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.

Though I was dwelling in a prison house, 
My soul was wandering by the carefree stream
Through fields of green with gold eyed daisies strewn, 
And daffodils and sunflower cavaliers. 
And near me played a little browneyed child, 
A winsome creature God alone conceived, 
“Oh, little friend,” I begged. “Give me a flower
That I might bear it to my lonely cell.” 
He plucked a dandelion, an ugly bloom, 
But tenderly he placed it in my hand, 
And in his eyes I saw the sign of love. 
‘Twas then the dandelion became a rose. 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 4, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets. 

it’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don’t like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn’t know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn’t worked the earth love it
I’ve never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I’ve loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can’t wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you'll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
                         and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
                         and will be said after me

I didn’t know I loved the sky
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard
the guards are beating someone again
I didn’t know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish
“the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
                         lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high”
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief
                                        to a pine bough for luck

I never knew I loved roads
even the asphalt kind
Vera's behind the wheel we're driving from Moscow to the Crimea
                                                          Koktebele
                               formerly “Goktepé ili” in Turkish
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
                                        when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn’t have anything in the wagon they could take
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I’ve written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I'm going to the shadow play
Ramazan night
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
                                       going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather’s hand
   his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
      with a sable collar over his robe
   and there’s a lantern in the servant’s hand
   and I can’t contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky
I didn’t know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison

I just remembered the stars
I love them too
whether I’m floored watching them from below
or whether I'm flying at their side

I have some questions for the cosmonauts
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
                             or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don’t
   be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
   well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
   say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad
I never knew I loved the cosmos

snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind
I didn’t know I liked snow

I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
but you aren’t about to paint it that way
I didn’t know I loved the sea
                             except the Sea of Azov
or how much

I didn’t know I loved clouds
whether I’m under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois
strikes me
I like it

I didn’t know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
   heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
   and takes off for uncharted countries I didn’t know I loved
   rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
   by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I’m half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn’t know I loved sparks
I didn’t know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
   to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
   watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

                                                     19 April 1962
                                                     Moscow

From Selected Poetry by Nazim Hikmet. Translation copyright © 1986 by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk. Reprinted by permission of Persea Books, Inc.

A lot more malaise and a little more grief every day,
aware that all seasons, the stormy, the sunlit, are brief every day. 

I don’t know the name of the hundredth drowned child, just the names
of the oligarchs trampling the green, eating beef every day,

while luminous creatures flick, stymied, above and around
the plastic detritus that’s piling up over the reef every day.

A tiny white cup of black coffee in afternoon shade,
while an oud or a sax plays brings breath and relief every day. 

Another beginning, no useful conclusion in sight‚—
another first draft that I tear out and add to the sheaf every day. 

One name, three-in-one, ninety-nine, or a matrix of tales 
that are one story only, well-springs of belief every day.

But I wake before dawn to read news that arrived overnight
on a minuscule screen , and exclaim  يا لطيف every day.

Copyright © 2020 by Marilyn Hacker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 9, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

A man leaves the world
and the streets he lived on
grow a little shorter.

One more window dark
in this city, the figs on his branches
will soften for birds.

If we stand quietly enough evenings
there grows a whole company of us
standing quietly together.
overhead loud grackles are claiming their trees  
and the sky which sews and sews, tirelessly sewing,
drops her purple hem.
Each thing in its time, in its place,
it would be nice to think the same about people.

Some people do. They sleep completely,
waking refreshed. Others live in two worlds,
the lost and remembered.
They sleep twice, once for the one who is gone,
once for themselves. They dream thickly,
dream double, they wake from a dream
into another one, they walk the short streets
calling out names, and then they answer.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. Published by Far Corner. Reprinted with permission of the author. Copyright © 1995 Naomi Shihab Nye.

words appeared as the soft purring of a cat, crow screeching, 
end of a hymn, cicadas in treesspilling in the white 
noise of my headDa Nang Mekong Saigon Nam.

I walked suburban streets to school, hi-fi blasting Somebody To Love
coach meting out orders, my playbook of fakes and jives, 
my head swelling in the helmet. Over sweet cocktails with my beloved 

under the yellowing gingkoes of 64th off Lex, for a moment I felt 
grown up and then the air in my head was orange chemical Dow 
and DuPont, the juke box blasting Light My Fireand where were we?

staring at the image: pistol to the head, a boy I once knew 
on the white-lined field was bagged
and flown back in the dioxin haze of morning.

In the mangrove of my head chopping sounds 
under the covers, rice pattiesfloating mirrors with unidentified
objects. There were Catholics in Saigon and Catholics on my street,  

what about Laos? what about Cambodia? 
American questions spilling in sunlight on white 
shutters, and I’m home on plush carpet waiting for a number.

Copyright © 2020 by Peter Balakian. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 17, 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.

   In placid hours well-pleased we dream
Of many a brave unbodied scheme.
But form to lend, pulsed life create,
What unlike things must meet and mate:
A flame to melt—a wind to freeze;
Sad patience—joyous energies;
Humility—yet pride and scorn;
Instinct and study; love and hate;
Audacity—reverence. These must mate,
And fuse with Jacob’s mystic heart,
To wrestle with the angel—Art.

