I love a white v-neck t-shirt
on you: two cotton strips racing
to a point they both arrived at: there
vigor barely contained, flaming hair,
collarless, fenced-in skin that shines.
Cool drop of hem, soft & lived-in,
so unlike my father, to bed you go,
flushed with fur in a rabbit’s burrow
or nest for a flightless bird, brooding. 
Let me be that endangered species,
huddled in the vessel of the inverted
triangle: gaped mouth of a great white
fish on the verge of striking, poised
to devour & feed on skin, on all. 

Copyright © 2016 by Joseph O. Legaspi. From Aviary, Bestiary (Organic Weapon Arts, 2014). Used with permission of the author.

I love a white v-neck t-shirt
on you: two cotton strips racing
to a point they both arrived at: there
vigor barely contained, flaming hair,
collarless, fenced-in skin that shines.
Cool drop of hem, soft & lived-in,
so unlike my father, to bed you go,
flushed with fur in a rabbit’s burrow
or nest for a flightless bird, brooding. 
Let me be that endangered species,
huddled in the vessel of the inverted
triangle: gaped mouth of a great white
fish on the verge of striking, poised
to devour & feed on skin, on all. 

Copyright © 2016 by Joseph O. Legaspi. From Aviary, Bestiary (Organic Weapon Arts, 2014). Used with permission of the author.

If our angels hover above us,
they will see a darkening cornfield, the spectral traces
of lightning bugs, and two brothers
lying among the stalks.  
We come because sometimes it is hard to live.

The cornstalks, limp under the tropical sun,
revive in the cool of twilight.
The angels will know we have been here for hours.
They will land and rest their feathers around us
and whisper soothing names of winged things: finch, monarch,
whippoorwill, ptarmigan, Daedalus, Icarus, Gabriel...

The angels will bend down and touch their faces
onto ours and borrow our eyes: Earlier,
a horse slipped, breaking its leg.  
A boy stood beside his younger brother. 
Their father came into the stable, carrying a gun.
Quails flitted out of a bamboo tree; the boy 

traced the trail that had led him here,
the field tilled by the dead horse,
where his brother laid down,
dust on his cheeks.

From Imago by Joseph O. Legaspi (CavanKerry Press, 2007). Copyright © 2007 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Used with the permission of the poet.

I have not disappeared.
The boulevard is full of my steps. The sky is
full of my thinking. An archbishop
prays for my soul, even though
we only met once, and even then, he was
busy waving at a congregation.
The ticking clocks in Vermont sway

back and forth as though sweeping
up my eyes and my tattoos and my metaphors,
and what comes up are the great paragraphs
of dust, which also carry motes
of my existence. I have not disappeared.
My wife quivers inside a kiss.
My pulse was given to her many times,

in many countries. The chunks of bread we dip
in olive oil is communion with our ancestors,
who also have not disappeared. Their delicate songs
I wear on my eyelids. Their smiles have
given me freedom which is a crater
I keep falling in. When I bite into the two halves
of an orange whose cross-section resembles my lungs,

a delta of juices burst down my chin, and like magic,
makes me appear to those who think I’ve
disappeared. It’s too bad war makes people
disappear like chess pieces, and that prisons
turn prisoners into movie endings. When I fade
into the mountains on a forest trail,
I still have not disappeared, even though its green facade
turns my arms and legs into branches of oak.
It is then I belong to a southerly wind,
which by now you have mistaken as me nodding back
and forth like a Hasid in prayer or a mother who has just
lost her son to gunfire in Detroit. I have not disappeared.

In my children, I see my bulging face
pressing further into the mysteries.

In a library in Tucson, on a plane above
Buenos Aires, on a field where nearby burns
a controlled fire, I am held by a professor,
a General, and a photographer.
One burns a finely wrapped cigar, then sniffs
the scented pages of my books, scouring
for the bitter smell of control.
I hold him in my mind like a chalice.
I have not disappeared. I swish the amber
hue of lager on my tongue and ponder the drilling
rigs in the Gulf of Alaska and all the oil-painted plovers.

When we talk about limits, we disappear.
In Jasper, TX you can disappear on a strip of gravel.

I am a shrug of a life in sacred language.
Right now: termites toil over a grave.
My mind is a ravine of yesterdays.
At a glance from across the room, I wear
September on my face,
which is eternal, and does not disappear
even if you close your eyes once and for all
simultaneously like two coffins.

