We are marching, truly marching
Can’t you hear the sound of feet?
We are fearing no impediment
We have never known defeat.
Like Job of old we have had patience,
Like Joshua, dangerous roads we’ve trod
Like Solomon we have built out temples.
Like Abraham we’ve had faith in God.
Up the streets of wealth and commerce,
We are marching one by one
We are marching, making history,
For ourselves and those to come.
We have planted schools and churches,
We have answered duty’s call.
We have marched from slavery’s cabin
To the legislative hall.
Brethren can’t you catch the spirit?
You who are out just get in line
Because we are marching, yes we are marching
To the music of the time.
We are marching, steady marching
Bridging chasms, crossing streams
Marching up the hill of progress
Realizing our fondest dreams.
We are marching, truly marching
Can’t you hear the sound of feet?
We are fearing no impediment
We shall never know defeat.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 1, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
Go live with yourself after what you didn’t do.
Go and be left behind. Pre-package
your defense, tell yourself
you were doing
your oath, guarding the futility of
your corrupted good,
discerning the currency of some.
As if them over all else.
Above God and Spirit.
You over me, you think.
This is no shelter in justice not sheltering with
enclosure of soft iron a sheltering of injustices
into an inferno flooding of your crimes committed
and sheltered by most culprit of them all.
These nesting days come
outward springs of truth,
dismantle the old structures,
their impulse for colony—I am done
with it, the likes of you.
To perpetrate lack of closure, smolders of unrest.
To perpetrate long days alone, centuries gone deprived.
To be complicit in adding to the
perpetration of power on a neck,
there and shamed,
court of ancestors to disgrace
you, seeing and to have done nothing.
Think you can be like them.
Work like them.
Talk like them.
Never truly to be accepted,
always a pawn.
Copyright © 2020 by Mai Der Vang. Originally published with the Shelter in Poems initiative on poets.org.
I am come to the age
of pondering my lastness:
buying what seems likely
my final winter coat at Macy’s,
or when a glossy magazine
(so very blithely)
asks me to renew. As for
my heart, that pixilated
tweener, how long
I’ve been required to baby
alarmed and stubborn clock,
refusing to listen even as
the more intrepid tried.
Now, she mostly mutters
to herself, though
some clanging, a tinny sound,
like the radiator in a Southie
triple decker, fractious as
a pair of cowboy boots
in a laundromat’s dryer.
It’s always been
this joke old people know—
in such a state
of nearly doneness,
the world grows sweeter,
as if our later days
are underscored with music
from a concerto’s saddest
oboe hidden in the trees.
while standing in the kitchen,
my son complained nonstop
about his AP Psych class
while wolfing warmed up
bucatini from a crazed,
pink china bowl.
Shiny, kvetching creature.
Even if I could tell him
what he doesn’t want to know,
I wouldn’t. But now,
the pissy storm that’s spent
all afternoon flapping like
a dirty sheet
has wandered off
to spook some other
There’s one barbed weed
pushing up greenly through
my scruffy loropetalum.
And it falls on me, this little
cold rain the day has left.
A bandana. A cardinal. An apple
No. 2 lead pencil—the mechanical pencil, now empty—appears more vivid
A box of toothpicks—now that I'm baking bran muffins
Rubber gloves: that Playtex commercial "so flexible you can pick up a dime." I tried once and it's true. Thankfully, I have yellow rubber gloves—like those Mother wore. We never had a dishwasher. No, that was her, the dishwasher. Not even this gloomy daughter was assigned the chore. Though I did learn in Home Ec. to fill a basin with warm water and soap; wash glasses before the greasy dishes then silverware and finally pots and pans. Rinse. Air dry ("it's more sanitary"). And I do.
Scissors: I cut up dish clothes to use as napkins. When I try sewing on the ancient Singer (1930?), the knee-lever doesn't work so I abandon the hemming. Then hand stitch while listening to the news. I am grateful for a full spool of white thread.
Scissors: where once I used these to cut paper, now I use them for everything. Including hair. Father always directed us to use the right kind of scissors for the task—paper, cloth, hair. Had he lasted into his nineties, how would he have dealt with sequestering? With belligerence, no doubt.
Empty jar: I think to grow beansprouts and look into ordering seeds. Back ordered until May 1.
Egg shells: should I start a mulch pile? Mother had a large empty milk carton by the sink where she'd add stuff to mulch. And now T reports that because they are making every meal, Our mulch pile is so alive.
