Now shall I store my soul with silent beauty, 
     Beauty of drifting clouds and mountain heights, 
Beauty of sun-splashed hills and shadowed forests, 
     Beauty of dawn and dusk and star-swept nights. 

Now shall I fill my heart with quiet music, 
    Song of the wind across the pine-clad hill, 
Song of the rain and, fairer than all music, 
    Call of the thrush when twilight woods are still. 

So shall the days to come be filled with beauty, 
     Bright with the promise caught from eastern skies; 
So shall I see the stars when night is darkest, 
     Still hear the thrush’s song when music dies. 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 1, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets. 

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind, 
that is not mine, but is a made place,

that is mine, it is so near to the heart, 
an eternal pasture folded in all thought 
so that there is a hall therein

that is a made place, created by light 
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am 
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved 
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.

She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words 
that is a field folded.

It is only a dream of the grass blowing 
east against the source of the sun 
in an hour before the sun's going down

whose secret we see in a children's game 
of ring a round of roses told.

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow 
as if it were a given property of the mind 
that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

by Robert Duncan, from The Opening of the Field. Copyright © 1960 by Robert Duncan. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
’Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

From Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well By Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1975 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted with permission of Random House, Inc. For online information about other Random House, Inc. books and authors, visit the website at www.randomhouse.com.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

This poem is in the public domain.

Out of the night that covers me,   
  Black as the Pit from pole to pole,   
I thank whatever gods may be   
  For my unconquerable soul.   

In the fell clutch of circumstance 
  I have not winced nor cried aloud.   
Under the bludgeonings of chance   
  My head is bloody, but unbowed.   

Beyond this place of wrath and tears   
  Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years   
  Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.   

It matters not how strait the gate,   
  How charged with punishments the scroll,   
I am the master of my fate:
  I am the captain of my soul.

This poem is in the public domain.

To a Brown Boy

Tis a noble gift to be brown, all brown,
     Like the strongest things that make up this earth,
Like the mountains grave and grand,
     Even like the very land,
     Even like the trunks of trees—
     Even oaks, to be like these!
God builds His strength in bronze.

To be brown like thrush and lark!
     Like the subtle wren so dark!
Nay, the king of beasts wears brown;
     Eagles are of this same hue.
I thank God, then, I am brown.
     Brown has mighty things to do.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning
my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement:
"If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please
come to the gate immediately."

Well—one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just
like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. "Help,"
said the flight agent. "Talk to her. What is her problem? We
told her the flight was going to be late and she did this."

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly.
"Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-
se-wee?" The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly
used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled
entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the
next day. I said, "No, we're fine, you'll get there, just later, who is
picking you up? Let's call him."

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would
stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to
her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just
for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while
in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I
thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know
and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee,
answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool
cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and
nuts—from her bag—and was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the
lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same powdered
sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two
little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they
were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend—
by now we were holding hands—had a potted plant poking out of her bag,
some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country tradi-
tion. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This
is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that
gate—once the crying of confusion stopped—seemed apprehensive about
any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

Naomi Shihab Nye, "Gate A-4" from Honeybee. Copyright © 2008 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with permission.

Patience is
wider than one
once envisioned,
with ribbons
of rivers
and distant 
ranges and 
tasks undertaken
and finished
with modest 
relish by
natives in their 
native dress.
Who would 
have guessed
it possible 
that waiting
is sustainable—
a place with 
its own harvests.
Or that in 
time's fullness
the diamonds 
of patience
couldn't be 
distinguished
from the genuine 
in brilliance
or hardness.

From Say Uncle by Kay Ryan, published by Grove Press. Copyright © 2000 by Kay Ryan. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark green fields; on; on; and out of sight.

Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted,
And beauty came like the setting sun.
My heart was shaken with tears and horror
Drifted away ... O but every one
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

This poem is in the public domain.

the quietness
where the child is—seems uneven
within limits—of fragile lightshadows: emptiness!—for
   the world Grows
in her—to Listen
to Itself
in its Fullness

22 January 1983
 

From Child & Rose by Gennady Aygi. Copyright © 2003 by Gennady Aygi and Peter France. Used by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

Copyright © 2017 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Dreamed the thong of my sandal broke.
Nothing to hold it to my foot.
How shall I walk?
	        Barefoot?
The sharp stones, the dirt. I would
hobble.
And– 
Where was I going?
Where was I going I can't
go to now, unless hurting?
Where am I standing, if I'm
to stand still now?

"The Broken Sandal" by Denise Levertov, from Poems 1968-1972, copyright © 1970 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Brown love is getting the pat down but not the secondary screening
and waiting after you clear to make sure the Sikh man or
the Black woman or the hijabis behind you get through

Brown love is asking the Punjabi guy working at the starbucks knockoff
if all the tea sizes are still the same price

and he says no,
it hasn’t been like that for at least four years,
but he slips you an extra tea bag without talking about it.

Brown love is the unsmiling aunty
at the disabled immigration line

barking
anything to declare? No? No? Have a good day.
and your rice, semolina, kari karo seeds and jaggary all get through
even though they are definitely from countries
where there are insects that could eat america to the ground

Brown love is texting your cousin on whatsapp asking
if she’s ever had a hard time bringing weed tincture in her carry on 

brown love is a balm
in this airport of life

where, if we can scrape up enough money
we all end up
because we all came from somewhere
and we want to go there
or we can’t go to there but we want to go to the place we went after that
where our mom still lives even though we fight
or our chosen sis is still in her rent controlled perfect apartment
where we get the luxury of things being like how we remember
we want to go to the place we used to live
and even if gentrification snatched the bakery
with the 75 cent coffee where everyone hung out all night
we can still walk the block where it was
and remember

and the thing about brown love is, nobody smiles.
nobody is friendly. nobody winks. nobody can get away with that
they’re all silently working their terrible 9 dollar an hour
food service jobs where tip jars aren’t allowed
or TSA sucks but it’s the job you can get out of the military
and nobody can get away with being outwardly loving
but we do what we can

brown love is the woman who lets your 1 pound over the 50 pound limit bag go
the angry woman who looks like your cousin
who is so tired on the american airlines customer service line
she tags your bag for checked luggage
and doesn’t say anything about a credit card, she just yells Next!
Brown love is your tired cousin who prays you all the way home
from when you get on the subway to when you land and get on another.
This is what we have
we do what we can.

Copyright © 2020 by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flowers of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.

This poem is in the public domain.

                                        —with a line from Louise Glück

Humor functions in the neighborhood as it functioned in the shtetl: the only way into a world insistent on your pain. Something you’d be shot for. If they want you to cry, tears are evasive; if they want you vulnerable, vulnerability’s a cop-out; if they want a confession, your confession is cheap. “When I speak passionately, / that’s when I’m least to be trusted.” A privilege to weep when to laugh is to choke on history. Oh diaspora: seventy-five years ago I’d be gassed beside my sisters, yet here I am, running out for milk in a heated car. Does a funnier joke exist? Yet there’s so many jokes in this neighborhood, that one barely gets a laugh.

                                                                    You’re telling us. 