Copyright © 2013 by Major Jackson. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on September 11, 2013. 

translated by Anastatia Spicer and Honora Spicer

speak?

will poetry speak?

I want to scream
My throat is dry
My throat, silenced so long, is coarse

In books I see that word I can’t pronounce
In the faces of my friends
Hiding in women’s bathrooms

(My grandmother was a seamstress in the factories
After the War of the Pacific she was widowed with five children)

will poetry speak up?

Let me tell you about the light burning
                                                     my breast
That clouds my dreams
Whose lace stays caught in my throat

Factories made of sounds
Factories made of mute women
Factories made of gazes

From when the sun comes up until I return home
I carry that word inside me
And if poetry spoke
what would it be? how?
Would it be able to tell of her rage?

 


NN3

¿hablar?

¿hablará la poesía?

Yo quiero gritar
Tengo la garganta seca
La garganta áspera de tanto estar callada

En los libros veo esa palabra que no puedo pronunciar
En las caras de mis compañeras
Escondidas en los baños para mujeres

(Mi abuela fue costurera en las fábricas
Después de la guerra del Pacífico viuda con 5 hijos)

¿hablará la poesía?

Déjame hablarte de la luz que me quema
                                                    el pecho
Esa que nubla mis sueños
Esa cuyos encajes quedan atrapados en mi garganta

Fábricas de sonidos
Fábricas de mujeres mudas
Fábricas de miradas

Desde que sale el sol hasta que llego a casa
Llevo esa palabra dentro
Y si la poesía hablara
¿qué sería? ¿cómo?
¿Podrá decir su rabia?

Copyright © 2021 by Victoria Guerrero, Anastatia Spicer, and Honora Spicer. Published on September 6, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

for my favorite auntie, Jeanette

Sometimes I think I’m never going to write a poem again
and then there’s a full moon.

I miss being in love but I miss
myself most when I’m gone.

In the salty wet air of my ancestry
my auntie peels a mango with her teeth

and I’m no longer
writing political poems; because there are

mangoes and my favorite memory is still alive.
I’m digging for meaning but haunted by purpose

and it’s an insufficient approach.
What’s the margin of loss on words not spent today?

I’m getting older. I’m buying smaller images to travel light.
I wake up, I light up, I tidy, and it’s all over now.

Copyright © 2021 by Camonghne Felix. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 7, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Dad always grew tomatoes
They were his pride and joy
So when the lady outside Home Depot
Offered me the box and said,
‘Do you have a garden?’
I didn’t say no, though I should have
I said, ‘We have a theatre…’
And somehow that was just as good.

It grows like a weed in Hollywood
In the cracks between Film and Industry
It was a grease monkey’s garage, then a shooting range
But only now
Can we call the people who run it clowns.
We put the tomatoes out
On the air conditioning supply unit
To try to add some poetry to that phrase.

Today is tomatoes in the parking lot
Tomorrow is white roof, filtered water, solar
panels, cycle racks, urban garden, green
building, public plaza, artist’s village
To build a cultural heritage for the city
I once heard described as ‘Hell’s parking lot’
Tomato by tomato
Because nobody dreams as hard as poets
And nobody works as hard as clowns.

Copyright © 2012 by Brian Sonia-Wallace. This poem appeared in “Healthy Environments Across Generations” Conference, New York Academy of Medicine. Used with permission of the author. 

They are all here,
generations of elder queers with crooked hands
like trees. I shake my whole self at the giant’s trunk.
The forest glistens. A world built on invisible
shimmers suddenly in the light.

If only the roots could see the budding sky.

If only I could garden my history so deep.

This is strength.
This is pride.
To be burned, emptied.
To stand tall, anyway, play host to new branches, fresh green,
a forest with a single
root system.

Whatever they say of us, let them say,

we didn’t do this alone.

