Ok, I no longer want them,
the many selves I had to manage

that once exhausted friends. I believed

in angels then, thought I might be
an angel—that was me, flying off

on a tangent, just so we could land
on one of my many balconies

so we could look down on everyone.

Copyright © 2017 by Ira Sadoff. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 29, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

There is a force that breaks the body, inevitable,
the by-product is pain, unexceptional as a rain
gauge, which has become arcane, rhyme, likewise,
unless it’s assonant or internal injury, gloom, joy,
which is also a dish soap, but not the one that rids
seabirds of oil from wrecked tankers, that’s Dawn,
which should change its name to Dusk, irony being
the flip side of sentimentality here in the Iron Age,
ironing out the kinks in despair, turning it to hairdo
from hair, to do, vexing infinitive, much better to be
pain’s host, body of Christ as opposed to the Holy
Ghost, when I have been suffering at times I could
step away from it by embracing it, a blues thing,
a John Donne thing, divest by wrestling, then sing.

Copyright © 2017 by Diane Seuss. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 31, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

At the midnight in the silence of the sleep-time,
    When you set your fancies free,
Will they pass to where—by death, fools think, imprisoned—
Low he lies who once so loved you, whom you loved so,
—Pity me?

Oh to love so, be so loved, yet so mistaken!
    What had I on earth to do
With the slothful, with the mawkish, the unmanly?
Like the aimless, helpless, hopeless, did I drivel
—Being—who?

One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
    Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.

No, at noonday in the bustle of man's work-time
    Greet the unseen with a cheer!
Bid him forward, breast and back as either should be,
“Strive and thrive!” cry “Speed,—fight on, fare ever
There as here!”
 

This poem is in the public domain. 

—at The Giant Heart, The Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, PA)

Today the boy won’t rest long enough
for me to burn a single metaphor
back to whether precision or

prayer leavens the language I need
cast into the well of our survival. And then
the boy urges my turn to stay

poised on a floor scale while watching 24
chilling cups of hurt-colored liquid spill
into a clear cylinder. The gutted window

to the privacy of blood harbored
in this body thins the daily belief
that no sick imaginary could cut us

full open. And then the boy gawks around
a carousel of animal hearts, fidgets against
his surprise at the smallness of the lion’s

carnal engine beside the cow’s. Before
I can weigh the un-chambered bellows
of hunger, the boy begins to sound

a panel that plays the pulse of each animal.
He doesn’t linger with a blood-music; he keeps
mashing buttons at random—from the canary’s

constant lift to the cavernous crawl
of the blue whale—until I can’t see living
inside a god-rhythm that soothes

this earthly cacophony pleading
toward the dark effort of tomorrow.
By now, I have a strange image for heart

filling my mouth. I’m remembering
the tiny fleshy pyramids my own father
cleaned from sunfish. When they ceased

their tight contractions, I strained
to recognize the heart-ness in his hand,
sometimes pressing down into the soft

plunge of his palm to witness one
last lunge. This memory dissolves because
the boy dashes off, and then I’m chasing him

through the beating corridors of a giant
vascular room. The way is dim
and narrow—: I’m working hard to keep up.

I’m trying not to lose the boy
inside the heart. But every time I hear the light
of his laughter murmur across another

distance, I breathe into the new blessing
his life has kindled from the space between us:—
I think I could survive like this all day.