 

Copyright © 2020 by Allison Pitinii Davis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 1, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

When I come home they rush to me, the flies, & would take me, they would take me in their small arms if I were smaller, so fly this way, that way in joy, they welcome me. They kiss my face one two, they say, Come in, come in. Sit at this table. Sit. They hold one hand inside the other & say, Eat. They share the food, sit close to me, sit. As I chew they touch my hair, they touch their hands to my crumbs, joining me. The rim of my cup on which they perch. The milky lake above which. They ask for a story: How does it begin? Before, I was a child, & so on. My story goes on too long. I only want to look into their faces. The old one sits still, I sit with it, but the others busy themselves now with work & after the hour which maybe to them is a week, a month, I sleep in the room between the open window & the kitchen, dreaming though I were the Sierra, though I were their long lost sister, they understand that when I wake I will have to go. One helps me with my coat, another rides my shoulder to the train. Come with me, come, I say. No, no, it says, & waits with me there the rest whistling, touching my hair, though maybe these are its last seconds on earth in the light in the air is this love, though it is little, my errand, & for so little I left my house again.

Copyright © 2020 by Aracelis Girmay. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 2, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand,
and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem to still
and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when
a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they wheel and drop,
very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you
your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin, like
the moment just before you forgot what it was you were about to say,
it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only
all the time.

From The Good Thief. Copyright © 1988 by Marie Howe. Reprinted by permission of Persea Books, Inc., New York.

It is not good to think
of everything as a mistake. I asked
for bacon in my sandwich, and then

I asked for more. Mistake.
I told you the truth about my scar:

I did not use a knife. I lied
about what he did to my faith
in loneliness. Both mistakes.

That there is always a you. Mistake.
Faith in loneliness, my mother proclaimed,

is faith in self. My instinct, a poor polaris.
Not a mistake is the blue boredom
of a summer lake. O mud, sun, and algae!

We swim in glittering murk.
I tread, you tread. There are children

testing the deep end, shriek and stroke,
the lifeguard perilously close to diving.
I tried diving once. I dove like a brick.

It was a mistake to ask the $30 prophet
for a $20 prophecy. A mistake to believe.

I was young and broke. I swam
in a stolen reservoir then, not even a lake.
Her prophesy: from my vagrant exertion

I'll die at 42. Our dog totters across the lake,
kicks the ripple. I tread, you tread.

What does it even mean to write a poem?
It means today
I'm correcting my mistakes.

It means I don't want to be lonely.

Copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Chang. Used with permission of the author.

Crows assemble in the bare elm above our house.
Restless, staring: like souls
who want back in life.

            —And who wouldn’t want again
            the hot bath after hard work,
            with soft canyons of splitting foam;
            or the glass of spring water
            cold at the mouth?

            To be startled by beauty—drops of bright
            blood on the snow.
            To be radiant.

All morning the crows watch me in the garden
putting in the early onions.
Their bodies look oiled.
Back in, back in,
they shake the wooden rattles. 

Copyright © 2020 by Jenny George. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 19, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Say tomorrow doesn’t come.
Say the moon becomes an icy pit.
Say the sweet-gum tree is petrified.
Say the sun’s a foul black tire fire.
Say the owl’s eyes are pinpricks.
Say the raccoon’s a hot tar stain.
Say the shirt’s plastic ditch-litter.
Say the kitchen’s a cow’s corpse.
Say we never get to see it: bright
future, stuck like a bum star, never
coming close, never dazzling.
Say we never meet her. Never him.
Say we spend our last moments staring
at each other, hands knotted together,
clutching the dog, watching the sky burn.
Say, It doesn’t matter. Say, That would be
enough. Say you’d still want this: us alive,
right here, feeling lucky.

Copyright © 2013 by Ada Limón. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on March 14, 2013. Browse the Poem-a-Day archive.

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

From Migration: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Copyright © 1988 by W. S. Merwin. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

What if the submarine
is praying for a way
it can poison the air,
in which some of them have
leaped for a few seconds,
felt its suffocating
rejected buoyancy.
Something floats above their
known world leading a wake
of uncountable death.
What if they organized
into a rebellion?

Now scientists have found
a group of octopuses
who seem to have a sense
of community, who
live in dwellings made of
gathered pebbles and shells,
who cooperate, who
defend an apparent
border. Perhaps they’ll have
a plan for the planet
in a millennium
or two. After we’re gone.

Copyright © 2019 by Marilyn Nelson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

He said I must pay special attention in cars. He wasn’t, he assured me, saying that I’d be in an accident but that for two weeks some particular caution was in order, &, he said, all I really needed to do was throw the white light of Alma around any car I entered & then I’d be fine. & when I asked about Alma, he said, Oh, come on, you know Alma well. You two were together first in Egypt & then at Stonehenge, & I nodded though I’ve never been— in this life at least—to Stonehenge; then I said, Shouldn’t I always throw the white light of Alma around a car? & when he said, Well, it wouldn’t hurt, I said, What about around planes, houses? What if I throw the white light of Alma around anyone who might need protection from the reckless speed of driving or the reckless swerve & skid of the world? & the psychic opened his hands & shrugged up his shoulders. So despite your doubt or mine as to why I’d gone there, to a psychic, in—I kid you not—a town of psychics—in the first place, right now, as you read this, let me throw the white light of Alma around you & everyone you pass close to today, beloved or stranger, the grocer, the bus driver, the boy on his longboard, the lady you stand silent beside in the elevator, & also I am throwing it around anyone they care about anywhere in the spin of the world, because, we can agree that these days, everywhere, particular caution is in order &, even if unverifiable, the light of my dear sister Alma, couldn’t hurt.

Copyright © 2019 by Victoria Redel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

O day—if I could cup my hands and drink of you,
And make this shining wonder be
A part of me!
O day! O day!
You lift and sway your colors on the sky
Till I am crushed with beauty. Why is there
More of reeling sunlit air
Than I can breathe? Why is there sound
In silence? Why is a singing wound
About each hour?
And perfume when there is no flower?
O day! O Day! How may I press
Nearer to loveliness?

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 22, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

 Upon their arrival in America, more than twelve million immigrants were processed through the Ellis Island Immigration Center. Those who had traveled in second or third class were immediately given a thirty-second health inspection to determine if they were fit to enter their new country. A chalk checkmark on their clothing signaled a health problem and meant a stay in the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital, where they either recovered or, if deemed incurable, were kept until they could be sent back home. Even if just one family member was sick, that person’s entire family was turned away.

Hide the awkward jolt of jawline, the fluttering eye, that wide
brazen slash of boat-burned skin. Count each breath in order
to pacify the bloodless roiling just beneath the rib, to squelch
the mushrooming boom of tumor. Give fever another name.
I open my mouth, just to moan, but instead cluttered nouns,
so unAmerican, spew from my throat and become steam
in the room. That heat ripples through the meandering queue
of souls and someone who was once my uncle grows dizzy
with not looking at me. I am asked to temporarily unbutton
the clawing children from my heavy skirt, to pull the rough
linen blouse over my head and through my thick salted hair.
A last shelter thuds hard, pools around my feet on the floor.

