You only watch the news to find out
where the fires are burning, which way
the wind is blowing, and whether
it will rain. Forecast ahead but first:
A mother’s boy laid out
in the street for hours.
These facts don’t wash away.
Copyright © 2016 D. A. Powell. Used with permission of the author.
Epithalamion? Not too long back
I was being ironic about “wives.”
It’s very well to say, creation thrives
on contradiction, but that’s a fast track
shifted precipitately into. Tacky,
some might say, and look mildly appalled. On
the whole, it’s one I’m likely to be called on.
Explain yourself or face the music, Hack.
No law books frame terms of this covenant.
It’s choice that’s asymptotic to a goal,
which means that we must choose, and choose, and choose
momently, daily. This moment my whole
trajectory’s toward you, and it’s not losing
momentum. Call it anything we want.
From Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons by Marilyn Hacker. Copyright © 1986 by Marilyn Hacker. Used by permission.
Because I am a boy, the untouchability of beauty
is my subject already, the book of statues
open in my lap, the middle of October, leaves
foiling the wet ground
in soft copper. “A statue
must be beautiful
from all sides,” Cellini wrote in 1558.
When I close the book,
the bodies touch. In the west,
they are tying a boy to a fence and leaving him to die,
his face unrecognizable behind a mask
of blood. His body, icon
of loss, growing meaningful
against his will.
Copyright © 2016 by Richie Hofmann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 12, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
Keep your lips pressed together
after you say the p:
(soon they’ll try
your breath out—)
three times in a row:
Stop Stop Stop
In a hospital bed
like a curled up fish, someone’s
gulping at air—
How should you apply
List all of the people
you would like
Who offers love,
Put a period at the end.
Decide if it’s a kiss
or a bullet.
Copyright © 2017 by Dana Levin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 6, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
My mother pushes a grocery cart,
I tug at her blue pleated skirt.
She puts her change into my hands,
For the old soul slumped against the wall,
His gray mouth covered by a beard of wind and dirt.
I place the coins into his cupped hands
And he stacks two neat columns of cents
Next to his seat on the curb.
He nods his chin half-solemnly.
I turn back to Mother,
Suddenly a cop—he came out of nowhere—
Tells me, Take the money back.
I brush the coins
Back into my palms like table crumbs.
As the old man,
Silent as those pennies,
Gets cuffed and hauled off to jail.
I ask Mom why—
We only tried to help.
The cop says bums make thirty bucks a week
Begging for change
And are not too unhappy
Since they get food, shelter,
And a hot shower for at least a week.
My mother pushes the grocery cart without a word,
Knowing that as newlyweds she begged outside markets for change
While Dad stole bread and sliced honey-ham inside.
From The Date Fruit Elegies (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 2008). Copyright © 2008 by John Olivares Espinoza. Used with the permission of Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe.
Those four black girls blown up
in that Alabama church
remind me of five hundred
middle passage blacks,
in a net, under water
in Charleston harbor
so redcoats wouldn't find them.
Can't find what you can't see
From Images of Kin by Michael S. Harper, published by University of Illinois Press. © 1970 by Michael S. Harper. Used with the permission of the University of Illinois Press. All rights reserved.
I'm in the school bathroom washing my hands without soap but I'm still washing my hands. I turn the water off and look for a paper towel but paper towels have been gone since the first day of school and it's June now. I start to leave the bathroom with my wet hands but then the big boys come in talking loud and cussing like they rap stars or have new sneakers. I hear the one named Pinto talking about how someone should get Omar after school since he's the only Muslim they know. Pinto talks with an accent like he's new in the neighborhood too. I don't have to ask him what he's talking about since everybody is talking about the Towers and how they ain't there no more. My momma said it's like a woman losing both breasts to cancer and my daddy was talking at the dinner table about how senseless violence is and Mrs. Gardner next door lost two tall boys to drive-bys Bullets flying into both boys heads making them crumble too. Everybody around here is filled with fear and craziness and now Pinto and the big boys thinking about doing something bad. I stare at my wet hands dripping water on my shoes and wonder if I should run and tell Omar or just run. I feel like I'm trapped in the middle of one of those Bible stories but it ain't Sunday. I hear my Momma's voice saying Boy, always remember to wash your hands but always remember you can't wash your hands from everything. Nashville, TN 10/12/01
From How We Sleep on the Nights We Don't Make Love by E. Ethelbert Miller. Copyright © 2004 by E. Ethelbert Miller. Published by Curbstone Press. Distributed by Consortium Book Sales & Dist. Reprinted by permission of Curbstone Press. All rights reserved.
—The "Miranda Rights," established 1966
You have the right to remain
anything you can and will be.
An attorney you cannot afford
will be provided to you.
You have silent will.
You can be against law.
You cannot afford one.
You remain silent. Anything you say
will be provided to you.
The right can and will be
against you. The right provided you.
Have anything you say be
right. Anything you say can be right.
Say you have the right attorney.
The right remain silent.
Be held. Court the one. Be provided.
You cannot be you.
Copyright © 2012 by Charles Jensen. Used with permission of the author.
WHEREVER YOU ARE
WE NEED TO HAVE THIS MEETING
AT THIS TREE
AIN’ EVEN BEEN
From Directed by Desire: The Complete Poems of June Jordan (Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005, 2017 by the June Jordan Literary Estate. Used with the permission of the June Jordan Literary Estate, www.junejordan.com.