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.

All I ever wanted to be was a song— 
something soft and light held in the mouth 
sung sweet beneath the coming dawn. 
I return to that first desire—its gingham blouse 

rubbed against the heavy pull of flesh hovered
in a dark that I can only recall as that dark.
I ask what grace awaits that tender tendril’s suffered
stretch of green wide enough to tear a stark 

light out from under a troubled sky? I return
to the center of that smallness and sing its wounds—
jagged rasp crooned until edged out and earned.
I was the only boi I knew dreaming in soft bruise. 

And it made me as beautiful as the blood’s slow sprawl
at my knee, right before punching a bullying boy to crawl.

Copyright © 2023 by Jari Bradley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 22, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.