I traveled with a whole chattering country’s restless mass
weakening my shoulders. But I offer it as both yesterday
and muscle. I come to you America, scrubbed almost clean,
but infected with memory and the bellow of broiling spices
in a long-ago kitchen. I come with a sickness insistent upon
root in my body, a sickness that may just be a frantic twist
from one life’s air to another. I ask for nothing but a home
with windows of circled arms, for a warm that overwhelms
the tangled sounds that say my name. I ask for the beaten
woman with her torch uplifted to find me here and loose
my new face of venom and virus. I have practiced standing
unleashed and clean. I have practiced the words I know.

So I pray this new country receive me, stark naked now,
forearms chapped raw, although I am ill in underneath ways.
I know that I am freakish, wildly fragrant, curious land. I stink
of seawater and the oversea moonwash I conjured to restart
and restart my migrant heart. All I can be is here, stretched
between solace and surrender, terrified of the dusty mark
that identifies me as poison in every one of the wrong ways.
I could perish here on the edge of everything. Or the chalk
mark could be a wing on my breastbone, unleashing me
in the direction of light. Someone will help me find my clothes
and brush the salt from my hair. I am marked perfect, and
I hear the word heal in a voice I thought I brought from home.

Copyright © 2016 by Patricia Smith. This poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

I’m sorry, could you repeat that. I’m hard of hearing.
To the cashier
To the receptionist
To the insistent man asking directions on the street

I’m sorry, I’m hard of hearing. Could you repeat that?
At the business meeting
In the writing workshop
On the phone to make a doctor’s appointment

I’m-sorry-I’m-sorry-I’m-so-sorry-I’m-hard-for-the-hearing

Repeat.

           Repeat.

Hello, my name is Sorry
To full rooms of strangers
I’m hard to hear

I vomit apologies everywhere
They fly on bat wings
towards whatever sound beckons

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I am so, so sorry
           and repeating
                       and not hearing

Dear (again)
I regret to inform you

I       am

here

 

Copyright © 2020 by Camisha L. Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

arils loosed from the yellow membrane
pith pocked and pocketed

spread across the plate Aapa 
gave us on our wedding day
my daughter, my panniq, picking at the crimson 
carapace, her graceful small fingers 
examining each aril between finger and thumb
before she consumes it, just so

reminds me of crab cooked in winter
my uncles letting loose
their catch across the tile floor
the clatter as thin tine toes
chased us 
and later the bodies’ 
carapace—craggy corniced interiors
the inner sanctum 
the source of life 
the sacred centering 
cathedral
of appreciation

have I done enough to deserve this

I hold each memory

the December light flickers out
between the dark damp trees

I watch my daughter, my panniq, as she is this moment

Copyright © 2020 by Carrie Ayagaduk Ojanen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

1

One summer night, walking from our house after dinner, stars make the sky almost white.

My awe is like blindness; wonder exchanges for sight.

Star-by-star comprises a multiplicity like thought, but quiet, too dense for any dark planet between.

While single stars are a feature of the horizon at dusk, caught at the edge of the net of gems.

Transparence hanging on its outer connectedness casts occurrence as accretion, filling in, of extravagant, euphoric blooming.

Then, being as spirit and in matter is known, here to there.

I go home and tell my children to come out and look.

The souls of my two children fly up like little birds into branches of the Milky Way,  
chatting with each other, naming constellations, comparing crystals and fire.

They exclaim at similarities between what they see in the sky and on our land.

So, by wonder, they strengthen correspondence between sky and home.

Earth is made from this alchemy of all children, human and animal, combined 
with our deep gratitude. 

2

I see his dark shape, moving and shifting against night’s screen of stars.

My little girl reaches for his lighted silhouette.

Human beings are thought upward and flown through by bright birds.

We believe stars are spirits of very high frequency.

We feel proud our animals come from stars so dense in meaning close to sacrament.

We describe time passing in stories about animals; star movement is named for seasonal migrations of deer, wolf, hummingbird, dolphin, and as animals stars walk among us.

Our snake Olivia, for example, tells me there’s no conflict between humans and rain, because resource is all around us.

A coyote loved night, and he loved to gaze at the stars.

“I noticed one star in Cassiopeia; I talked to her, and each night she grew brighter and closer, and she came to life here, as a corn snake, my friend.”

“She looks like a dancer on tiptoe, stepping around pink star-blossoms surging up after rain.”

3

Constellations are experienced emotionally as this play of self through plant and animal symbols and values.

A dream atmosphere flows; everything represented is sacred; being moves in accord, not of time.

Returning from the Milky Way, she realized crystals had fallen from her bag and looked up.

My story links a journey to sky with the creation of stars, in which place accommodates becoming.

Chama River flows north-south to the horizon, then straight up through the Milky Way, like water moving beneath a riverbed that’s dry.        

Abiquiu Mountain, El Rito Creek, coyote, snake, rainbow and rain, spider and hummingbird identify equivalent spiritual placements above, so wherever we go, there is company, nurture, from every star in our regard.

4

I start up to ask my birds to return home, and find our land continuous with a starry sky mapped as entities who set into motion occurrence, here.

Place awaits an imprint from this potential, even though starlight arriving now already happened; what happens is a depth of field, before and after drought, fire, storm disruption.

I move at high speed, but I’m still standing beside my house in the dark. 

To go there, I find the place on our mesa that correlates to their tree in the sky and leap up.

Space stirs as star trilliums emerge through darkness like humus.

I ask one blossom to please in the future renew these bonds between sky and my children, so they will always hold light in the minerals of their eyes.

5

Sun on its nightly underground journey weaves a black thread between white days on the cosmic loom, cord or resonance between new experience and meaning.

The origin of stars expresses the underlying warp of this fabric; summer solstice draws a diagonal across my floor, precession, weaving ground of informing spirit, so therefore, life is fundamental to stars.

The reverse is well known.

That’s why I don’t use a telescope, star charts or glasses when I go out; I think of a place; I wait, then fly to my children.

When the star-gate is raised, there’s a narrow door between sky and ground.

But when I arrive, I find the sky solid; I can’t break through to visit my starbirds and stand there wondering, before dawn.

Then sky vault lifts; maybe I can slip through to find the Milky Way and see its blossoms.

Then our sun appears in the crack and pushes through to the day.

It’s so bright, so hot, I step back and cover my eyes; I hear my mother calling.

Copyright © 2020 by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 13, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Doubt is easy. You welcome it, your old friend.
Poet Edward Field told a bunch of kids,
Invite it in, feed it a good dinner, give it a place to sleep
on the couch.  Don’t make it too comfortable or
it might never leave.  When it goes away, say okay, I’ll see you
again later. Don’t fear. Don’t give it your notebook.

As for bad reviews, sure. William Stafford advised no credence to
praise or blame. Just steady on. 
Once a man named Paul called me “a kid.” I liked kids 
but I knew he meant it as an insult.  Anyway, I was a kid. 
I guess he was saying, why should we listen to kids? 
A newspaper described a woman named Frieda being asked 
if “I was serious” and “she whistled.” What did that mean?
How do you interpret a whistle? This was one thing that bothered me. 
And where did Frieda ever go? 

Copyright © 2020 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 14, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Lord,
          when you send the rain,
          think about it, please,
          a little?
  Do
          not get carried away
          by the sound of falling water,
          the marvelous light
          on the falling water.
    I
          am beneath that water.
          It falls with great force
          and the light
Blinds
          me to the light.

From Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems by James Baldwin (Beacon Press, 2014). Copyright © 2014 The James Baldwin Estate. Used by permission of Beacon Press.

It is December and we must be brave.

The ambulance’s rose of light
blooming against the window.
Its single siren-cry: Help me.
A silk-red shadow unbolting like water
through the orchard of her thigh.

Her, come—in the green night, a lion.
I sleep her bees with my mouth of smoke,
dip honey with my hands stung sweet
on the darksome hive.
Out of the eater I eat. Meaning,
She is mine, colony.

The things I know aren’t easy:
I’m the only Native American
on the 8th floor of this hotel or any,
looking out any window
of a turn-of-the-century building
in Manhattan.

Manhattan is a Lenape word.
Even a watch must be wound.
How can a century or a heart turn
if nobody asks, Where have all
the natives gone?

If you are where you are, then where
are those who are not here? Not here.
Which is why in this city I have
many lovers. All my loves
are reparations loves.

What is loneliness if not unimaginable
light and measured in lumens—
an electric bill which must be paid,
a taxi cab floating across three lanes
with its lamp lit, gold in wanting.
At 2 a.m. everyone in New York City
is empty and asking for someone.

Again, the siren’s same wide note:
Help me. Meaning, I have a gift
and it is my body
, made two-handed
of gods and bronze.

She says, You make me feel
like lightning
. I say, I don’t ever
want to make you feel that white
.
It’s too late—I can’t stop seeing
her bones. I’m counting the carpals,
metacarpals of her hand inside me.

One bone, the lunate bone, is named
for its crescent outline. Lunatus. Luna.
Some nights she rises like that in me,
like trouble—a slow luminous flux.

The streetlamp beckons the lonely
coyote wandering West 29th Street
by offering its long wrist of light.
The coyote answers by lifting its head
and crying stars.

Somewhere far from New York City,
an American drone finds then loves
a body—the radiant nectar it seeks
through great darkness—makes
a candle-hour of it, and burns
gently along it, like American touch,
an unbearable heat.

The siren song returns in me,
I sing it across her throat: Am I
what I love? Is this the glittering world
I’ve been begging for?

 

From Postcolonial Love Poem (Graywolf Press, 2020) by Natalie Diaz. Copyright © 2020 by Natalie Diaz. Used with the permission of the Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, graywolfpress.org

	          after Marina Wilson

Consider the hands
that write this letter.
The left palm pressed flat against the paper,
as it has done before, over my heart,
in peace or reverence
to the sea or some beautiful thing
I saw once, felt once: snow falling
like rice flung from the giants' wedding,
or the strangest birds. & consider, then,
the right hand, & how it is a fist,
within which a sharpened utensil,
similar to the way I've held a spade,
match to the wick, the horse's reins, 
loping, the very fists
I've seen from the roads to Limay & Estelí.
For years, I have come to sit this way:
one hand open, one hand closed,
like a farmer who puts down seeds & gathers up
the food that comes from that farming.
Or, yes, it is like the way I've danced
with my left hand opened around a shoulder
& my right hand closed inside
of another hand. & how
I pray, I pray for this
to be my way: sweet
work alluded to in the body's position
to its paper:
left hand, right hand
like an open eye, an eye closed:
one hand flat against the trapdoor,
the other hand knocking, knocking.

From Teeth by Aracelis Girmay. Copyright © 2007 by Aracelis Girmay. Used by permission of Curbstone Press.

Slender as my ring finger, the female hummingbird crashed
into plate glass separating her and me 
before we could ask each other’s name. Green flame, 
she launched from a dead eucalyptus limb.  
Almost on impact, she was gone, her needle beak 
opening twice to speak the abrupt language of her going, 
taking in the day’s rising heat as I took
one more scalding breath, horrified by death’s velocity. 
Too weak from chemo not to cry 
for the passage of her emerald shine,
I lifted her weightlessness into my palm. 
Mourning doves moaned, who, who, 
oh who while her wings closed against the tiny body 
sky would quick forget as soon as it would forget mine

Copyright © 2020 by Pamela Uschuk. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 15, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

your body still your body
your arms still wing
your mouth still a gun
 
          you tragic, misfiring bird
 
you have all you need to be a hero
don’t save the world, save yourself
 
you worship too much & you worship too much
 
when prayer doesn’t work:      dance, fly, fire
 
this is your hardest scene
when you think the whole sad thing might end
 
but you live      oh, you live
 
everyday you wake you raise the dead
 
          everything you do is a miracle
 

From Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017) Copyright © 2017 by Danez Smith. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press, www.graywolfpress.org.

me and you be sisters.
we be the same.

me and you
coming from the same place.

me and you
be greasing our legs
touching up our edges.

me and you
be scared of rats
be stepping on roaches.

me and you
come running high down purdy street one time
and mama laugh and shake her head at
me and you.

me and you
got babies
got thirty-five
got black
let our hair go back
be loving ourselves
be loving ourselves
be sisters.

only where you sing,
I poet.

From Next: New Poems by Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1989 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with permission of BOA Editions Ltd. All rights reserved.

I am signaling you through the flames.

The North Pole is not where it used to be.

Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.

Civilization self-destructs.

Nemesis is knocking at the door.

What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?

The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.

If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.

You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words....

From Poetry as Insurgent Art by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Copyright © 2007 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Used by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.

                     1.
We are marching, truly marching 
   Can’t you hear the sound of feet? 
We are fearing no impediment 
   We have never known defeat. 

                     2. 
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. 

                     3. 
Up the streets of wealth and commerce, 
   We are marching one by one
We are marching, making history, 
  For ourselves and those to come. 

                     4. 
We have planted schools and churches,
   We have answered duty’s call. 
We have marched from slavery’s cabin 
   To the legislative hall. 

                     5. 
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. 

                     6.
We are marching, steady marching 
   Bridging chasms, crossing streams 
Marching up the hill of progress 
  Realizing our fondest dreams. 

                       7. 
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.

                                              One river gives
                                              Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.
 

Copyright © 2014 by Alberto Ríos. Used with permission of the author.

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Li-Young Lee, “From Blossoms” from Rose. Copyright © 1986 by Li-Young Lee. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., boaeditions.org.

Water levels have bled out,
like it had just bitten its lip
& was about to swell—then rip:
had I paid better attention to drought,
listened more to the stars and stayed
with mountain clouds, I’d have let go
of the knot swing hanging above the slow
life flow beneath my legs, I’d have prayed

to forget all the times he came to me
but not wanted me: how fast it rises,
carrying plumes of pang in undercurrent:
swirls of sediment & silt around my knees—
the dragging stalks and leaves of irises,
how pathetic they look breaking in torrent—

Copyright © 2020 by Tacey M. Atsitty. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 23, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The slow crawling light wilts
into the dark flat of asphalt.

The moon rings the dim-lit room.
The scraping. The fire.

                                             Dust
in the deep flesh of ear.

Strike a match, watch the flame—
the scraping, the fire, ring
in unison,

                    the brain’s bent
                                                  fugue.

Yoked mica, deafened glint—
scrape and fire, the moon ringing
the dim-lit room.