This poem is in the public domain.

a voice speaks 

to rheumy stars

deadpan witness

no call and response

or supplicant's hope

all this hurts

the ocean suggests

as if waves

could privilege

ear's dumb gestures

or a ghost

of a sentence learn

to read its

own dried ink

Copyright © 2010 by Maxine Chernoff. Used by permission of the author.

Love, leave me like the light,
The gently passing day;
We would not know, but for the night,
When it has slipped away.

So many hopes have fled,
Have left me but the name
Of what they were. When love is dead,
Go thou, beloved, the same.

Go quietly; a dream
When done, should leave no trace
That it has lived, except a gleam
Across the dreamer’s face.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 28, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

State of Florida v. Patrick Gene Scarborough, David Erwin Beagles, Ollie Odell Stoutamire, William Ted Collinsworth, 1959, case #3445.

Later I lower my head to my father’s chest,
the hollow where I hear his heart stop, if stop
meant speed to a stop, if hearts could gasp like a 
a mouth when events stun the heart to a stop
for a moment. His eyes fill with anger
then, collecting himself, he rises up to slump
his shoulders back down. The fists. The eyes.
Nothing can raise up, nothing feels essential,
a black body raising up in the south and all…
To a life starting here, ethereal, yet flesh, and all?
And even if you could, what all good would it do?
The damage and all. Black birds flock, 
dulcet yet mourning, an uproar of need,
a cry of black but blue is not the sky
in which they gender. My God, if life is not pain, 
no birth brought me into this world,
or could life begin here where it ends—
no shelter, no comfort, no ride home—
and must I go on, saying more? Pointing
them out in a court of men? Didn’t
the trees already finger the culprits? Creatures
make a way where there is no way. That way
after I lean into what’s left of me—and must I
(yes, you must) explain, over and over,
how my blood came to rest here—my body,
now labeled evidence, sows what I have yet to say.

Copyright © 2020 by A. Van Jordan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Is there a place where black men can go
to be beautiful? Is there light there? Touch?

Is there comfort or room to raise their black
sons as anything other than a future asterisk,

at risk to be asteroid or rogue planet but not
comet—to be studded with awe and clamor

and admired for radial trajectories across
a dark sky made of asphalt and moonshine

to be celebs and deemed a magnificent sight?

Copyright © 2020 by Enzo Silon Surin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

I am hovering over this rug
with a hair dryer on high in my hand
I have finally, inevitably, spilled
red wine on this impractically white
housewarming hand-me-down from my cousin, who
clearly, and incorrectly, thought this was a good idea

With the help of a little panic,
sparkling water and a washcloth,
I am stunned by how quickly the wine washes out,
how I was sure this mistake would find me
every day with its gaping mouth, reminding me
of my own propensity for failure
and yet, here I am
with this clean slate

The rug is made of fur,
which means it died
to be here

It reminds me of my own survival
and everyone who has taught me
to shake loose the shadow of death

I think of inheritance, how this rug
was passed on to me through blood,
how this animal gave its blood
so that I may receive the gift of its death
and be grateful for it

I think of our inability
to control stories of origin
how history does not wash away
with water and a good scrub 

I think of evolution,
what it means to make it through
this world with your skin intact,
how flesh is fragile
but makes a needle and thread
of itself when necessary

I think of all that I have inherited,
all the bodies buried for me to be here
and stay here, how I was born with grief
and gratitude in my bones

And I think of legacy,
how I come from a long line of sorcerers
who make good work of building
joy from absolutely nothing

And what can I do with that
but pour another glass,
thank the stars
for this sorceress blood
and keep pressing forward

Copyright © 2020 by L. Ash Williams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 30, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I wonder 
how it would be here with you,
where the wind 
that has shaken off its dust in low valleys
touches one cleanly, 
as with a new-washed hand, 
and pain
is as the remote hunger of droning things,
and anger 
but a little silence 
sinking into the great silence.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 12, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The table settles. Before you
is a series of well-seasoned scraps
framed in silverware and open
palms. The entire kitchen
exhales and every torso
leans back in unison, a table blossoming
bodies in satisfaction.
Someone pops open a button,
and then another. Several burps
that interrupt, scoff at the hand
cupped around the mouth,
bellow with pleasure
as they fling out of the body
in triumph. Every bra is undone
unceremoniously, straps wilting
out of shirt sleeves or across furniture.
The land of satiation. The land of, if it itches,
scratch it. Land of pleasure. Everything
sagging with joy. Someone passes gas
loudly. It is full and foul, but no one
is embarrassed by the scent
of a body that has gotten exactly
what it needed.

                                              The stench of enough.

My god, to be so satisfied you reek of it.
Smell badly of, I do not want more,
I have had my fill. To stink of gratitude,
to be immobilized by its weight. The eyelids
flutter, nearly drunk with it. Here, the body
so saturated and somehow fears
nothing. What a condition
for the body, so unlike
the state I am in. So enough
that all it must do
is sleep.

Copyright © 2021 by Jacqui Germain. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 13, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

When your joys are of the sweetest
    And your heart is light and free; 
When your griefs are skimming fleetest, 
    Love, one moment think of me. 

I’d not ask you to remember 
    Me when life is dull and drear;
When your hopes are but an ember
    From a cold and vanished year; 

Sorrow’s far too bleak a burden
    To retain in mem’ry’s hall. 

Friendship has no greater guerdon
    Than to happiness recall. 

So, when roses scent the twilight
    Air with ling’ring dew damp breath, 

Please remember me as eye-bright
    Faith remembers until death.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 31, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.