She, being the midwife
and your mother’s
longtime friend, said
I see a heart; can you
see it? And on the grey
display of the ultrasound
there you were as you were,
our nugget, in that moment
becoming a shrimp
or a comma punctuating
the whole of my life, separating
its parts—before and after—,
a shrimp in the sea
of your mother, and I couldn’t
help but see the fast
beating of your heart
translated on that screen
and think and say to her,
to the room, to your mother,
to myself It looks like
a twinkling star.
I imagine I’m not
the first to say that either.
Unlike the first moments
of my every day,
the new of seeing you was the first
—deserving of the definite article—
moment I saw a star
at once so small and so
big, so close and getting closer
every day, I pray.

Copyright © 2019 by Sean Hill. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 13, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

I’m sorry, could you repeat that. I’m hard of hearing.
To the cashier
To the receptionist
To the insistent man asking directions on the street

I’m sorry, I’m hard of hearing. Could you repeat that?
At the business meeting
In the writing workshop
On the phone to make a doctor’s appointment

I’m-sorry-I’m-sorry-I’m-so-sorry-I’m-hard-for-the-hearing

Repeat.

           Repeat.

Hello, my name is Sorry
To full rooms of strangers
I’m hard to hear

I vomit apologies everywhere
They fly on bat wings
towards whatever sound beckons

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I am so, so sorry
           and repeating
                       and not hearing

Dear (again)
I regret to inform you

I       am

here

 

Copyright © 2020 by Camisha L. Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The world baffles with sounds,
the worst of which is a human voice.
You would think that with a judgment like that
I would hate crowds, but better a pub’s intermingled dozens
than the sound of one fool speaking his mind.
The dozens drum and buzz and hum.
Against the dozens I could ring a wet glass
and sing C above high C,
could settle a bet with bold harmonics,
could stun down the bark of a barracks of dogs.
But against one idiot all another idiot can do is shout.
Imagine a life in which shouting was the precondition
for every action, if you had to shout to step, shout to sit,
shout loudly to effect any outcome.
What when you did speak would you say?
What wouldn’t sound old to you, 
about what could you not say I’ve heard this before?
What a relief it would be to scream yourself hoarse,
to be forced into silence,
the one note you know you can always hold.

Copyright © 2019 by Raymond McDaniel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 24, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Farewell, sweetheart, and again farewell;
To day we part, and who can tell
     If we shall e'er again
Meet, and with clasped hands
Renew our vows of love, and forget
     The sad, dull pain.

Dear heart, 'tis bitter thus to lose thee
And think mayhap, you will forget me;
     And yet, I thrill
As I remember long and happy days
Fraught with sweet love and pleasant memories
     That linger still

You go to loved ones who will smile
And clasp you in their arms, and all the while
     I stay and moan
For you, my love, my heart and strive
To gather up life's dull, gray thread
     And walk alone.

Aye, with you love the red and gold
Goes from my life, and leaves it cold
     And dull and bare,
Why should I strive to live and learn
And smile and jest, and daily try
     You from my heart to tare?

Nay, sweetheart, rather would I lie
Me down, and sleep for aye; or fly
      To regions far
Where cruel Fate is not and lovers live
Nor feel the grim, cold hand of Destiny
      Their way to bar.

I murmur not, dear love, I only say
Again farewell. God bless the day
      On which we met,
And bless you too, my love, and be with you
In sorrow or in happiness, nor let you
      E'er me forget.
 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 11, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Beyond the cities I have seen,
Beyond the wrack and din,
There is a wide and fair demesne
Where I have never been.

Away from desert wastes of greed,
Over the peaks of pride,
Across the seas of mortal need
Its citizens abide.

And through the distance though I see
How stern must be the fare,
My feet are ever fain to be
Upon the journey there.

In that far land the only school
The dwellers all attend
Is built upon the Golden Rule,
And man to man is friend.

No war is there nor war’s distress,
But truth and love increase—
It is a realm of pleasantness,
And all her paths are peace.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 12, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands
gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger
on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back.
You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look
of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite
every sorrow until it fled, and when it is August,
you can have it August and abundantly so. You can have love,
though often it will be mysterious, like the white foam
that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot over the red kidneys
until you realize foam's twin is blood.
You can have the skin at the center between a man's legs,
so solid, so doll-like. You can have the life of the mind,
glowing occasionally in priestly vestments, never admitting pettiness,
never stooping to bribe the sullen guard who'll tell you
all roads narrow at the border.
You can speak a foreign language, sometimes,
and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave
where your father wept openly. You can't bring back the dead,
but you can have the words forgive and forget hold hands
as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful
for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia, grateful
for Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels
sucking up the drops on your clean skin, and for deeper thirsts,
for passion fruit, for saliva. You can have the dream,
the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt and you riding in the hot sand.
You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed,
at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping
of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise.
You can't count on grace to pick you out of a crowd
but here is your friend to teach you how to high jump,
how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards,
until you learn about love, about sweet surrender,
and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel, farms in the mind
as real as Africa. And when adulthood fails you,
you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond
of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas
your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept.
There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother's,
it will always whisper, you can't have it all,
but there is this.

From Bite Every Sorrow by Barbara Ras, published by Louisiana State University Press, 1998. Copyright © 1997 by Barbara Ras. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Thrushes, alert for opportunity,
sleep in winks of thirty seconds or less.

Has Guinness tracked the longest sigh on record
and was it exhaled in exasperation or ecstasy?

In the measure of apothecaries, one scruple
equals twenty grains, a lot of data to debunk.

Four centuries ago a watchmaker set up the first circus
of fleas tied to carts. Since then,

entertainment has changed a lot—explosions, all the rage.
Not long ago whistling in an office could get you fired,

and now who of us blinks at torture taken to the brink
of drowning, not once per body, but a vomitous number

I’m not going to hurt you with, and who asks how often
mouth-to-mouth—the torturer locking lips with the tortured

to revive him for another round. An alarm rings
to wake the thrush for the next

threat, thus serving the species for survival
of the fittest, while in the Situation Room, our best,

fit to kill, compute opportunity costs with the poise
of the guys whose billboards brag, “We buy ugly houses.”

Give me the scale that weighs a whistle, a flea,
the song of a thrush, the sum of pain caused

by people of conscience, people ignoring it.
Is opportunity tired of being missed?

Does it sigh the way we sigh?

Copyright © 2016 Barbara Ras. Used with permission of the author.