                               A louse in the crevice
of brain—
                     wrinkle-scape
in knuckles flexed
                                    lashed, etched,
around the steel—
                                     the affliction
of squalor—a pummeling
                                              —skull

and brain
smelted in a starless dark.

Copyright © 2020 by Santee Frazier. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 22, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

1.

On a picnic table, in Pine, Arizona, 
a Bear, Makwa, sits and meditates. 
Occasionally, with menu in hand, 
he scans the reddish-brown landscape 
          that’s
partially draped with snow, a climatic 
rarity. But it’s heavenly here, he resolves, 
adding, inittawetti-menwi-bematesiyani
that's why I'm feeling good. After 
          ordering 
New York steak, jumbo prawns
and woodland mushrooms, a bottle 
of cabernet is placed on a cedar deer 
rack. While dipping the sopapilla 
          in 
honey, he reads the wine called
Zah was highly coveted by Bonnie, 
the 1930s gangster. The ruse evokes
a smile. Then, on a cart that’s 
          wheeled 
in beside him, a miniature cast-iron
stove with its legs embedded 
in ice crackles as two potatoes 
revolve and bake. From a silver 
          radio 
with a wobbly antennae, 
a saxophone is heard faintly, 
with Mayall singing “Going 
Back to California.” Nostalgia, 
          laments
the D. J. Epic, graphic 
nostalgia.    

2.

Soon, sparks fly from the microwave’s 
slender chimney, reminding him of the time 
he gave Black Eagle Childs a tune called 
Askotewi-Ttimani, Fire Boat. Akin 
          to
lovers separated by a wide river, 
whispers Nemese, Fish, the butter’s 
fragrance is corn tassel sweet 
and the sour cream senses earth 
          tremors 
akameeki, overseas. Combustible
emotions, you could say, through 
supernatural alchemy. And per 
etiquette, the handles of your
          silverware 
are designed with turquoise 
and corral inlay. “Say, I seem to 
have forgotten,” he asks, “but what
do they mean?”           

3.

From a nearby table, a Mawewa, Wolf 
politely intercedes: If I may answer
for Mayrin—once the shell-shock subsides, 
you'll recall the East is a star and the South 
          is 
a galaxy falling as snow into a dish that 
breathes, especially at noon; and the West 
is a door of purple seashells, with the North 
being a lodge made with pillars of swirling
          ice 
quills. Natawinoni, Medicine. These gifts 
will keep apoplectic reactions at bay. 
Wekone? What?” More so, if by birth 
your heart is exposed. “Jesus Christ! 
          How’d 
you know?” Nanotti-meko-Makwa-webi-
nenekenetama-wettikweni, Eventually, 
Bear begins reflecting on where he’d 
been. In Tanzania and Mozambique, 
          rows 
of white string that guided land 
mine-detecting rats over dry, ochre-
colored fields resembled gardens 
being prepped for spring 
          planting 
back home. Beautiful, 
speckled atamina, corn. 

4.

Remarkably, rats can also detect TB, 
said the Wakotte, Fox. “They can?”   
Moreover, in the desert where you 
visited, a waterfall came back to life 
          from 
a single raindrop, the one that travelled
with you on a Spider’s web, floating 
in the wind over distant mountains, 
oceans and clouds. Manetwi-kiyaki-
          niittawiyakwi
There’s still much we have to do. 
Because the Earth beneath our feet, 
Kokomesenana, our Grandmother, 
struggles to heal herself. Thus, 
          in 
the moment before the Northern 
Lights glow fiery red, arcing over 
us en route to Antarctica, you’ll ask 
in a solemn, musical voice that 
          guidance 
be granted in perpetuum to the culture,
language, religion and history of your 
children and their grandchildren. 
He was contemplating all of this 
          when
an old, toothless gentleman in 
a large suitcoat approached 
and asked, are you Randolph Scott? 
After saying “Yes,” an armor-clad 
         horse 
became audibly restless at the four
dragon-headed dogs staring at three 
galley sails billowing on the hinterland 
horizon.

Copyright © 2020 by Ray Young Bear. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 20, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

The screech of the recycling truck jolted me awake.
It was just after dawn and the huge trucks were already tearing
through the neighborhood, shrieking brakes keeping rhythm
with shattering glass and clinking cans amidst barking dogs.
I panicked then remembered the bins were out.

The little dogs shot out of the room, their tiny bodies
quivering with excitement and pent-up barking.

Before this moment I dreamt of Shimá, my mother:
she slept under a calico quilt, made with squares of tiny purple and yellow flowers.
She made our clothes from such fabric when we were children,

In my dream, I covered her carefully and patted her sleeping shoulder;
her breathing was soft and labored.
I smoothed her hair and caressed her forehead.
I sat at the foot of the bed and listened to her slumber;
her breathing evened out as the dream filament settled around us.
Perhaps as she slept, she relived the old Fort Wingate Boarding School days,
or maybe she and my father conversed as in all those decades past.
Maybe she relived everyday events—cooking meals, soothing children,
or visiting with relatives at the kitchen table.

In the final weeks of her life, I could not fathom her dreams
or waking thoughts, but in this morning dream, Shimá and I
were joined by our quiet breathing and lingering gestures.
In this dream, my mother and I were alone and silent.

We were alone and silent.

Soon the flurry of the recycling truck faded
and the usual morning calm returned, the sleek little dogs
came back to bed panting from a job well done; they licked my arm in unison.
I said, “Biighaah, Nizhoon,” praise for a job well done.
They fell asleep instantly, sinking into deep borderline snoring.

Outside the bedroom window, the morning was bright and still,
save for the cool breezes and calling of birds;
their innate songs encircled the quiet houses and scattered cacti.
Down the street garage doors slid shut as neighbors
maneuvered out of curved driveways to begin the workday.

Just then I longed to return to this first dream of Shimá.
I longed for the serene space she created,
now I knew she could do so, even in dreams.
How I yearned to make coffee for her one more time,
to cook breakfast—boiled eggs, black coffee and hash browns.
In her final weeks, my sisters and I fed her spoon by spoonful.
She would smile as we recounted childhood memories;
listening then talking, murmuring and remembering.

Now the morning sunlight sweeps through the house.
I put on coffee, go outside to stretch and pray.
The Holy People had already passed through
yet fulfilled my yearning to be with my mother.
They reassured me that she and other loved ones
are with them, and they exist in an arc of quiet solace.

The Holy Ones graced me with a glimpse of our future together;
the dream, a reprieve from the lonely, seemingly bereft present.

Copyright © 2020 by Luci Tapahonso. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 29, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

(at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

From Quilting: Poems 1987–1990 by Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 2001 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with permission of BOA Editions Ltd. All rights reserved.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This poem is in the public domain.

It’s neither red
nor sweet.
It doesn’t melt
or turn over,
break or harden,
so it can’t feel
pain,
yearning,
regret.

It doesn’t have 
a tip to spin on,
it isn’t even
shapely—
just a thick clutch
of muscle,
lopsided,
mute. Still,
I feel it inside
its cage sounding
a dull tattoo:
I want, I want—

but I can’t open it:
there’s no key.
I can’t wear it
on my sleeve,
or tell you from
the bottom of it
how I feel. Here,
it’s all yours, now—
but you’ll have
to take me,
too.

