You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Knopf and Vintage Books. Copyright © 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated.

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon,
The dinosaur, who left dried tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spilling words

Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out to us today, you may stand upon me,
But do not hide your face.

Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song. It says,
Come, rest here by my side.

Each of you, a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace, and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the rock were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.
The River sang and sings on.

There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African, the Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheik,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.

They hear the first and last of every Tree
Speak to humankind today. Come to me, here beside the River.
Plant yourself beside the River.

Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, you,
Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet,
Left me to the employment of
Other seekers—desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo, the Scot,
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought,
Sold, stolen, arriving on the nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am that Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.
I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours—your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands,
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For a new beginning.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out and upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here, on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, and into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope—
Good morning.

"On the Pulse of Morning" from ON THE PULSE OF MORNING by Maya Angelou, copyright © 1993 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

It snowed in spring on earth so dry and warm
The flakes could find no landing place to form.
Hordes spent themselves to make it wet and cold,
And still they failed of any lasting hold.
They made no white impression on the black.
They disappeared as if earth sent them back.
Not till from separate flakes they changed at night
To almost strips and tapes of ragged white
Did grass and garden ground confess it snowed,
And all go back to winter but the road.
Next day the scene was piled and puffed and dead.
The grass lay flattened under one great tread.
Borne down until the end almost took root,
The rangey bough anticipated fruit
With snowball cupped in every opening bud.
The road alone maintained itself in mud,
Whatever its secret was of greater heat
From inward fires or brush of passing feet.

In spring more mortal singers than belong
To any one place cover us with song.
Thrush, bluebird, blackbird, sparrow, and robin throng;
Some to go further north to Hudson's Bay,
Some that have come too far north back away,
Really a very few to build and stay.
Now was seen how these liked belated snow.
the field had nowhere left for them to go;
They'd soon exhausted all there was in flying;
The trees they'd had enough of with once trying
And setting off their heavy powder load.
They could find nothing open but the road.
So there they let their lives be narrowed in
By thousands the bad weather made akin.
The road became a channel running flocks
Of glossy birds like ripples over rocks.
I drove them under foot in bits of flight
That kept the ground, almost disputing right
Of way with me from apathy of wing,
A talking twitter all they had to sing.
A few I must have driven to despair
Made quick asides, but having done in air
A whir among white branches great and small
As in some too much carven marble hall
Where one false wing beat would have brought down all,
Came tamely back in front of me, the Drover,
To suffer the same driven nightmare over.
One such storm in a lifetime couldn't teach them
That back behind pursuit it couldn't reach them;
None flew behind me to be left alone.

Well, something for a snowstorm to have shown
The country's singing strength thus brought together,
That though repressed and moody with the weather
Was none the less there ready to be freed
And sing the wildflowers up from root and seed.

This poem is in the public domain. 

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used with permission.

Though joy is better than sorrow, joy is not great;
Peace is great, strength is great.
Not for joy the stars burn, not for joy the vulture
Spreads her gray sails on the air
Over the mountain; not for joy the worn mountain
Stands, while years like water
Trench his long sides. “I am neither mountain nor bird
Nor star; and I seek joy.”
The weakness of your breed: yet at length quietness
Will cover those wistful eyes.

This poem is in the public domain.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door—
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door—
               Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
               Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
               This it is and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"—here I opened wide the door;—
               Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"—
               Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
               'Tis the wind and nothing more!"

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
               Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
               With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered "Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
               Then the bird said "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
               Of 'Never—nevermore.'"

But the Raven still beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
               Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
               She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting—
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
               Shall be lifted—nevermore!

This version appeared in the Richmond Semi-Weekly Examiner, September 25, 1849. For other versions, please visit the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore's site: http://www.eapoe.org/works/poems/index.htm#R.

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs
     repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues 
     and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an
     unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an
     unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the 
    gone years and the now years and the maybe years,
    washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending
    hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching
    dragging along never gaining never reaping never
    knowing and never understanding;

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama
    backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor
    and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking
    and playhouse and concert and store and hair and Miss
    Choomby and company;

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn 
    to know the reasons why and the answers to and the
    people who and the places where and the days when, in
    memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we
    were black and poor and small and different and nobody
    cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to
    be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and
    play and drink their wine and religion and success, to
    marry their playmates and bear children and then die
    of consumption and anemia and lynching;

For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox
    Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New
    Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy
    people filling the cabarets and taverns and other
    people’s pockets needing bread and shoes and milk and
    land and money and something—something all our own;

For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time
     being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when
     burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied, and shackled
     and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures
     who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;

For my people blundering and groping and floundering in
     the dark of churches and schools and clubs and
     societies, associations and councils and committees and 
     conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and
     devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches,
     preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by
     false prophet and holy believer;

For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way
    from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding,
    trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people,
    all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless
    generations;

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a
    bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second
    generation full of courage issue forth; let a people
    loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of
    healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing
    in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs
    be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now 
    rise and take control.

