dear reader, with our heels digging into the good mud at a swamp’s edge, you might tell me something about the dandelion & how it is not a flower itself but a plant made up of several small flowers at its crown & lord knows I have been called by what I look like more than I have been called by what I actually am & I wish to return the favor for the purpose of this exercise. which, too, is an attempt at fashioning something pretty out of seeds refusing to make anything worthwhile of their burial. size me up & skip whatever semantics arrive to the tongue first. say: that boy he look like a hollowed-out grandfather clock. he look like a million-dollar god with a two-cent heaven. like all it takes is one kiss & before morning, you could scatter his whole mind across a field.
Copyright © 2018 by Hanif Abdurraqib. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
the poem begins not where the knife enters
but where the blade twists.
Some wounds cannot be hushed
no matter the way one writes of blood
& what reflection arrives in its pooling.
The poem begins with pain as a mirror
inside of which I adjust a tie the way my father taught me
before my first funeral & so the poem begins
with old grief again at my neck. On the radio,
a singer born in a place where children watch the sky
for bombs is trying to sell me on love
as something akin to war.
I have no lie to offer as treacherous as this one.
I was most like the bullet when I viewed the body as a door.
I’m past that now. No one will bury their kin
when desire becomes a fugitive
between us. There will be no folded flag
at the doorstep. A person only gets to be called a widow once,
and then they are simply lonely. The bluest period.
Gratitude, not for love itself, but for the way it can end
without a house on fire.
This is how I plan to leave next.
Unceremonious as birth in a country overrun
by the ungrateful living. The poem begins with a chain
of well-meaning liars walking one by one
off the earth’s edge. That’s who died
and made me king. Who died and made you.
Copyright © 2019 by Hanif Abdurraqib. From A Fortune For Your Disaster (Tin House Books, 2019). Used with permission of the author and Tin House Books.
I told Alli I really wanted
to write a poem called “Dog Park.”
In bed she’s like you could make it
a New Yorker poem, where you
go to a dog park and then have some
huge epiphany. And then we
have a soft debate as to whether
a poem called “Dog Park”
needs a dog park in it or
not, or even a dog. I dunno.
But I do I know I don’t want
to get up out of bed, not now,
five milligrams of warm indica
coaxing me into its native land
of sleep, to write down Alli’s
idea for my poem “Dog Park”
and I tell her so and she says
get up, you’re a poet, and it’s
true, so I shuffle off this
warm, magnificent mattress,
firm as the back of a Golden
Retriever in the prime of life.
The blinds in the bedroom
are shut tight against the mean
lights of the Pacific East Mall
that moan all night and make
the nearby bedrooms bright.
But I get up, ugh, to write
down what might be the
beginning of a poem called
“Dog Park,” with or without a
dog park or even a dog. And
obviously you’d rather be
a cloud than a poet, Jesus.
Or the plastic tip of a vape pen
or the floating lint in the store
where they sell beds and sheets
and pillows and duvets or even
a grody hunk of sand on the
ground of a dog park, my
nightmare. But it will just
take a minute or two, and then
I can pee one last time with
impunity, double check the
door is locked, go back to bed,
wait for the next one.
Copyright © 2020 by Brandon Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 29, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
i hear it jingling in the pockets of the innocent heirs of fundamentally well-meaning transatlantic traders and new world farmers. i see a wad of it stuffed in the jeans of the celebrities whose tracks, films, and reality shows are beloved by fans all across the nation and wherever american culture is exported. i feel it varnishing the walls of my classrooms and my home like a thick coat of paint. they paved the street with it last week. it is transporting, transcendent, the fastest way up and out. many brands of condoms use it as a lubricant, for her pleasure. it works to slide things through congress, too. i heard the military discovered it makes a great explosive, as demonstrated twice in japan for all the world to see. keep an eye on your drink at the club—they’ll slip some of it into your glass when you’re not looking, when your attention is focused on that scantily-clad ass and your head is pounding with the rhythm of the bass. better to get a prescription for it, take it in the recommended doses—and even then there may be side effects, including nausea, dry mouth, depression, anxiety, shortness of breath, insomnia, tremors, and memory loss. it’s an effective decongestant, opening clogged passages into colleges and universities, offices (corporate and political), and professional sports. you can light a fire with it, say, at your neighborhood barbeque, where even the vigilant (the e is silent) may burn the meat to a crisp. vigilance is the best way to demonstrate your innocence, inherited or acquired by other means, by any means necessary.