Copyright © 2017 Rita Dove. Used with permission of the author.

Every time I open my mouth my teeth reveal
more than I mean to. I can’t stop tonguing them, my teeth.
Almost giddy to know they’re still there (my mother lost hers)
but I am embarrassed nonetheless that even they aren’t
pretty. Still, I did once like my voice, the way it moved
through the gap in my teeth like birdsong in the morning,
like the slow swirl of a creek at dusk. Just yesterday
a woman closed her eyes as I read aloud, and
said she wanted to sleep in the sound of it, my voice.
I can still sing some. Early cancer didn’t stop the compulsion
to sing but
there’s gravel now. An undercurrent
that also reveals me. Time and disaster. A heavy landslide
down the mountain. When you stopped speaking to me
what you really wanted was for me to stop speaking to you. To
stifle the sound of my voice. I know.
Didn’t want the quicksilver of it in your ear.
What does it mean
to silence another? It means I ruminate on the hit
of rain against the tin roof of childhood, how I could listen
all day until the water rusted its way in. And there I was
putting a pan over here and a pot over there to catch it.

Copyright © 2017 by Vievee Francis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 17, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

a hand made out of all that it touched—
fingers of syringes packed with soiled
polyester blankets nails cut from

a plastic bottle cap knuckles
shaped by rinds of other knuckles
and details layered in delicate ash—

ruddy, colorful, clothed. But the left,
flesh and grey, poured like the concrete
surrounding it and sanded at the edges

careful as geometry allows with
dried skin creeping through contours.
Naked hands. Beating knuckles on the ground

wondering will it crack the concrete finally
will it crumble under opposing forces—
material, economy as simple as concrete

is simple, simple to explain but difficult
to understand without explanation.
As plates in our deep crust skid past

one another. One might wonder who
thinks to pour a building of mostly
liquid. Such is the logic of conviction

we are told before the terms are defined.
Dysfunction of episodic memory.
Episode of memory of dysfunction.

Hands that are not our hands.
And so convinced are we of
our own demise we devise it.

Copyright © 2020 by Zoë Hitzig. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 1, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

From The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994) by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the author.

(for Ntozake Shange)

I used to be a roller coaster girl
7 times in a row
No vertigo in these skinny legs
My lipstick bubblegum pink 
                          As my panther 10 speed.

never kissed

Nappy pigtails, no-brand gym shoes 
White lined yellow short-shorts

Scratched up legs pedaling past borders of 
humus and baba ganoush 
Masjids and liquor stores 
City chicken, pepperoni bread 
and superman ice cream 
                                    Cones.

Yellow black blending with bits of Arabic
Islam and Catholicism. 

My daddy was Jesus 
My mother was quiet
Jayne Kennedy was worshipped 
by my brother Mark

I don’t remember having my own bed before 12. 
Me and my sister Lisa                                shared. 

Sometimes all three Moore girls slept in the Queen.

You grow up so close 
never close enough.

I used to be a roller coaster girl 
Wild child full of flowers and ideas
Useless crushes on        polish boys 
in a school full of         white girls. 

Future black swan singing 
Zeppelin, U2 and Rick Springfield

Hoping to be Jessie’s Girl 

I could outrun my brothers and 
Everybody else to that 

reoccurring line

I used to be a roller coaster girl
Till you told me I was moving too fast
Said my rush made your head spin 
My laughter hurt your ears

A scream of happiness 
A whisper of freedom 
Pouring out my armpits 
Sweating up my neck 

You were always the scared one
I kept my eyes open for the entire trip
Right before the drop I would brace myself
And let that force push my head back into 

That hard iron seat

My arms nearly fell off a few times
Still, I kept running back to the line  
When I was done
Same way I kept running back to you

I used to be a roller coaster girl
I wasn’t scared of mountains or falling  
Hell, I looked forward to flying and dropping
Off this earth and coming back to life 

every once in a while

I found some peace in being out of control 
allowing my blood to race
through my veins for 180 seconds 

I earned my sometime nicotine pull 
I buy my own damn drinks & the ocean
Still calls my name when it feels my toes 
Near its shore. 

I still love roller coasters 
& you grew up to be 
Afraid 
of all girls who cld  
                                          ride 

Fearlessly

like 
me. 

Copyright © 2019 by jessica Care moore. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 4, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

who will be the messenger of this land
count its veins
speak through the veins
translate the language of water
navigate the heels of lineage
who will carry this land in parcels
paper, linen, burlap
who will weep when it bleeds
and hardens
forgets to birth itself

who will be the messenger of this land
wrapping its stories carefully
in patois of creole, irish,
gullah, twe, tuscarora
stripping its trees for tea
and pleasure
who will help this land to
remember its birthdays, baptisms
weddings, funerals, its rituals
denials, disappointments
and sacrifices

who will be the messengers
of this land
harvesting its truths
bearing unleavened bread
burying mutilated crops beneath
its breasts

who will remember
to unbury the unborn seeds
that arrived
in captivity
shackled, folded,
bent, layered in its
bowels

we are their messengers
with singing hoes
and dancing plows
with fingers that snap
beans, arms that
raise corn, feet that
cover the dew falling from
okra, beans, tomatoes

we are these messengers
whose ears alone choose
which spices
whose eyes alone name
basil, nutmeg, fennel, ginger,
cardamom, sassafras
whose tongues alone carry
hemlock, blood root, valerian,
damiana, st. john’s wort
these roots that contain
its pleasures its languages its secrets

we are the messengers
new messengers
arriving as mutations of ourselves
we are these messengers
blue breath
red hands
singing a tree into dance

From Breath of the Song: New and Selected Poems (Carolina Wren Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Jaki Shelton Green. Used with the permission of the author.

When the doctor suggested surgery
and a brace for all my youngest years,
my parents scrambled to take me
to massage therapy, deep tissue work,
osteopathy, and soon my crooked spine
unspooled a bit, I could breathe again,
and move more in a body unclouded
by pain. My mom would tell me to sing
songs to her the whole forty-five minute
drive to Middle Two Rock Road and forty-
five minutes back from physical therapy.
She’d say, even my voice sounded unfettered
by my spine afterward. So I sang and sang,
because I thought she liked it. I never
asked her what she gave up to drive me,
or how her day was before this chore. Today,
at her age, I was driving myself home from yet
another spine appointment, singing along
to some maudlin but solid song on the radio,
and I saw a mom take her raincoat off
and give it to her young daughter when
a storm took over the afternoon. My god,
I thought, my whole life I’ve been under her
raincoat thinking it was somehow a marvel
that I never got wet.

From The Carrying (Milkweed Editions, 2018) by Ada Limón. Copyright © 2018 by Ada Limón. Used with the permission of Milkweed Editions. milkweed.org.

Translated by Carina del Valle Schorske

Pensive light. Light
with folded hands, a shrug
of song in the shoulders.
Light that sullies the sea’s
Sunday best, the foam
moving blind over it.

I’ve lost the waistline
of my violet mountains
in the sky’s mouth.
El Yunque is an ancient flute;
retrospective leap.
Blue swallow, blue choke.