TK

Came home and found my typewriter
case a little crushed it’s my fault
probably for leaving it looking like
a stepping stone for someone not tall
enough to climb onto the toy chest
but who very much likes to clamber
up there my father built the toy chest
for me and now the result is my comma
key sticks won’t fly up to make its mark
so no more clauses of that tender
kind or just imagine them there or figure
out how to use a semicolon or type the word
comma when I need one lots of things
are called commas not just punctuation
a certain butterfly a bacillus responsible for cholera
the chest’s nails are slowly withdrawing I notice
pulling themselves out in the invisible
hammerclaw of time or else the wood itself’s
ejecting them feeling maybe hey it’s been long
enough let me just be planks again or it could
be the climbing itself did I also climb
and all that climbing’s worked
against those nails a little each time after
my father held one in his hand one in his
mouth and with his hammer made a box

Copyright © 2021 by Miller Oberman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 22, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

For October

I was thinking about that museum 
with just the one painted stamp people 
pay big money to stare at minimum 
an hour at a time by a painter of people

who have been old for a very long time. 
Sarah Beth Bess of Peducah, Old Walter Thom
outside Paris Island, the most senior clients
of most of the low country senior homes.   

There used to be a country where no sad
songs were allowed out loud because 
making the king blue was outlawed. 
The girl falling down the well sang without pause 

as she fell. People described it as gospel.
The boy in the well sang as well as a small bell 
& the people said it sounded like babble.
Rising in life-like detail from the middle 

of the stamp sized painting is an ornate mountain. 
My people moved further south to the beaches 
instead of moving north after reconstruction. 
“Blessed,” my father said when I asked if he’d 

rather be blessed or lucky. Soda in a can taste better 
than soda in a bottle but beer in a bottle 
taste better than beer in a can. It’s better
plus less stressful to think the best of people.

The worst thing about scared people 
is they go around scaring other people. 
Who you are with your mamma, People, 
is not who you are with other people.

The color of my mother’s thumbs up emoji 
is unchanged either because she’s not estranged 
by such things or because she doesn’t know 
the shade of her thumb can be changed. 

The painter can be seen painting a small 
painting through the window of a modestly
decorated cabin on the mountain. With all 
the people who clap when some mostly 

vengeful violence happens in the movie, 
those who do not clap may feel no other people 
are not clapping. I hear you. It seems  
reasonable to stare at a painting for at least 

as long as it takes the painter to make it 
& also reasonable to stare for approximately 
as long as it takes the sun to rise & set.
I told my father being blessed was vaguely 

more dependent on the whims of God. 
I’d rather be lucky. The girl in the well 
was put there in the name of god
by farming people. The boy fell.

Copyright © 2021 by Terrance Hayes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 25, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

To tell her story, you must know when
to put courage in a matchbox and conceal

it in a loaf of bread. You must learn how
a message betokened deliverance

when courage is simply a word someone
wrote on a slip of paper and the sweet

scent of bread could no longer sustain you.
You must grasp your other hand with what

grit remains, growing and unyielding.
To tell her story, you must walk in her shoes.

If forced out of your leased farmland,
don’t forget to bring rice if you can pack

only what you can carry. And if
your mother did not speak inside the bus

with the windows covered with brown paper
on the way to the barracks, it was only

because she was praying that you would not be
housed in the horse stall with the manure

whitewashed over. And if you were, she was
deciding what to do about the smell.

To tell her story, you must remember
the landscape from behind barbed

wire fences. You must gaze at your body
and know its history, look beneath

the tender, ridged scars and see the bone
protruding out of your right arm

and hole the size of a football
on your right thigh, wondering how

the lights never went out. You must
look at the image of your grandmother

with the weight of rammed earth against
what you survived. To tell her story,

you must say a prayer, not of sorrow,
but of grace. You must loosen the earth,

pick daffodils to the base of the stem,
remember your roots and ordinary days,

and the grit under your fingernails,
the way your grandmother taught you.

Copyright © 2021 by Aileen Cassinetto. This poem originally appeared in Marsh Hawk Press Review, Spring 2021. Used with permission of the author.

When my twin brother tells me stories about hanging out
With his cholo gangster friends from high school, part of me

Doesn’t want to hear it. It’s not that I’m afraid: I’m afraid to admit
That I’m afraid and I play along. He doesn’t tell me to show off,

That’s for sure. He’s not necessarily trying to scare me.
I think he’s just remembering his time with his friends;

The few that he had. They all came from broken homes.
Their parents were drug addicts. Lived in low-rent apartments,

Like us. None of his friends ever brought their drama 
To our home. Didn’t say bad words in front of my parents.

They were boys hiding behind baggy shirts and pants,
Because the world didn’t think much of them to ever

Give them a chance. I guess the reason I don’t like to hear 
His stories, even though it’s good for him to remember and release,

Is because I’m afraid to know he was ever so vulnerable;
Almost locked-up. Almost thrown away. Almost buried, forever.