Sleeping Beauty, yes, that cocoon—
Moby Dick, The Tale of Genji, Anna Karenina—I left Emily Dickinson - Selected Poems edited by Helen Vendler in my office
Notebook: March 20, 2020
A student in Elmhurst cannot sleep for the constant ambulance sirens. She keeps her blinds drawn but sees on tv what is taking place a block away—bodies in body bags loaded onto an enormous truck. The governor calls this The Apex. And late last night, R called—"helicopters are hovering over the building!" She remembers the thrumming over our brownstone in Park Slope on 9/11. And just now I learn that religious people just blocks from her were amassing by the hundreds, refusing social distance. And I am full of rage. Some communities have begun to use drones to disperse people. The president states he has "complete power." And I am filled with rage.
Binoculars: a cardinal
A neighbor goes out to pick up my prescription. I leave daffodils on the porch for him. I picked them with gloves on.
Stopped biting my nails when we started sheltering
and the next week they scratched my daughter
when I held her. Seldom had I ever seen nails intact
on my troubled fingers, but now I persevered to grow
abundant enough to touch any other person.
We ate and uttered grace, my own thanks diminished
by sincerity. Thank you for not being dead!
Seven o’clock. The sunset breathes pink as a gill.
We plead applause out open windows desperate
to once more belong to we. Pandemic, pan demos, means all people,
but our clapping sounds dumb cause it’s not.
I wonder if the virus is only envoi, a final sickness following
the first: that burst of capital scouring the earth for returns.
How gluttonous money flies as half alive as any virus!
Superstructural germ, does the wage like you borrow the body’s life
until investment finally sunders people extra, mere clippings?
The corona seems only the sun’s thin halo,
a white keratin rim, and now they say crisis comes
when people consume too little, so when my nails grow back
I chew them hope hungry, cannibal of my hands,
fearing each hangnail a door for the contaminant.
Does such solipsism tell you I’ve suffered
only paper cuts? It seems that being New Yorkers means
we share only one thing. We each hear the red wound wailing
in the air, soaking the siren red. The siren burns,
the siren spins, but now a different return from that of ambulances
and profits. Now spring strikes. Now the workers walk out
of warehouses. A judge orders ten migrants unthawed
from ice. Is something turning for the people
called surplus? Dread of anticipation before no future.
Stop biting your nails, says my mother
on Skype. She tells me to save the bearded roots
of leeks. If you plant them, new shoots
regenerate from the trimmings.
Copyright © 2020 by Ken Chen. Originally published with the Shelter in Poems initiative on poets.org.
For our New York Cities
From sun’s first shine, we walk all day
through a dream surreal, our minds wander
a new world from inside windowsills.
We go to bed half asleep,
eyes defiant for the crave of news feed,
quenching our dread on the bad blood of blue light
not sent from the moon.
We are devastate-aching,
this can’t be happening,
a nation stationed inside the nightmare
of a leader unfit for awakening.
We grieve in solitary solidarity
for our country, our New York cities; their subways
riding ghosted through the choking channels of our lungs—
those throats that have known
I can’t breathe
far before our collective chests could not.
We grieve for every building of our boroughs,
from section eight to the unfinished skyscraper’s crane.
Buildings busting with bodies or abandoned by them:
bodies that dance, bodies that sleep,
bodies that virtual meet, eat and drink.
Bodies that cease.
We grieve the gravity
of having to die alone
in a city built on never having to be.
And though our bridges are orphaned arches
left to hold up the sky’s condolences,
they still do connect us.
They still do connect us.
to the cabin fever daughters
watching over high fevered grandfathers.
Connect us to the warrior first responders,
nurses and exhausted doctors,
the recovering sick finally taking off ventilators.
to the maskless, the homeless,
the hopeless, the jobless,
our locals: bars, bodegas and bath houses,
our silent Brooklyn streets empty as ancient desert streams
holding only the echoes of ambulance screams.
to the cherry blossoms standing guard in full blush
while cops bloom ribbons of yellow tape at their gates.
by airborne whispers between walkups,
of missed rhythm, longing for the public pull
of prior swagger,
by the daydream of lawless rush hour taxis
rubbing up against each other’s paint,
kissing the ears of each other’s rearviews,
for the crowded irritants
of sweltering avenues
budding with beech trees and brisk walkers.
the middle fingers of strangers,
the playlists of basketball courts
and schoolyard sabotage,
the lights bright over Broadway,
lights low in the Bowery,
lights out at The Chelsea
where Sid did in Nancy.
love poems to neighbors over balconies,
from the soapbox of apartment steps,
a Cyrano of stoops.
Connected by the density of front doors,
the clanging of steam hammer pipes
running through our floors
like the floating notes of festival encores.
for every future hand
we’ll shake, dap and hold
O, how we will hold you
our eyes lifting from the drift,
breaking open, free
to a new dawning—
wake up! See!—
how we hold you, New York cities,
how we hold you, never letting go.
Used with permission of the author.