In the mirror of excessive drift there exist those values which exist within schisms within error wracked spectrums which glow by means of vapour above anti-dimensional obstruction the visage of metrics tuned to a mesmeric lisp to a rancid facial dice thrown across ethers across 3 or 4 sierras or voids so that each sculpting each prism advances the apparitional understanding to a macro-positional scalding which collapses which takes on the centigrade of absence bound to invisible comradery
From The Sri Lankan Loxodrome. Copyright © 2009 by Will Alexander. Reprinted with permission of New Directions Press.
For me, biography is a lantern, burning in the midst of parenthetical opaqueness. In a sense, it is a ruse, a phantasmic meandering, brighter or dimmer, according to the ecletic happenstance of terror.
Me, I've been sired in anomaly, in an imagery of brewing grenadine riddles, a parallel poesis spawned from curious seismographic molten. I say curious, because the original stalking arc has disappeared into the wilderness of an a priori blizzard, which gives birth to a level, like a portal of fire conjoined with the lightning field of mystery. I call it the poetic guardian dove, the hieratic alien wing.
It is the non-local field, the non-particle acid, flowing into my cognitive iodine rays, into the vicious fires of my tarantella marshes. So I dance with vibration, with the solar arc spinning backward around the miraculous force of a double green horizon. Simultaneously, I escape the territorial, while remaining within the burning loops of my own momentary seizures, guarded by ferns, legs plowing land, the face and the mind guided by stars.
So, I am a martyr of drills, of spates of specific lingual flooding, casting at times, a mist or a mirage, like a caravan of yaks, transporting tungsten and water. Conversely, to give a graph of dates, to single out a bevy of personal social lesions, would invert me, would turn me around a diurnal bundle of glass, staggered, with a less than fiery temperature, partially nulling my sensitivity to falling phonemic peppers, to the inclination towards victory which burns in the dawn above heaven. For me, this is the green locale, the pleroma of eternal solar essence, glinting, full of fabulous maelstrom diamonds, an empowered hegira of drift, of claustrophobic rainbow spectrums which empty themselves, and return to themselves, like having an image go out and return to itself, so that its power transmutes by the very energy of its looping; and I think of myself, the poet sending signals into mystery, and having them return to me with oneiric wings and spirals, so much so, that I forget my prosaic locale with its stultifying anchors, with its familial dotage and image reports, with its dates inscribed in trapezoidal faces. I am only concerned with simultaneity and height, with rays of monomial kindling, guiding the neo-cortex through ravens, into the ecstasy of x-rays and blackness.
Copyright © 2011 by Will Alexander. Reprinted from Compression & Purity with the permission of City Lights Publishers.
It was going on five in the morning The ship of steam stretched its chain to shatter the windows And outside A glowworm Lifted Paris like a leaf It was only a long trembling scream A scream from the Maternity Hospital nearby FINIS FOUNDRY FANATIC But whatever joy escaped in the exhalation of that pain It seems to me that I was falling for a long time I still had my fist clenched around a handful of grass And suddenly that rustle of flowers and needles of ice Those green eyebrows that shooting-star pendulum From what depths was the bell actually able to rise again The hermetic bell Which nothing last night made me foresee would stop on this landing The bell whose sides read Undine Moving to raise your spearheaded Sagittarius pedal You had carved the infallible signs Of my enchantment With a dagger whose coral handle forks into infinity So that your blood and mine Would become one
From Andre Breton: Selections edited by Mark Polizzoti. Copyright © 2003. Reprinted by permission of University of California Press. "It Was Going on Five in the Morning" translated by Zack Rogow and Bill Zavatsky. All rights reserved.
Someone just died but I'm still alive and yet I don't have a soul anymore. All I have left is a transparent body inside of which transparent doves hurl themselves on a transparent dagger held by a transparent hand. I see struggle in all its beauty, real struggle which nothing can measure, just before the last star comes out. The rented body I live in like a hut detests the soul I had which floats in the distance. It's time to put an end to that famous dualism for which I've been so much reproached. Gone are the days when eyes without light and rings drew sediment from pools of color. There's neither red nor blue anymore. Unanimous red-blue fades away in turn like a robin redbreast in the hedges of inattention. Someone just died,—not you or I or they exactly, but all of us, except me who survives by a variety of means: I'm still cold for example. That's enough. A match! A match! Or how about some rocks so I can split them, or some birds so I can follow them, or some corsets so I can tighten them around dead women's waists, so they'll come back to life and love me, with their exhausting hair, their disheveled glances! A match, so no one dies for brandied plums, a match so the Italian straw hat can be more than a play! Hey, lawn! Hey, rain! I'm the unreal breath of this garden. The black crown resting on my head is a cry of migrating crows because up till now there have only been those who were buried alive, and only a few of them, and here I am the first aerated dead man. But I have a body so I can stop doing myself in, so I can force reptiles to admire me. Bloody hands, misteltoe eyes, a mouth of dried leaves and glass (the dried leaves move under the glass; they're not as red as one would think, when indifference exposes its voracious methods), hands to gather you, miniscule thyme of my dreams, rosemary of my extreme pallor. I don't have a shadow anymore, either. Ah my shadow, my dear shadow. I should write a long letter to the shadow I lost. I'd begin it My Dear Shadow. Shadow, my darling. You see. There's no more sun. There's only one tropic left out of two. There's only one man left in a thousand. There's only one woman left in the absence of thought that characterizes in pure black this cursed era. That woman holds a bouquet of everlastings shaped like my blood.