Copyright © 2021 by Jose Hernandez Diaz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 14, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Oh dream, why do you do me this way? 
Again, with the digging, again with the digging up.
Once more with the shovels.
Once more, the shovels full of dirt.
The vault lid. The prying. The damp boards.

Mother beside me.
Like she’s an old hat at this. 
Like all she’s got left is curiosity.
Like curiosity didn’t kill the red cat.
Such a sweet, gentle cat it was.

Here we go again, dream.
Mother, wearing her take-out-the-garbage coat.
I haven’t seen that coat in years.
The coat she wore to pick me up from school early.
She appeared at the back of the classroom, early.

Go with your mother, teacher said.
Diane, you are excused.
I was a little girl. Already a famous actress.
I looked at the other kids. I acted lucky.
Though everyone knows what an early pick-up means.

An early pick-up, dream.
What’s wrong, I asked my mother. It is early spring.
Bright sunlight. The usual birds. 
Air, teetering between bearable and unbearable.
Cold, but not cold enough to shiver.

Still, dream, I shiver. 
You know, my mother said. 
Her long garbage coat flying.
There was a wind, that day. 
A wind like a scurrying grandmother, dusting.

Look inside yourself, my mother said. 
You know why I have come for you.
And still I acted lucky. Lucky to be out.
Lucky to be out in the cold world with my mother.
I’m innocent, I wanted to say. 

A little white girl, trying out her innocence.
A white lamb, born into a cold field.
Frozen almost solid. Brought into the house. 
Warmed all night with hair dryers.
Death? I said. Smiling. Lucky.

We’re barely to the parking lot.
Barely to the car ride home.
But the classroom already feels like the distant past.
Long ago, my classmates pitying me.
Arriving at this car full of uncles.

Were they wearing suits? Death such a formal occasion.
My sister, angry-crying next to me.
Me, encountering a fragment of evil in myself.
Evilly wanting my mother to say it.
What? I asked, smiling. My lamb on full display at the fair.

He’s dead! my sister said. Hit me in the gut with her flute.
Her flute case. Her rental flute. He’s dead!
Our father.
Our father, who we were not supposed to know had been dying.
He’s dead! The flute gleaming in its red case.

Here, my mother said at home.
She’d poured us each a small glass of Pepsi
We normally couldn’t afford Pepsi.
Lucky, I acted.
He’s no longer suffering, my mother said.

Here, she said. Drink this.
The little bubbles flew. They bit my tongue.
My evil persisted. What is death? I asked.
And now, dream, once more you bring me my answer.
Dig, my mother says. Pry, she says.

I don’t want to see, dream.
The lid so damp it crumbles under my hands.
The casket just a drawerful of bones.
A drawerful. Just bones and teeth.
That one tooth he had. Crooked like mine.

Copyright © 2021 by Diane Seuss. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 12, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

There are too many ancestors, so we are gathering their bones.

The poor ones, their graves broken by the roots of trees. The ones whose headstones have been weathered as blank as snow-drifts.

We have bought the wide plot. We have built the mausoleum. And now we fill it with the bones.

The ones killed in the monsoon floods. The one buried in her wedding dress. The one buried with his medals.

Because there will be a time when we cannot keep track of them, scattered in the cemetery like prodigals, we collect the bones.

The ones whose faces I can still recall. The ones who have been dead for a hundred years. We collect their bones. 

At each opened grave, we think about the body taking its shape as father, sister, cousin, uncle. We hunger for the story of each figure.

We hold the bones, though we know memory is mostly forgetting. Or memory is the sweeper who clears the sidewalk each morning. Or memory is the broom.

The mausoleum is marble, white as certain roses, and shaped like a house. There is room for everyone we will put there.

The rich ones, their gravestones glowing with gold paint. The infants with sweet names.  
We open their graves. We move their bones.

Look back far enough and your family becomes unfamiliar, a circle of people with a fading circumference.  

When I think of it long enough, home becomes a confusion of birthplace, hometown, country, and nation.

We walk through the cemetery, we point to our own, and we gather their bones.

Maybe memory is the desperate pharaoh who commands that the things of this life go with him into the next.

I would take with me the books I loved best. A jar of the ocean spanning my two countries. A slip of my lover’s sunny hair.  