From This Is My Century: New and Collected Poems (University of Georgia Press, 1989). Copyright © 1989 by Margaret Walker. Used with permission of the University of Georgia Press.

Watch the dewdrops in the morning,
   Shake their little diamond heads,
Sparkling, flashing, ever moving,
   From their silent little beds.

See the grass! Each blade is brightened,
   Roots are strengthened by their stay;
Like the dewdrops, let us scatter
   Gems of love along the way.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Before the brave, before the proud builders and workers,
I say I want the wide American earth,
Its beautiful rivers and long valleys and fertile plains,
Its numberless hamlets and expanding towns and towering cities,
Its limitless frontiers, its probing intelligence,
For all the free.
                         Free men everywhere in my land—
This wide American earth—do not wander homeless,
And are not alone; friendship is our bread, love our air;
And we call each other comrade, each growing with the other,
Each a neighbor to the other, boundless in freedom.

I say I want the wide American earth....
I say to you defenders of  freedom, builders of peace,
I say to you democratic brothers, comrades of love:
Their judges lynch us, their police hunt us;
Their armies and navies and airmen terrorize us;
Their thugs and stoolies and murderers kill us;
They take away bread from our children;
They ravage our women;
They deny life to our elders.
                         But I say we have the truth
On our side, we have the future with us;
We are millions everywhere,
on seas and oceans and lands;
In air;
On water and all over this very earth.
We are millions working together.
We are building, creating, molding life.
We are shaping the shining structures of love.
We are everywhere, we are everywhere.
We are there when they sentence us to prison for telling the truth;
We are there when they conscript us to fight their wars;
We are there when they throw us in concentration camps;
We are there when they come at dawn with their guns.
We are there, we are there,
and we say to them:

“You cannot frighten us with your bombs and deaths;
You cannot drive us away from our land with your hate and disease;
You cannot starve us with your war programs and high prices;
You cannot command us with your nothing,
Because you are nothing but nothing;
You cannot put us all in your padded jails;
You cannot snatch the dawn of life from us!”

And we say to them:

“Remember, remember,
We shall no longer wear rags, eat stale bread, live in darkness;
We shall no longer kneel on our knees to your false gods;
We shall no longer beg you for a share of life.
Remember, remember,
O remember in the deepest midnight of your fear,
We shall emulate the wonder of our women,
The ringing laughter of our children,
The strength and manhood of our men
With a true and honest and powerful love!”

And we say to them:

“We are the creators of a flowering race!”

I say I want the wide American earth.
I say to you too, sharer of my delights and thoughts,
I say this deathless truth,
And more—
                         For look, watch, listen:
With a stroke of my hand I open the dawn of a new world,
Lift up the beautiful horizon of a new life;
All for you, comrade and my love.
                                                  See:
The magnificent towers of our future is afire with truth,
And growing with the fuel of the heart of my heart,
and unfolding and unfolding, and flowering and flowering
In the bright new sun of our world;
All for you, comrade and my wife.
                                                  And see:
I cry, I weep with joy,
And my tears are the tears of my people....

Before the brave, before the proud builders and workers,
I say I want the wide American earth
For all the free,
I want the wide American earth for my people,
I want my beautiful land.
I want it with my rippling strength and tenderness
Of love and light and truth
For all the free—

“I Want the Wide American Earth” ca. 1950. Copyright © Carlos Bulosan. Reprinted with the permission of University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, PNW04510.

Today’s hope is a flickering candle that dwells in a snow-dusted window,
circulating the prayers of Christmas mornings.
Today’s hope is the crisp daffodil in colorless photos,
containing the soul of a small
child,
who only wishes and knows of
peace and love.
Today’s hope is the sparkling eyes that
truly believe in achieving
anything to reach unity.
Today’s hope is the palm to palm connection
bracing each other for the climb neither expected,
but couldn’t abandon.
Today’s hope is peering
beyond
the lingering barrier,
but still recognizing the diversity in ourselves.
Today’s hope has been dimmed and tossed recklessly,
but still generously stays with us,
for we cannot help but come back
like wide eyed children to candy.
We are said to be weak to rely on such strength,
but we are only believers.
That spark
That gives science a baffled case
And oceans an infinite plane,
is the eagle that dips
and soars
and fights,
which stands for
the hope of
today. 

