I am taken with the hot animal
of my skin, grateful to swing my limbs

and have them move as I intend, though
my knee, though my shoulder, though something
is torn or tearing. Today, a dozen squid, dead

on the harbor beach: one mostly buried,
one with skin empty as a shell and hollow

feeling, and, though the tentacles look soft,
I do not touch them. I imagine they
were startled to find themselves in the sun.

I imagine the tide simply went out
without them. I imagine they cannot

feel the black flies charting the raised hills
of their eyes. I write my name in the sand:
Donika Kelly. I watch eighteen seagulls

skim the sandbar and lift low in the sky.
I pick up a pebble that looks like a green egg.

To the ditch lily I say I am in love.
To the Jeep parked haphazardly on the narrow
street I am in love. To the roses, white

petals rimmed brown, to the yellow lined
pavement, to the house trimmed in gold I am

in love. I shout with the rough calculus
of walking. Just let me find my way back,
let me move like a tide come in.

Copyright © 2017 by Donika Kelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

i’m confident that the absolute dregs of possibility for this society,
the sugary coffee mound at the bottom of this cup,
our last best hope that when our little bit of assigned plasma implodes 
it won’t go down as a green mark in the cosmic ledger,
lies in the moment when you say hello to a bus driver 
and they say it back—

when someone holds the door open for you 
and you do a little jog to meet them where they are—

walking my dog, i used to see this older man 
and whenever I said good morning, 
he replied ‘GREAT morning’—

in fact, all the creative ways our people greet each other
may be the icing on this flaming trash cake hurtling through the ether. 

when the clerk says how are you 
and i say ‘i’m blessed and highly favored’ 

i mean my toes have met sand, and wiggled in it, a lot. 
i mean i have laughed until i choked and a friend slapped my back.
i mean my niece wrote me a note: ‘you are so smart + intellajet’

i mean when we do go careening into the sun, 

i’ll miss crossing guards ushering the grown folks too, like ducklings 
and the lifeguards at the community pool and
men who yelled out the window that they’d fix the dent in my car, 
right now! it’d just take a second—

and actually everyone who tried to keep me alive, keep me afloat, 
and if not unblemished, suitably repaired.

but I won’t feel too sad about it,
becoming a star 

Copyright © 2024 by Eve L. Ewing. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 6, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Shoulders” from Red Suitcase. Copyright © 1994 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.

Praise to the father holding his sleeping daughter on the 52nd Street trolley
            To the daughter sleeping through the pothole thrum

Praise to the diabetic with shorn feet & sugarcane blood
            To the shooting nerve through her left hip & lower spine
            To those flying gods on their routes

Praise to the red-headed Rasta & his ganja-laced T-shirt
            To the Vietnam vet at Cass Corridor holding his sign
            To the sign which reads: “Not homeless Just strugglin”

Praise to the barbers calming the fatherless in their chairs
            To the mothers trying not to overhear this soothing
            To soothing

Praise to razed skylines & ruins
            To whatever replaces the horizon
            To the lost toddler who refused to speak to strangers
            To the strangers who would not let him be lost

Praise to sisters in love with whoever won’t love them
            To others in love with whoever won’t bother

Praise to the lovers who left lessons
                        the lovers who left scars
           To the memory of topography
                         raised surface, smooth to touch
           To id’s fragile shards & ego’s fringed edge

Praise to boys who make beeswax fingernails
            To little girls who wear fatigues & eye black
Praise to the overlooked
                   the overlooking

Praise to Miss Toto, Bambi Banks, Pearl Harbour
            To bombs that never landed
            To satellites that couldn’t be coaxed to Earth
            To the dreams in bodies that won’t hold a lie

Praise to beauty that doesn’t suffer rules
            To dollar store sheik & sleek vintage tins
            To Type 2 wave & Type 4 curl
            To wanting to be
            To being

Praise to the hard-won win against Chronos
            To the stone wrapped in swaddling
                         the neurotic eaglet safe in hiding
                         the sirens fostering seafamilies
                         the eye uncrossed, uncrowed

Praise to love’s resurrection
                  incising shame’s jugular
            To the seven ecstatic hallelujahs
            To the left hand counting 5 of them
            To le petit mort & headboard bang

Praise to boot houses
                         children running over frayed laces

Praise to the old kitchen, half-gutted,
                         its springtime gnats & winter flies
                         its mice hugging sweet corners

Praise to that which endures
            To old doors, layers of paint
                         years of storm beating solid oak
            To the gable roof that is a ceiling,
                         the coffered ceiling that is also a floor

Praise to what shoulders weight
            To brackets & load-bearing walls
                         beams & spindly skeletons
                         sacred geometry & tangents
            To levees & pregnant summers
                         the bullet-ridden body
                         coilspring & wheel

Praise to open wombs & caskets
                         any mother who must decide either
            To the crown & seed lowering
                         into the thorny or fertile soil

Praise to the ground unfastening
            To every earthworm’s bristle
                         & every seraph’s six wings
                         entwined in songwaltz of welcome
            To the body relenting solely to dust
                         the spirit ascending straightway to stars

Praise to all who rejoice in becoming
            To all who transform in return

Copyright © 2019 by Airea D. Matthews. Originally published in Michigan Quarterly Review (Summer, 2019). Used with the permission of the poet.

These tall—taller than me if today I sit
among them—chandelier weeds, all filament
invisible up from the forest floor more
than a yard away I thought yesterday were
waiting for their moment in the season to unsheathe
whatever torches they would at the far, upward
tips of their muted spray; but coming out
again in the afternoon the wait had been, I saw,
for their moment in the day, to open asters,
perfect sunny fives haphazard in the air,
map pins on a dream-warm itinerary
and every outpost a starry capital.
Every night another year in our prime and
every year a span primeval underground
where the odyssey yet is a closed calendar.

Dear AI, show me a calendar in
a chandler’s workshop, show me his
apprentice when he believes himself
alone, show me what happens upon him,
who he feels himself become when through
the cell window the sun through a canopy
warms his brow, cheek, neck, and clavicle.
Show me at his early mouth a flare
if he feels it awakening, plump
and firm and sensitive, seeking, and the tallow,
too, responsive in its redolence
in its vessel, warm bellied and daylit.
Is it a low country, is it renaissance, and
who is the smith or athena of this?

Copyright © 2023 by Brian Blanchfield. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 4, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

After Robert Rauschenberg’s “Bed,”
oil and pencil markings on pillow, quilt, and sheet, 1955

So garish: the arc of his interior
thinking. So red,

so deceptive. The coordinates of this project fall
between sheets and box spring:

the command of horizontal passage.
The bed soaked

with the overlapping tongue
of his brushes, with pattern interruption, the departure

from edges. Let’s say he is within
his composition. Inside

his story. As he tips
the paint, the objective can be taken

altogether away until he detects
only desire: a rough strike

of purple
censured from exuberance. The room remains

with the weeping wreckage
all around, and the panels

in the corner
beaded with aggressive desperate skins.

Below the window, the dirty
city, its permanent

tensed distances, its hungry
catastrophes, its bare

windows. His pillow is creased. It tells everything
we need to know. Each drip, directionless.

Copyright © 2016 by Lauren Camp. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 13, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.