From Andre Breton: Selections edited by Mark Polizzoti. Copyright © 2003. Reprinted by permission of University of California Press. "The Forest in the Axe" translated by Zack Rogow and Bill Zavatsky. All rights reserved.
Choose life instead of those prisms with no depth even if their colors are purer Instead of this hour always hidden instead of these terrible vehicles of cold flame Instead of these overripe stones Choose this heart with its safety catch Instead of that murmuring pool And that white fabric singing in the air and the earth at the same time Instead of that marriage blessing joining my forehead to total vanity's Choose life Choose life with its conspiratorial sheets Its scars from escapes Choose life choose that rose window on my tomb The life of being here nothing but being here Where one voice says Are you there where another answers Are you there I'm hardly here at all alas And even when we might be making fun of what we kill Choose life Choose life choose life venerable Childhood The ribbon coming out of a fakir Resembles the playground slide of the world Though the sun is only a shipwreck Insofar as a woman's body resembles it You dream contemplating the whole length of its trajectory Or only while closing your eyes on the adorable storm named your hand Choose life Choose life with its waiting rooms When you know you'll never be shown in Choose life instead of those health spas Where you're served by drudges Choose life unfavorable and long When the books close again here on less gentle shelves And when over there the weather would be better than better it would be free yes Choose life Choose life as the pit of scorn With that head beautiful enough Like the antidote to that perfection it summons and it fears Life the makeup on God's face Life like a virgin passport A little town like Pont-á-Mousson And since everything's already been said Choose life instead
From Andre Breton: Selections edited by Mark Polizzoti. Copyright © 2003. Reprinted by permission of University of California Press. "Choose Life" translated by Zack Rogow and Bill Zavatsky. All rights reserved.
i have diver’s lungs from holding my
breath for so long. i promise you
i am not trying to break a record
sometimes i just forget to
exhale. my shoulders held tightly
near my neck, i am a ball of tense
living, a tumbleweed with steel-toed
boots. i can’t remember the last time
i felt light as dandelion. i can’t remember
the last time i took the sweetness in
& my diaphragm expanded into song.
they tell me breathing is everything,
meaning if i breathe right i can live to be
ancient. i’ll grow a soft furry tail or be
telekinetic something powerful enough
to heal the world. i swear i thought
the last time i’d think of death with breath
was that balmy day in july when the cops
became a raging fire & sucked the breath
out of Garner; but yesterday i walked
38 blocks to my father’s house with a mask
over my nose & mouth, the sweat dripping
off my chin only to get caught in fabric & pool up
like rain. & i inhaled small spurts of me, little
particles of my dna. i took into body my own self
& thought i’d die from so much exposure
to my own bereavement—they’re saying
this virus takes your breath away, not
like a mother’s love or like a good kiss
from your lover’s soft mouth but like the police
it can kill you fast or slow; dealer’s choice.
a pallbearer carrying your body without a casket.
they say it’s so contagious it could be quite
breathtaking. so persistent it might as well
be breathing down your neck—
Copyright © 2020 by Yesenia Montilla. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 21, 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.
apricots & brown teeth in browner mouths nashing dates & a clementine’s underflesh under yellow nail & dates like auntie heads & the first time someone dried mango there was god & grandma’s Sunday only song & how the plums are better as plums dammit & i was wrong & a June’s worth of moons & the kiss stain of the berries & lord the prunes & the miracle of other people’s lives & none of my business & our hands sticky and a good empty & please please pass the bowl around again & the question of dried or ripe & the sex of grapes & too many dates & us us us us us & varied are the feast but so same the sound of love gorged & the women in the Y hijab a lily in the water & all of us who come from people who signed with x’s & yesterday made delicacy in the wrinkle of the fruit & at the end of my name begins the lot of us
Copyright © 2019 by Danez Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 29, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.