Copyright © Gabrielle Marshall. Used with permission of the author. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 6, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I call for you cultivation of strength in the dark.
Dark gardening
in the vertigo cold.
in the hot paralysis.
Under the wolves and coyotes of particular silences.
Where it is dry.
Where it is dry.
I call for you
cultivation of victory Over
long blows that you want to give and blows you are going to get.

Over
what wants to crumble you down, to sicken
you. I call for you
cultivation of strength to heal and enhance
in the non-cheering dark,
in the many many mornings-after;
in the chalk and choke.

From To Disembark (Third World Press, 1981). Copyright © 1981 by Gwendolyn Brooks. Reprinted by consent of Brooks Permissions.

When I rise up above the earth,
And look down on the things that fetter me,
I beat my wings upon the air,
Or tranquil lie,
Surge after surge of potent strength
Like incense comes to me
When I rise up above the earth
And look down upon the things that fetter me.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Who is it beams the merriest
At killing a man, the laughing one?
You are the one I nominate,
God of the rivers of Babylon.

A hundred times I’ve taken the mules
And started early through the lane,
And come to the broken gate and looked,
And there my partner was again,
Sitting on top of a sorrel horse
And picking the burrs from its matted mane,
Saying he thought he’d help me work
That field of corn before the rain;
And I never spoke of the dollar a day,
It’s no use causing hired men pain,
But slipped it into his hand at dark
While he undid the coupling chain;
And whistled a gospel tune, and knew
He’d join in strong on the refrain.

For I would pitch the treble high,
“Down at the cross where my Savior died,”
And then he rolled along the bass,
“There did I bury my sin and pride.”

Sinful pride of a hired man!
Out of a hired woman born!
I’m thinking now how he was saved
One day while plowing in the corn.
We plowed that steamy morning through,
I with the mule whose side was torn,
And keeping an eye on the mule I saw
That the sun looked high and the man looked worn;
I would take him home to dinner with me,
And there! my fathe’s dinner horn.

The sun blazed after dinner so
We sat a while by the maple trees,
Thinking of mother’s pickles and pies
And smoking a friendly pipe at ease.
I broached a point of piety,
For pious men are quick to tease:
Was it really true John dipped his crowd
Down in the muddy Jordan’s lees ?

And couldn’t the Baptists backslide too
If only they went on Methodist sprees?
And finally back to the field we went,
The corn was well above my knees,
The weeds were more than ankle high,
And dangerous customers were these.
We went to work in the heat again,
I hoped we d get a bit of breeze
And thought the hired man was used
To God’s most blazing cruelties.

Sundays, the hired man would pray
To live in the sunshine of his face;
Now here was answer come complete,
Rather an overdose of grace!

He fell in the furrow, an honest place
And an easy place for a man to fall.
His horse went marching blindly on
In a beautiful dream of a great fat stall.
And God shone on in merry mood,
For it was a foolish kind of sprawl,
And I found a hulk of heaving meat
That wouldn’t answer me at all,
And a fresh breeze made the young corn dance
To a bright green, glorious carnival.

And really, is it not a gift
To smile and be divinely gay,
To rise above a circumstance
And smile distressing scenes away?

But this was a thing that I had said,
I was so froward and untamed:
“I will not worship wickedness
Though it be God s I am ashamed!
For all his mercies God be thanked
But for his tyrannies be blamed!
He shall not have my love alone,
With loathing to his name is named."

I caught him up with all my strength
And with a silly stumbling tread
I dragged him over the soft brown dirt
And dumped him down beside the shed.

I thought of the prayers the fool had prayed
To his God, and I was seeing red,
When all of a sudden he gave a heave
And then with shuddering vomited!
And God, who had just received full thanks
For all his kindly daily bread,
Now called it back again perhaps
To see that his birds of the air were fed.
Not mother’s dainty dinner now,
A rather horrible mess instead,
Yet all of it God required of him
Before the fool was duly dead.

Even of deaths there is a choice,
I’ve seen you give a good one, God,
But he in his vomit laid him down,
Denied the decency of blood.

If silence from the dead, I swore,
There shall be cursing from the quick!
But I began to vomit too,
Cursing and vomit ever so thick;
The dead lay down, and I did too,
Two ashy idiots: take your pick !
A little lower than angels he made us,
(Hear his excellent rhetoric),
A credit we were to him, half of us dead,
The other half of us lying sick.

