A dream far lovelier than a song?
The lilting witchery, the unrest
Of wingèd dreams, is in our breast;
But ever dear Fulfilment’s eyes
Gaze otherward. The long-sought prize,
My lute, must to the gods belong.
The dream is lovelier than the song.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 18, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
I saw you as I passed last night,
Framed in a sky of gold;
And through the sun’s fast paling light
You seemed a queen of old,
Whose smile was light to all the world
Against the crowding dark.
And in my soul a song there purled—
Re-echoed by the lark.
I saw you as I passed last night,
Your tresses burnished gold,
While in your eyes a happy bright
Gleam of your friendship told.
And I went singing on my way;
On, on into the dark.
But in my heart still shone the day,
And still—still sang the lark.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 25, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
Oh, solitude, where is the sting,
That men ascribe to thee?
Where is the terror in thy mien?
I look, but cannot see.
Where hidest thou, that loneliness
The world pretends to fear?
While lying on thy loving breast
I find my sweetest cheer.
They do not understand thee, no,
They are but knaves or fools,
Or else they must discern in thee
Dame Nature’s queen of schools.
For in thy care, with naught but books,
The bards and saints of old,
Become my friends and to mine ear
Their mystic truths unfold.
When problems and perplexities
Of life becloud my mind,
I know in thee, oh, solitude,
The answer I can find.
When grief and sorrow crowd my heart
To breaking, with their fears
Within thy arms, oh, solitude,
I find relief in tears.
And when I weary of the world’s
Deceits and cares and strife,
I find in thee sweet rest and peace
And vigorous new life.
My garden never is complete
Without a blooming rose,
Nor is my life, oh, solitude,
Without thy sweet repose.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 1, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Watch the dewdrops in the morning,
Shake their little diamond heads,
Sparkling, flashing, ever moving,
From their silent little beds.
See the grass! Each blade is brightened,
Roots are strengthened by their stay;
Like the dewdrops, let us scatter
Gems of love along the way.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
Again my fancy takes its flight,
And soars away on thoughtful wing,
Again my soul thrills with delight,
And this the fancied theme, I sing,
From Earthly scenes awhile, I find release,
And dwell upon the restful Plains of Peace.
The Plains of Peace are passing fair,
Where naught disturbs and naught can harm,
I find no sorrow, woe or care,
These all are lost in perfect calm,
Bright are the joys, and pleasures never cease,
For those who dwell on the Plains of Peace.
No scorching sun or blighting storm,
No burning sand or desert drear,
No fell disease or wasting form,
To mar the glowing beauty here.
Decay and ruin ever must decrease,
Here on the fertile, healthful Plains of Peace.
What rare companionship I find,
What hours of social joy I spend,
What restfulness pervades my mind,
Communing with congenial friend.
True happiness seems ever to increase,
While dwelling here upon the Plains of Peace.
Ambitions too, are realized,
And that which I have sought on earth,
I find at last idealized,
My longings ripen into worth,
My fondest hopes no longer fear decease,
But bloom forth brightly on the Plains of Peace.
'Tis by my fancy, yet 'tis true,
That somewhere having done with Earth,
We shall another course pursue,
According to our aim or worth,
Our souls from mortal things must find release,
And dwell immortal on the Plains of Peace.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 30, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.