you have since swallowed
so much blood, the sailboats
rap violently about the docks,
and how heavy the gulls’ wings
have grown, how sour, sourly
beloved, and what shall we then
call it, this consternation, a blue
funk, some pestilence, which hangs
or blooms or paints itself silently
within the many courtyards
of the body, or across that high
court of the skull, what looms
like another steamrolled peony,
or some pink paper moon.

Copyright © 2018 Amaud Jamaul Johnson. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Art's desire to get it all said
to all who thought him dead
in the joint & beside the point

Art's struggle to sing it all
through jazz warfare & tell
everything he knew in brass
speed rap stir crazy utopia
of muscle chops push it in your face
rough unrelenting grace

fierce Art pitbull clamps down
pulls edges out in time to break through
scream knotty beauty
toe to toe w/ any joe
who thinks they know better

Art tattoos blue needles into moonlight skin
junk light makes mirrors perfect

Art's smoke aches out of wounds

L.A. Art burritos & bebop
black guacamole serge zoots
Central Avenue cat copping

Pepper at Club Alabam
in Lee Young's band
all the chicks & the hatcheck chick
have big eyes for Art's horn

Copyright © 2011 by David Meltzer. Reprinted from When I Was a Poet with the permission of City Lights Publishers.

If my garden oak spares one bare ledge
For a boughed mistletoe to grow and wedge;
And all the wild birds this year should know
I cherish their freedom to come and go;
If a battered worthless dog, masterless, alone,
Slinks to my heels, sure of bed and bone;
And the boy just moved in, deigns a glance-assay,
Turns his pockets inside out, calls, “Come and play!”
If I should surprise in the eyes of my friend
That the deed was my favor he’d let me lend;
Or hear it repeated from a foe I despise,
That I whom he hated was chary of lies;
If a pilgrim stranger, fainting and poor,
Followed an urge and rapped at my door,
And my husband loves me till death puts apart,
Less as flesh unto flesh, more as heart unto heart:
I may challenge God when we meet That Day,
And He dare not be silent or send me away.

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

Praise to the obsidian sole, which kisses the glass-
coated asphalt before becoming airborne. Praise 
to the black tongue, camouflaged, yet still 
flashing a warning of give no shit. Praise to the 
magic of ones turned two-piece, left and right 
feet a pair of wingmen to all that is fair in love. 
Original uniform of the fighter, multi-mission, 
robbin’ hoodies from designer shops to redistribute 
wealth. Praise to the weave of your vamp poised 
to catch flight into ribs at night, at noon, 
whenever. Praise to the aight whatever, 
aight bet, spoken wordlessly via emblem, 
prophecy of manual dexterity, long rumored
tale of ten toes down come true. Praise to 
your run through rap charts, Nelly who sang
of your stomp and survival, to 1982
the year of your birth, your absorption of
pressure waves from apartheid bombings,
Tough, by Kurtis Blow rerouted into
the democratization of dark energy. Ode to 
your essence making up 73% of the cosmos,
the power of 310 Angola aircraft in a single heel, 
to each uptown caressing a possible president,
to a force beyond force = mass x acceleration.
Fast lil ma working behind the cash register. 
On the way home she passes home. 
Ode to what you gave her, what you give her, 
wherever she’s going.

Copyright © 2023 by Bryan Byrdlong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 14, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

Note the diameter of your invisible ink tattoo as if it hides
a crossword hint like “Clueless dope for dopamine”
But not because your inner twin sold all your Rap albums
for a white powder that made you feel touched by God, yet
left a trail like Comet. Note how a certain name trails off with
the number e to perhaps signify their constant interest in
a continuously growing silence. Does an infinite series
of silences imply addition or addiction? In one language
you understand, pegadu means touching and begins with
the letter P. Like Pi is filled with touches of fruitful irrationality,
and may hide a circle’s Private Key. Note how rumors of you
crossing the street to sneak rides on fire trucks are irrational, but
not because you’re vain or became a pyromaniac. The circumference
of urinal cakes may be solved with Pi or dissolved with pee.
Is it irrational that you looped like an extension cord while trying
to solve for the value of P, but got beat like a bowl of egg yolks
for wetting the bed? During the beating was their mouth agápē or
agape? Has it not been proven that trauma only feels transcendental
due to the ratio of the diameter which severs us to the circumference
which makes us a whole? Being born under the Sign of the Asp might
be key, but note that a Volta can turn in currents of a Ghanaian river
or in currents alternating like a weathervane until any cryptic tattoo
could simply signify who held you down and touched you, but also
told you to hold it forever because their love was like the Holy Ghost.

Copyright © 2022 by Joel Dias-Porter. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 3, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

May I venture to address you, vegetal friend?
A lettuce is no less than me, so I respect you,
though it’s also true I may make a salad of you,
later. That’s how we humans roll. Our species
is blowing it, bigtime, as you no doubt know,
dependent as you are on water and soil
we humans pollute. You’re a crisphead,
an iceberg lettuce, scorned in days of yore
for being mostly fiber and water. But new
research claims you’ve gotten a bad rap,
that you’re more nutritious than we knew.
Juicy and beautiful, your leaves can be used
as tortillas. If you peer through a lettuce leaf,
the view takes on the translucent green of
the newest shoots. Sitting atop your pile,
next to heaps of radicchio, you do seem
a living head, a royal personage who
should be paid homage. I am not demanding
to be reassured. I just want to know what you know,
what you think your role is—and hear what you
have to say about suffering long denied, the wisdom
of photosynthesis, stages of growth you’ve passed
through. I can almost hear your voice as I pay
for you at the cash register, a slightly gravely sound,
like Kendrick Lamar’s voice, or early Bob Dylan,
both singers of gruff poetic truth. Nothing less
was expected from you, sister lettuce, nothing less. 

Copyright © 2017 by amy Gerstler. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 1, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

The weather turned bad and I got happy.
That’s wrong—I mean the morning sky

was ash blue, birds on the ground. I mean
not happy but good, not good

but fastened, steady, like every train in the city
was running late, but no one minded.

On 12th Street, tarpaulin swelled
and bowed in wind. Rain drove straight

through a woman’s dress. And again
on Hollis, that slowness: damp black

trees, the line of streetlights
paced like breath. I pulled over. Leaves

dripped like rinsed hands.
A girl held her mother 

by the shoulders on a porch. 

From North American Stadiums by Grady Chambers. Copyright © 2018 by Grady Chambers. Used with the permission of Milkweed Editions.



         & mystify

         feels like

         but has never been yours speech that could be a poem 
         if written by you
         conduit for reserved for

         for whom does your body make easy 


let’s be honest the world is not shaped by your tomato gardens: your good intentions 
the forests grew only when we were not present
they are dying because we are murderers
the sky will turn every color and still 
they will say everything is fine everything is fine 

           desecration. of a them that we know is an us. 

From Gospel of Regicide (Noemi Press, 2017) by Eunsong Kim. Copyright © 2017 by Eunsong Kim. Used with the permission of the author.