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,
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
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.
Copyright © 2017 by Heather Christle. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 18, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
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
the thought stark and irrevocable
of being here without you
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
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.
Copyright © 2017 by Lynn Melnick. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 26, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.