Here lives San Juan.
There’s a light that might
save you in the gold
pigeon coop, its womb
made of glass. Here
the rays of the sun
keep growing towards
the dense eyes
of blank harmony.

Passionate
from the balcony I watch
the living death of the sun
high above the shoulders
of the stricken minute.
To the sound of trumpets
I defend my feeling
from the grey bite
of disenchantment.

And the day grows through me
like a magic tree
from nothing to nothing—
grows and sings,
fragrant, shaken,
fills up with promises
and hours.

Nothing changes.
Everything is just twilight.
Physical laws.
I make this light
because I love it.
It’s mine because we are,
eye to eye,
mute correspondence.

We are twilight, luz mía,
just twilight. 


Luz pensativa.
Luz de manos cerradas
y hombros de canto breve.
Luz que ensucia al mar
su camisón de fiesta.
Anda ciega la espuma.

Mis montañas violetas
han perdido su talle
en la boca del cielo.
El Yunque es flauta histórica;
Salto en retrospectiva.
Bocado azul que ahoga.

Acá vive San Juan.
Hay luz que salva
en palomar de oro
su vientre hecho de vidrio.
Aquí siguen creciendo
las espigas del sol
para los ojos densos
de la blanca armonía.

Apasionada
desde el balcón yo miro
la muertevida del sol
alto sobre los hombros
del fenecido instante.
A trompetazos de alma
defiendo mi emoción
de la mordida gris
del desencanto.

Y crece el día por mí
como mágico árbol
de la nada a la nada.
Crece y canta,
fragante, estremecido
y se llena de promesas
y horas.

Nada cambia.
Todo es sólo twilight.
De leyes físicas.

Yo hago esta luz
porque la amo.
Es mía porque somos,
de mirada a mirada,
muda correspondencia.

Somos twilight, luz mía,
Sólo twilight.

Copyright © 2020 by Carina del Valle Schorske and Marigloria Palma. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 25, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

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.

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.

Connect us,
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.

Connect us,
to the cherry blossoms standing guard in full blush
while cops bloom ribbons of yellow tape at their gates.

Us, connected
by airborne whispers between walkups,
of missed rhythm, longing for the public pull
of prior swagger,

us, connected
by the daydream of lawless rush hour taxis
rubbing up against each other’s paint,
kissing the ears of each other’s rearviews,

us, yearning
for the crowded irritants
of sweltering avenues
budding with beech trees and brisk walkers.

Us, missing
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.

Us, singing
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.

Us, dreaming,
still dreamers,
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.

I pry open the files, still packed
        with liquor & strange brine.

Midnight seeps from the cracks
        slow pulp of arithmetic. Four or five

or six at a time, the white men draw
        along the Gordonsville Road, on foot

or on horseback, clustered close—
        each man counting up his hours, the knife

of each man’s tongue at the hinge
        of his own mouth. For ninety-three years

& every time I slip away to read
        those white men line the roadway

secreting themselves in the night air
        feeding & breathing in their private

column. Why belly up to their pay stubs
        scraping my teeth on the chipped flat

of each page? This dim drink only blights me
        but I do it.

Copyright © 2020 by Kiki Petrosino. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 4, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Light o’ the lodge, how I love thee,
Light o’ the lodge, how I love thee,
         Mianza, my wild-wood fawn!
To wait and to watch for thy passing.
          On hill-top I linger at dawn.

Glimmer of morn, how I love thee, 
Glimmer of morn, how I love thee! 
      My flute to the ground now I fling,
      As you tread the steep trail to the spring,
For thy coming has silenced my song.

Shimmer of moon on the river,
Sheen of soft star on the lake!
     Moonlight and starlight are naught;
     Their gleam and their glow is ne’er fraught
With such love-light as falls from thine eyes.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 17, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

(This poem’s about looking for the sage and not finding her)

Some say she moved in with her ex-girlfriend in Taiwan
Some say she went to Florida to wrestle alligators

Some say she went to Peach Blossom Spring
To drink tea with Tao Qian

Miho says she’s living in Calexico with three cats
And a gerbil named Max

Some say she’s just a shadow of the Great Society
A parody
Of what might-have-been

Rhea saw her stark raving mad
Between 23rd and the Avenue of the Americas
Wrapped in a flag!

I swear I saw her floating in a motel pool
Topless, on a plastic manatee, palms up

What in hell was she thinking?

What is poetry? What are stars?
Whence comes the end of suffering?

Copyright © 2020 by Marilyn Chin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 13, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

I want to paint in a way that the “I” disappears into the sky and trees
The idea of a slowed down, slowly unfolding image held my attention

Variations on a theme are of no interest. A bowl and cup are not ideas.
I want my painting to be what it contains: it should speak, not me

The idea of a slowed down, slowly unfolding image held my attention
I paint things made of clay, just as the pigments I use come from the earth

I want my painting to be what it contains: it should speak, not me
Brown and ochre stoneware bowls beside a white porcelain pitcher

I paint things made of clay, just as the pigments I use come from the earth
I place the pale eggs on a dark, unadorned tabletop and let them roll into place

Brown and ochre stoneware bowls beside a white porcelain pitcher
The dusky red wall is not meant to symbolize anything but itself

I place the pale eggs on a dark unadorned tabletop and let them roll into place
I want to paint in a way that the “I” disappears into the sky and trees

The dusky red wall is not meant to symbolize anything but itself
Variations on a theme are of no interest. A bowl and cup are not ideas.

Copyright © 2020 by John Yau. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 18, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

11.
The swear jar isn’t empty. Full of flowers
instead of coins it makes a cursed bouquet
of love-me-nots, a tangled vine of credit
extended to one most likely to default.
Such a trifling bargain, flowers for mercy.
O Nature, predatory lender!
Risk is the commuter bus I ride between damnation
and wonder. Stitch my wounds loosely. Give me chastity,
O Lord, says the Berber Saint,
for miracle and sin are kindred. Each is hatched
from a broken law.

Copyright © 2020 by Gregory Pardlo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 19, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Gathering sounds from each provincial
Nook and hilly village, the scholars
Discerned differences between
Long and short vowels, which phonemes,
Mumbled or dipthonged, would become
Brethren, linguistically speaking.
Speaking of taxonomy,
I’ve been busy categorizing what’s
Joseon, what’s American about each
Choice of diction or hill I might die on.
Killing my accent was only ever half the
Task, is what I mean. Q: When grief
Pushes its wet moons from me, is the sound
Historically accurate? or just a bit of feedback?

Copyright © 2020 by Franny Choi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 20, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

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

102.7°F

Puzzling 

A neighbor goes out to pick up my prescription. I leave daffodils on the porch for him. I picked them with gloves on. 

Copyright © 2020 by Kimiko Hahn. Originally published with the Shelter in Poems initiative on poets.org.

Translated by Idra Novey and Ahmad Nadalizadeh
                                        For the city of Bam destroyed in the 2003 earthquake

The window is black
the table, black
the sky, black
the snow, black
You’re mistaken!
I don’t need medicine
or a psychotherapist.
Just lift these stones,
sweep aside the earth
and look into my eyes!

