Ways apt and new to sing of love I’d find,
Forcing from her hard heart full many a sigh,
And re-enkindle in her frozen mind
Desires a thousand, passionate and high;
O’er her fair face would see each swift change pass,
See her fond eyes at length where pity reigns,
As one who sorrows when too late, alas!
For his own error and another’s pains;
See the fresh roses edging that fair snow
Move with her breath, that ivory descried,
Which turns to marble him who sees it near;
See all, for which in this brief life below
Myself I weary not but rather pride
That Heaven for later times has kept me here.

Translated by Robert Guthrie Macgregor. This poem is in the public domain.

I’d sing of Love in such a novel fashion
that from her cruel side I would draw by force
a thousand sighs a day, kindling again
in her cold mind a thousand high desires;

I’d see her lovely face transform quite often
her eyes grow wet and more compassionate,
like one who feels regret, when it’s too late,
for causing someone’s suffering by mistake;

And I’d see scarlet roses in the snows,
tossed by the breeze, discover ivory
that turns to marble those who see it near them;

All this I’d do because I do not mind
my discontentment in this one short life,
but glory rather in my later fame.

From The Poetry of Petrarch by Petrarch, translated by David Young. Translation copyright © 2004 by David Young. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. All rights reserved.

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, hélas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Sithens in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.

This poem is in the public domain.

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decrease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel.
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Thou that are now the world’s fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content
And, tender churl, makest waste in niggarding.
     Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
     To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.

This poem is in the public domain.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.
    So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

This poem is in the public domain.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
    If this be error, and upon me prov’d,
    I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

This poem is in the public domain.

When James Baldwin & Audre Lorde each lend
Stevie Wonder an eyeball, he immediately contends
With gravity, falling either to his knees or flat on
His luminous face. I’ve heard several versions
Of the story. In this one Audre Lorde dons
Immaculate French loafers, turtlenecked ballgown,
And afro halo. An eye-sized ruby glimmers on
A pinky ring that’s a hair too big for Jimmy Baldwin’s
Pinky. He’s blue with beauty. They’re accustomed
To being followed, but now, the eye-patch twins
Will be especially scary to white people. Looking upon
Them, Wonder’s head purples with plural visions
Of blackness, gavels, grapples, purrs, pens. Ten to one
Odds God also prefers to be referred to as They & Them.

Copyright © 2019 by Terrance Hayes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 26, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

The shadow I had carried lightly has

Been forced upon me now and heavy since

Bulky since     now and since unwieldy as

A corpse the shadow I     was born from in

 

And to I     should have known I couldn’t being

As how it wasn’t me who lifted it

Not     all the way     from me in the first place being

As how its lightness after was a gift

 

Its near-     bodilessness a gift     from those

Who bind it to me now I should have known

I couldn’t while they watched me     set it loose

 

They bind it     to my back they make it strange

That I knew     in my arms they weigh it down

With the shadow they had kept the bindings in

Copyright © 2017 by Shane McCrae. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 29, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

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.

Maybe a bit dramatic, but I light
candles with my breakfast, wear a white gown 
around the house like a virgin. Right
or wrong, forgive me? No one in this town 
knows forgiveness. Miles from the limits
if I squint, there’s Orion. If heaven
exists I will be there in a minute
to hop the pearly gates, a ghost felon,
to find him. Of blood, of mud, of wise men. 
But who am I now after all these years 
without him: boy widow barbarian
trapping hornets in my shit grin. He’ll fear 
who I’ve been since. He’ll see I’m a liar,
a cheater, a whole garden on fire.

Copyright © 2019 by Hieu Minh Nguyen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 24, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

We suffer through blinding equatorial heat,
refusing to unfold the suspended bamboo shade 
nested by a pair of hardworking, cheerless sparrows.
We’ve watched them fly in-and-out of their double
entryways, dried grass, twigs clamped in their beaks.
They skip, nestle in their woodsy tunnel punctured
with light, we presume, not total darkness, their eggs
aglow like lunar orbs. What is a home? How easily 
it can be destroyed: the untying of traditional ropes,
pull, the scroll-unraveling. For want of a sweltering
living room to be thrown into relief by shadow.

The sunning couple perch open-winged, tube lofty
as in Aristophanes' city of birds, home made sturdy
by creature logic and faith that it will all remain afloat.

Copyright © 2016 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Originally published in Orion Magazine. Used with permission of the author.

Things got terribly ugly incredibly quickly 
Things got ugly embarrassingly quickly 
actually Things got ugly unbelievably quickly 
honestly Things got ugly seemingly infrequently 
initially Things got ugly ironically usually 
awfully carefully Things got ugly unsuccessfully 
occasionally Things got ugly mostly painstakingly 
quietly seemingly Things got ugly beautifully 
infrequently Things got ugly sadly especially 
frequently unfortunately Things got ugly 
increasingly obviously Things got ugly suddenly
embarrassingly forcefully Things got really ugly 
regularly truly quickly Things got really incredibly 
ugly Things will get less ugly inevitably hopefully 

Copyright © 2019 by Terrance Hayes. Used with the permission of the poet. 

I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way
        to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.


Cien Sonetos de Amor: XVII (No te amo como si fueras rosa)

No te amo como si fueras rosa de sal, topacio
o flecha de claveles que propagan el fuego:
te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras,
secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma.

Te amo como la planta que no florece y lleva
dentro de sí, escondida, la luz de aquellas flores,
y gracias a tu amor vive oscuro en mi cuerpo
el apretado aroma que ascendió de la tierra.

Te amo sin saber como, ni cuándo, ni de dónde,
Te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo:
así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera,
sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres,
tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,
tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.  

Pablo Neruda, “One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII,” translated by Mark Eisner, from The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems, edited by Mark Eisner. Copyright © 2004 by Mark Eisner. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of City Lights Books, citylights.com. 
 

a variant of Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet XVII

I don’t love you as if you were penicillin, 
insulin, or chemotherapy drugs that treat cancer,
I love you as one loves the sickest patient:
terminally, between the diagnosis and the death. 

I love you as one loves new vaccines frozen 
within the lab, poised to stimulate our antibodies,
and thanks to your love, the immunity that protects 
me from disease will respond strongly in my cells.

I love you without knowing how or when this pandemic 
will end. I love you carefully, with double masking. 
I love you like this because we can’t quarantine 

forever in the shelter of social distancing, 
so close that your viral load is mine,
so close that your curve rises with my cough.

Copyright © 2022 by Craig Santos Perez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 4, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.