The little clouds came Sunday-dressed
To do a holy reverence,
The young corn smelled its sweetest too,
And made him goodly frankincense,
The thrushes offered music up,
Choired in the wood beyond the fence.

And while his praises rilled the earth
A solitary crow sailed by,
And while the whole creation sang
He cawed not knowing how to sigh.

This poem is in the public domain, and originally appeared in Poems about God (Henry Holt and Co, 1919).

what anger in defiance
what sympathy in doubt
emotions steady try us
demanding every shout

what sympathy in doubt
what pleasure in our pain
demanding are our shouts
such hazardous terrain

what pleasure in our pain
mere thinness to our skin
such hazardous terrain
such unrelenting din

sheer thinness of our skin
the ruptures and the breaks
such unrelenting din
mistake after mistake

we rupture and we break
we stagger and we shine
mistake after mistake
inhabiting our minds

we stagger and we shine
we live our lives on spin
inhabiting our minds
and undermining limbs

we live our lives on spin
and thrive until we grieve
we undermine our limbs
then get the strength to leave

we thrive until we grieve
emotions steady try us
we get the strength. we leave.
what anger in defiance.

Copyright © 2020 by Allison Joseph. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 13, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

The prison-house in which I live
Is falling to decay,
But God renews my spirit’s strength
Within these walls of clay.

For me a dimness slowly creeps
Around earth’s fairest light,
But heaven grows clearer to my view,
And fairer to my sight.

It may be earth’s sweet harmonies
Are duller to my ear,
But music from my Father’s house
Begins to float more near.

Then let the pillars of my home
Crumble and fall away;
Lo, God’s dear love within my soul
Renews it day by day.

This poem is in the public domain

With frontier strength ye stand your ground,
With grand content ye circle round,
Tumultuous silence for all sound,
Ye distant nursery of rills,
Monadnock, and the Peterborough hills;—
Firm argument that never stirs,
Outcircling the philosophers,—
Like some vast fleet
Sailing through rain and sleet,
Through winter's cold and summer's heat;
Still holding on upon your high emprise,
Until ye find a shore amid the skies;
Not skulking close to land,
With cargo contraband;
For they who sent a venture out by ye
Have set the Sun to see
Their honesty.
Ships of the line, each one,
Ye westward run,
Convoying clouds,
Which cluster in your shrouds,
Always before the gale,
Under a press of sail,
With weight of metal all untold;—
I seem to feel ye in my firm seat here,
Immeasurable depth of hold,
And breadth of beam, and length of running gear.

Methinks ye take luxurious pleasure
In your novel western leisure;
So cool your brows and freshly blue,
As Time had nought for ye to do;
For ye lie at your length,
An unappropriated strength,
Unhewn primeval timber
For knees so stiff, for masts so limber,
The stock of which new earths are made,
One day to be our western trade,
Fit for the stanchions of a world
Which through the seas of space is hurled.

While we enjoy a lingering ray,
Ye still o'ertop the western day,
Reposing yonder on God's croft,
Like solid stacks of hay.
So bold a line as ne'er was writ
On any page by human wit;
The forest glows as if
An enemy's camp-fires shone
Along the horizon,
Or the day's funeral pyre
Were lighted there;
Edged with silver and with gold,
The clouds hang o'er in damask fold,
And with fresh depth of amber light
The west is dight,
Where still a few rays slant,
That even Heaven seems extravagant.
Watatic Hill
Lies on the horizon's sill
Like a child's toy left overnight,
And other duds to left and right;
On the earth's edge, mountains and trees
Stand as they were on air graven,
Or as the vessels in a haven
Await the morning breeze.
I fancy even
Through your defiles windeth the way to heaven;
And yonder still, in spite of history's page,
Linger the golden and the silver age;
Upon the laboring gale
The news of future centuries is brought,
And of new dynasties of thought,
From your remotest vale.

⁠   But special I remember thee,
Wachusett, who like me
Standest alone without society.
Thy far blue eye,
A remnant of the sky,
Seen through the clearing of the gorge,
Or from the windows of the forge,
Doth leaven all it passes by.
Nothing is true,
But stands 'tween me and you,
Thou western pioneer,
Who know'st not shame nor fear,
By venturous spirit driven
Under the eaves of heaven,
And canst expand thee there,
And breathe enough of air.
Even beyond the West
Thou migratest
Into unclouded tracts,
Without a pilgrim's axe,
Cleaving thy road on high
With thy well-tempered brow,
And mak'st thyself a clearing in the sky.
Upholding heaven, holding down earth,
Thy pastime from thy birth,
Not steadied by the one, nor leaning on the other;—
May I approve myself thy worthy brother!