My eyes
that are round like the Earth

an image of the world
the world of shut doors
of countless walls

anytime I stand before the mirror
the image of an upside-down tortoise
makes me long for a passer-by
to arrive and invert the world

Some night
our hands will tremble from all this solitude
and our depiction on the canvas
will be scribbled out

the ruins of Bam scribbled out
the shelters we built
collapsing on our heads

I am terrified by the next images in this poem
the image of God lifting all the doors onto his shoulders
getting away
retreating far and then farther

I write: one day
the missing keys will be recovered.
What should we do about the missing locks.
 




The Ruins of Bam (Original Persian)
The Ruins of Bam (Original Persian)

Copyright © 2020 by Garous Abdolmalekian, Idra Novey, and Ahmad Nadalizadeh. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 21, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

We are mired in matter until we are not
            — Ralph Lemon

I thought we were an archipelago 
each felt under our own finessed and gilded wing 
let’s make an assumption 
let’s make an assumption that            the lake has a bottom 
let’s make an assumption       that everyone will mourn 
let’s sack a hundred greenbacks 
for the sake of acknowledging they mean something 
what does it mean to have worth? 
who would dream to drain a lake? 
I spent my days staring into the eye of the Baltic 
it’s because I am also a body of water 
it’s not that onerous  
I’ve built a muscle memory  
it’s not that heavy 
let’s talk about erasure I mean 
that’s easy 
start with a word that you don’t like 
start with a people you didn’t know 
start with a neighborhood, rank 
start with any miasma dispersed 
let’s talk about burden 
let’s talk about burden for the weight 
it lends us 
let’s talk about supplication 
about my palms — uplift, patience 

let’s celebrate our substance  
subsistence in  
amber rivulets of stilllife 
constellations how you molded me  
country how we became it 
the longitude is a contested border  
my longest muscle I named  familiar 

Copyright © 2020 by Asiya Wadud. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

A cop almost fell off 
his motorcycle. 

He was 
amid the colorful   floral skeletal 
commemorations of life, 
entertaining the children 
waiting for the procession to come down 
Bonita

He swerved his vehicle, 
almost tipped over. 

everywhere   clowns, 
evil horse energy 
in the pits of their eyes,   dark stele in the alcoves 
of their hearts,

children,   souls 
in a vault

oversaturating the memorial
antisepsis.

If he had fallen
would the children have gotten up? 

Who would have been the first 
to help?

the police 
the perverts of death.

Copyright © 2020 by Brandon Shimoda. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 3, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

I was called back into the dark during an early morning flyover     onto a rusty mauve plain     fields overrun with a low river of tar     the smell of burning grass carried from the east     flowing upward through neon bright signs of pharmaceuticals and snow     a bronze liquid of promise        a fleeting and always-ending sleep     the remains of chipped concrete eating away the foundations of every building     tables of salt rising over the whole country     I was called onto a platform in the north     a miles- wide outpost     where I sat     waiting to hear what new harm my sisters had conjured     they reached me by phone     through a star or their dreams     a breaking request from our father that had traveled through a long and oily channel     I could understand its beauty     the rainbow-thick shimmer of pigment and poison     a seeping fissure of love     before  the apocalypse     the ruin     or just the overhanging clouds     yesterday a maker of brine and sauerkraut told me the world would end by corrosion and decay     I’m not so sure     I hear the  eruption between refusal and insistence     or maybe just a truck   driving through 

Copyright © 2020 by Samuel Ace. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 2, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

In 1990 over 700 Cyprinella formosa, commonly known as Beautiful shiners, were expatriated from Mexico to southeast Arizona where the small fish, their flat metallic bodies colorful in love-making, were eradicated in the 60’s through water diversion and over-pumping of underground streams.

Very little is known of their reproduction, except desire for lush riparian communities, warm vegetation to hide their bulbous young.

*

Relocation arrives through many terms. Sentence, reservation, subject, dam. From New Mexico the Gila River spills west, pools behind Coolidge Dam beneath which San Carlos Apache graves are concealed by a concrete slab. A sentence opens lines for a subject, physical, it predicates. Building foundations soften into water-logged records where the trout swim low, warming.

*

Gila River Indian Community grew most dense in the early 1940’s against the tribe’s will as incarcerated Japanese and Japanese Americans were forced to barrack blocks by the hundreds.

There is little evidence of idleness, printed the Phoenix Republic in 1942. Tangible myths of the model incarcerated confirmed their confinement wholly productive. Families made model citizens, if one can be made citizen, by utility filled with their lungs.

What of the mega-annum shell sculpted birds.

The first arrived in July to dust waves. The straw sleep sacks they filled with their hands.

Copyright © 2020 by Saretta Morgan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 8, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

When I rise up above the earth,
And look down on the things that fetter me,
I beat my wings upon the air,
Or tranquil lie,
Surge after surge of potent strength
Like incense comes to me
When I rise up above the earth
And look down upon the things that fetter me.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sundown, the day nearly eaten away, 

the Boxcar Willies peep. Their
inside-eyes push black and plump

against walls of pumpkin skin. I step 
into dying backyard light. Both hands 

steal into the swollen summer air, 
a blind reach into a blaze of acid, 

ghost bloom of nacre & breast. 
One Atlantan Cherokee Purple, 

two piddling Radiator Charlies 
are Lena-Horne lured into the fingers

of my right hand. But I really do love you, 
enters my ear like a nest of yellow jackets, 

well wedged beneath a two-by-four. 

But I really didn't think I would (ever leave), 
stings before the ladder hits the ground. 

I swat the familiar buzz away. 
My good arm arcs and aims. 

My elbow cranks a high, hard cradle
and draws a fire. The end of the day's 

sweaty air stirs fast in a bowl, the coming
shadows, the very diamond match I need. 

One by one, each Blind Willie
takes his turn Pollocking the back

fence, heart pine explodes gold-leafed in 
red and brown-eyed ochre. There is practice

for everything in this life. This is how
you throw something perfectly good away.

From Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney. Copyright © 2011 by Nikky Finney. Reprinted with permission from TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern. All rights reserved.

                                in my own body ← here i am a siege
                                overthrowing a home where no one lives
                                but me. i’m too big for my too big head
                                too barely anything for want, my love
                                built me from a nail in the wall galloped
                                to meet the socks on the floor → now a hole
                                in the wall i would peek thru & run some
                                cable thru so we all could watch cable.
                   now, there’s a good amount of good reasons
                   why no one lives here, no one lives with me.
                   my cat even tries to leave. he jumps out
                   the window, off the roof, & waits for me
                   to catch him with the neighbors. & i too
                   trynna be beautiful & loved this way.

i  ←  suppose: perching for life to begin
is this flatline moving me, failed, forward,
feathered closer to grace each time; going
mother after mother i wake up as
a dove picking lilies from her black i
suppose i love so i know i ain’t know
                brevity without withholding a breath  ←
                loved those flying ants,  infiltrating  thru  all  fronts’
                doors til i (w)as a room entered watching
                for  bites tender thicker  than all-time’s
                to consume ← consistency dragged → this long
                makes me  wanna bite bird feet  ← too   baby
                cat  i love you too,...   ache in my bones you
                remind me of  what is it(?) to be  picked ←

Copyright © 2020 by Trace Howard DePass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 19, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.