I would take with me a sack of rice. My mother’s orange shawl. The robe my father wears in the kitchen at night, drinking a glass of water.  

That we might go to just one place to worship them, to wonder at who they were, we are moving the bones.  

Our tribe of eros and vinegar. Our black hair, our ordinary minds.

Holding the bones, we say the names of the dead, the music of the syllables, conjuring the hearts they answered to.  We hold the bones. 

Each stern skull. Each proud sternum. Each elegant rib, curved like a horizon.

Copyright © 2021 by Rick Barot. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 10, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

If I had one more day
I would write a love poem
composed of one word
repeated like binary code.

I’ll multiply it by the number
of days that passed 
without saying it to you
and I’ll add the days

when I said it with no words
because I want to say it 
more. And like a bee 
gathering pollen, I’ll collect 

everything ever said 
in one word like a square root
multiplied by the power of ten.
I’ll count even that day

when my anger at you
or for you turned me into 
a stone, and also the days 
when I was away

sending my songs like 
postcards to the lonely,
feeling you in every touch 
of love I gave to the world.

I’ll count all my days,
even the nine months of days 
before I was born, to say  
this exponential, growing “I love you.”

Copyright © 2021 by Dunya Mikhail. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 2, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

My father is a quiet man
    With sober, steady ways;
For simile, a folded fan;
    His nights are like his days.

My mother's life is puritan,
    No hint of cavalier,
A pool so calm you're sure it can
    Have little depth to fear.

And yet my father's eyes can boast
    How full his life has been;
There haunts them yet the languid ghost
    Of some still sacred sin.

And though my mother chants of God,
    And of the mystic river,
I've seen a bit of checkered sod
    Set all her flesh aquiver.

Why should he deem it pure mischance
    A son of his is fain
To do a naked tribal dance
    Each time he hears the rain?

Why should she think it devil's art
    That all my songs should be
Of love and lovers, broken heart,
    And wild sweet agony?

Who plants a seed begets a bud,
    Extract of that same root;
Why marvel at the hectic blood
    That flushes this wild fruit?

This poem is in the public domain.

the way it ricocheted—a boomerang flung 
from your throat, stilling the breathless air.

How you were luminous in it. Your smile. Your hair 
tossed back, flaming. Everyone around you aglow.

How I wanted to live in it those times it ignited us 
into giggles, doubling us over aching and unmoored

for precious minutes from our twin scars—
the thorned secrets our tongues learned too well

to carry. It is impossible to imagine you gone, 
dear one, your laugh lost to some silence I can’t breach,

from which you will not return.

for Fay Botham (May 31, 1968–January 10, 2021)

Copyright © 2022 by Lauren K. Alleyne. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 6, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

the way it ricocheted—a boomerang flung 
from your throat, stilling the breathless air.

How you were luminous in it. Your smile. Your hair 
tossed back, flaming. Everyone around you aglow.

How I wanted to live in it those times it ignited us 
into giggles, doubling us over aching and unmoored

for precious minutes from our twin scars—
the thorned secrets our tongues learned too well

to carry. It is impossible to imagine you gone, 
dear one, your laugh lost to some silence I can’t breach,

from which you will not return.

for Fay Botham (May 31, 1968–January 10, 2021)

Copyright © 2022 by Lauren K. Alleyne. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 6, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight
                 To me did seem
            Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
             Turn wheresoe’er I may,
              By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

            The rainbow comes and goes,
            And lovely is the rose;
            The moon doth with delight
     Look round her when the heavens are bare;
            Waters on a starry night
            Are beautiful and fair;
     The sunshine is a glorious birth;
     But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
     And while the young lambs bound
            As to the tabor’s sound,
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
            And I again am strong.
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep,—
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong:
I hear the echoes through the mountains throng.
The winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
            And all the earth is gay;
                Land and sea
     Give themselves up to jollity,
            And with the heart of May
     Doth every beast keep holiday;—
                Thou child of joy,
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy
        Shepherd-boy!
                 Ye blesséd Creatures, I have heard the call 
     Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
     My heart is at your festival,
       My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all.
         O evil day! if I were sullen
         While Earth herself is adorning
              This sweet May-morning;
         And the children are culling
              On every side
         In a thousand valleys far and wide
         Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the babe leaps up on his mother’s arm:—
         I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
         —But there’s a tree, of many, one,
A single field which I have look’d upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
              The pansy at my feet
              Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
          Hath had elsewhere its setting
               And cometh from afar;
          Not in entire forgetfulness,
          And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come 
               From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
               Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
               He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
     Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,
          And by the vision splendid
          Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a mother‘s mind,
               And no unworthy aim,
          The homely nurse doth all she can
To make her foster-child, her inmate, Man,
               Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came.

Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years’ darling of a pigmy size!
See, where ‘mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses,
With light upon him from his father’s eyes!
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learned art;
          A wedding or a festival,
          A mourning or a funeral;
               And this hath now his heart,
          And unto this he frames his song:
               Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
          But it will not be long
          Ere this be thrown aside,
          And with new joy and pride
The little actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his ‘humorous stage’
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,
That life brings with her in her equipage;
          As if his whole vocation
          Were endless imitation.

Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
          Thy soul’s immensity;
Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal Mind,—
          Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!
          On whom those truths rest
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the day, a master o’er a slave,
A Presence which is not to be put by;
          To whom the grave
Is but a lonely bed, without the sense of sight
Of day or the warm light,
A place of thoughts where we in waiting lie;
Thou little child, yet glorious in the might
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being’s height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?
Full soon thy soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!
          O joy! that in our embers
          Is something that doth live,
          That Nature yet remembers
          What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest,
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:—
          —Not for these I raise
          The song of thanks and praise;
     But for those obstinate questionings
     Of sense and outward things,
     Fallings from us, vanishings,
     Blank misgivings of a creature
Moving about in worlds not realized, 
High instincts, before which our mortal nature 
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
     But for those first affections,
     Those shadowy recollections,
          Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
     Uphold us—cherish—and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being 
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
               To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
               Nor man nor boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
   Hence, in a season of calm weather
          Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
               Which brought us hither;
          Can in a moment travel thither—
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.

Then, sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
          And let the young lambs bound
          As to the tabor’s sound!
     We, in thought, will join your throng,
          Ye that pipe and ye that play,
          Ye that through your hearts to-day
          Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
     Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
          We will grieve not, rather find
          Strength in what remains behind;
          In the primal sympathy
          Which having been must ever be;
          In the soothing thoughts that spring
          Out of human suffering;
          In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

And O, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquish‘d one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway;
I love the brooks which down their channels fret
Even more than when I tripp’d lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born day
               Is lovely yet;
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
   Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
   Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
   To me the meanest flower that blows can give
   Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

This poem is in the public domain.

The first cold rains scurry down the gold
tipped September elms. I know

she will not be in her bedroom, a room
I realize I have hardly entered

these last few years, the door so rarely
unlocked. But walking by with a basket

of laundry for my son, I am pulled
by a thread, I think, of her perfume

adrift in the hall, her door ajar, a window
that must be cracked to the cross breeze.

I set the basket down. The white door
turns on its hinges with a whisper

of my fingers and I step through. Her ceiling
LEDs are not lit, and her desk is not

a mess of bowls and mugs, books and
oil paints No aluminum wrappers from chips

and protein bars. Her purple blanky does
not hang at the edge of her unmade bed.

No, the bed is made. The closet, half open,
is not quite empty. And not balled on the floor,

the tie-dyed T she so often wore to sleep.
When I catch myself in the floor length

mirror, I’m not as small as I imagined I’d be.
No, I don’t look different at all. I’ve lost

now, her scent, that curl of flower that must 
have slipped past me like a wraith, 

like a breath of days spun through years, 
like a rain that hushes the silence.

Copyright © 2023 by Matt W. Miller. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 15, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

My grandmother kisses
as if bombs are bursting in the backyard,
where mint and jasmine lace their perfumes
through the kitchen window,
as if somewhere, a body is falling apart
and flames are making their way back
through the intricacies of a young boy’s thigh,
as if to walk out the door, your torso
would dance from exit wounds.
When my grandmother kisses, there would be
no flashy smooching, no western music
of pursed lips, she kisses as if to breathe
you inside her, nose pressed to cheek
so that your scent is relearned
and your sweat pearls into drops of gold
inside her lungs, as if while she holds you
death also, is clutching your wrist.
My grandmother kisses as if history
never ended, as if somewhere
a body is still
falling apart.

Copyright © 2014 by Ocean Vuong. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

From The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994) by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the author.