This poem is in the public domain.

An original poem written for the inaugural reading of Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith at the Library of Congress.

There’s a poem in this place—
in the footfalls in the halls
in the quiet beat of the seats.
It is here, at the curtain of day,
where America writes a lyric
you must whisper to say.

There’s a poem in this place—
in the heavy grace,
the lined face of this noble building,
collections burned and reborn twice.

There’s a poem in Boston’s Copley Square
where protest chants
tear through the air
like sheets of rain,
where love of the many
swallows hatred of the few.

There’s a poem in Charlottesville
where tiki torches string a ring of flame
tight round the wrist of night
where men so white they gleam blue—
seem like statues
where men heap that long wax burning
ever higher
where Heather Heyer
blooms forever in a meadow of resistance.

There’s a poem in the great sleeping giant
of Lake Michigan, defiantly raising
its big blue head to Milwaukee and Chicago—
a poem begun long ago, blazed into frozen soil,
strutting upward and aglow.

There’s a poem in Florida, in East Texas
where streets swell into a nexus
of rivers, cows afloat like mottled buoys in the brown,
where courage is now so common
that 23-year-old Jesus Contreras rescues people from floodwaters.

There’s a poem in Los Angeles
yawning wide as the Pacific tide
where a single mother swelters
in a windowless classroom, teaching
black and brown students in Watts
to spell out their thoughts
so her daughter might write
this poem for you.             

There's a lyric in California
where thousands of students march for blocks,
undocumented and unafraid;
where my friend Rosa finds the power to blossom
in deadlock, her spirit the bedrock of her community.
She knows hope is like a stubborn
ship gripping a dock,
a truth: that you can’t stop a dreamer
or knock down a dream.

How could this not be her city
su nación
our country
our America,
our American lyric to write—
a poem by the people, the poor,
the Protestant, the Muslim, the Jew,
the native, the immigrant,
the black, the brown, the blind, the brave,
the undocumented and undeterred,
the woman, the man, the nonbinary,
the white, the trans,
the ally to all of the above
and more?

Tyrants fear the poet.
Now that we know it
we can’t blow it.
We owe it
to show it
not slow it
although it
hurts to sew it
when the world
skirts below it.       

Hope—
we must bestow it
like a wick in the poet
so it can grow, lit,
bringing with it
stories to rewrite—
the story of a Texas city depleted but not defeated
a history written that need not be repeated
a nation composed but not yet completed.

There’s a poem in this place—
a poem in America
a poet in every American
who rewrites this nation, who tells
a story worthy of being told on this minnow of an earth
to breathe hope into a palimpsest of time—
a poet in every American
who sees that our poem penned
doesn’t mean our poem’s end.

There’s a place where this poem dwells—
it is here, it is now, in the yellow song of dawn’s bell
where we write an American lyric
we are just beginning to tell.

Copyright © 2017 by Amanda Gorman. Reprinted from Split This Rock's The Quarry: A Social Justice Database.

I told a million lies now it’s time to tell a single truth
Sometimes I cry
It’s hard dealing with my pride
Not knowing whether to fight or flee
Sometimes I cry
Hard to maintain this image of a tough guy
When deep down inside I am terrified
If I ever told you I wasn’t scared I lied
Struggling to make it back
To society and my family
I cry
I cry for my son who I barely see
Due to these mountains
And me and his mom’s beef
I cry for my siblings who never knew their older brother
Because he stayed in the streets
I cry for my grandma who is now deceased
I cry for my life, half of which they took for me
I cry for my anger and rage
The only emotions I can show in this place
I cry for how we treat each other inside these walls
I cry for the lack of unity we have most of all
When will it end I want to know
Till then all I can do is let these tears flow

Copyright © 2019 by DJ. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 19, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Now thou art risen, and thy day begun.
How shrink the shrouding mists before thy face,
As up thou spring’st to thy diurnal race!
How darkness chases darkness to the west,
As shades of light on light rise radiant from thy crest!
For thee, great source of strength, emblem of might,
In hours of darkest gloom there is no night.
Thou shinest on though clouds hide thee from sight,
And through each break thou sendest down thy light.

O greater Maker of this Thy great sun,
Give me the strength this one day’s race to run,
Fill me with light, fill me with sun-like strength,
Fill me with joy to rob the day its length.
Light from within, light that will outward shine,
Strength to make strong some weaker heart than mine,
Joy to make glad each soul that feels its touch;
Great Father of the sun, I ask this much.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 28, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.