Copyright © 2017 by Geffrey Davis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 8, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

For years I have seen
dead animals on the highway
 
and grieved for them
only to realize they are
 
not dead animals
they are t shirts
 
or bits of blown tire
and I have found
 
myself with this
excess of grief
 
I have made with
no object to let
 
it spill over and
I have not known
 
where to put it or
keep it and then today
 
I thought I know
I can give it to you
 

Copyright © 2017 by Heather Christle. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 18, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

O, my daughter, once I was a poor boy
folding peppers into my sarong 
to walk three miles to sell, but what
can you tell me of sorrow, 
or of the courage it takes to buy
a clock instead of a palmful 
of rice to go with the goat 
we can’t afford to slaughter?
Look at the lines Allah etched
on your own palm: you have
a big brain and a good heart, 
still, you don’t use either enough! 
Once, I walked through a war 
beside my brother parallel 
to a gray river. Why do you care
about the few damp bills
I didn’t give to our mother?
Or the clock I bought to take apart? Well, 
I left that country with a palmful 
of seeds I’ve thrown across
this dry, hard Texas. Allah
has blessed me with this vine
that coils upward. I care
so little for what others say, ask 
your mother. That nose ring
doesn’t suit you, by the way. 
Once, you were small enough 
to cradle. There was a coil 
in that clock made of metal . . . O, 
that something so small can matter . . . 
                        No daughter, I 
don’t need a glass of water. Look, 
this will grow into maatir neeche aloo. 
In the spring, you see, its purple leaves
will be the size of your own palm. 
In the village, there is a saying: 
“Dhuniya dhari, kochu pathar paani.”
I don’t know where the clock is 
or how much it’s worth! There was 
not enough for kerosene . . . why 
do you always ask what can’t be answered?
 

Copyright © 2017 by Tarfia Faizullah. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 28, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

when did we become friends?
it happened so gradual i didn't notice
maybe i had to get my run out first
take a big bite of the honky world and choke on it
maybe that's what has to happen with some uppity youngsters
if it happens at all

and now
the thought stark and irrevocable
of being here without you
shakes me

beyond love, fear, regret or anger
into that realm children go
who want to care for/protect their parents
as if they could
and sometimes the lucky ones do

into the realm of making every moment
important
laughing as though laughter wards off death
each word given
received like spanish eight

treasure to bury within
against that shadow day
when it will be the only coin i possess
with which to buy peace of mind

From Heavy Daughter Blues by Wanda Coleman. Copyright © 1987 by Wanda Coleman. Reprinted by permission of Black Sparrow Press, an imprint of David R. Godine, Publisher.

I am less of myself and more of the sun;
The beat of life is wearing me
To an incomplete oblivion,
Yet not to the certain dignity
Of death. They cannot even die
Who have not lived.

                                The hungry jaws
Of space snap at my unlearned eye,
And time tears in my flesh like claws.

If I am not life’s, if I am not death’s,
Out of chaos I must re-reap
The burden of untasted breaths.
Who has not waked may not yet sleep.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

              for Dad

I’m writing you
         10 years later
    & 2,000 miles
                 Away from 
    Our silence
My mouth a cave
That had collapsed 
      I’m writing
  While you 
You wear the
                Hospital gown & 
          count failures
  Such as the body’s 
Inability to rise
             I see your fingers 
Fumbling in the
       Pillbox     as if
             Earthquakes are in
    Your hands
                I think it’s time
    For us to  abandon
Our cruelties
             For us to speak
So     s    o    f    t 
We’re barely
                Human.

Copyright © 2018 by Christopher Soto. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

A shattered bottle tore through my hand last month and split 
a vein until every finger was purple and I couldn’t
 
make even a tentative fist. I used the other hand to indicate
 
I’m okay. 
 
How unwise I am, how polite in a crisis.
In triage, an overheard photo of someone’s lover 
 
almost 3000 miles west made me seize with longing 
when I spied a palm tree in the background.
 
I understand what it says about me 
that my body lustfully wishes to place itself where it was never safe.
 
I have put enormous energy into trying to convince you I’m fine and
 
I’m just about there, no? 
 
Besides, decades on, poorly healed bones help me to predict rain!
though it’s true I like to verify weather
 
with another source because I tend not to believe myself.
I’ve been told repeatedly that I don’t understand plot but
 
it would be a clever twist, wouldn’t it, if in the end 
I realize it’s me who does me in.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Lynn Melnick. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 26, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.