She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.


One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.


And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Written June 12, 1814. This poem is in the public domain.

Long have I a word enshrined 
And worshipped with a piety blind! 
Long have I been seeking Rest 
In the East and in the West! 
Here and there and everywhere 
Have I seen her shadow fair ; 
But the shadow seems to fade 
Like the flowers of yonder glade. 
In my lone retreat I sought 
Her, but dreams against me fought. 
In my nights for her I pray, 
But with sleep she stays away. 

Foolish is thine effort, vain— 
Fruitless, hopeless is thy pain! 
With the march of Motion keep, 
In thy walk and in thy sleep 
Beyond thy finite power it lies 
To chain the coursers of the skies. 
Even nomads and cells minute 
Worlds of unrest constitute. 

Rest is no where to be found ; 
Each to all in suffering bound. 
And no power can deliver thee, 
Mortal, from activity. 
In thy life as in thy death, 
In thy heart as in thy breath, 
On the earth as in the skies 
Restless Motion never dies. 
Always raging, always spinning, 
Endless and without beginning. 

Death, like me, is seeking Rest, 
And all the seas are in her quest ; 
But ah, poor souls, she is beyond 
Our grasp ; we must go on and on. 
No, nor even the grave is free 
From the laws that shackle me ; 
New life from his worms takes wing,
And on his face fresh blossoms spring.

From Myrtle and Myrrh (The Gorham Press, 1905) by Ameen Rihani. This poem is in the public domain.

Your words dropped into my heart like pebbles into a pool,
Rippling around my breast and leaving it melting cool.

Your kisses fell sharp on my flesh like dawn-dews from the limb
Of a fruit-filled lemon tree when the day is young and dim.

Like soft rain-christened sunshine, as fragile as rare gold lace,
Your breath, sweet-scented and warm, has kindled my tranquil face.

But a silence vasty-deep, oh deeper than all these ties
Now, through the menacing miles, brooding between us lies.

And more than the songs I sing, I await your written word,
To stir my fluent blood as never your presence stirred.

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

I must be far from men and women
To love their ways.
I must be on a mountain
Breathing greatly like a tree
If my heart would yearn a little
For the peopled, placid valley.
I must be in a bare place
And lonely as a moon
To find the graceless ways of people
Worthful as a flower’s ways,
A flower that lives for loneliness
And dies when beauty dies.

I cannot find music
On the tongues of men and women
Unless I hear their voices
Like echoes, silence-softened.
Their many words mean little.
Their mouths are blatant sparrows.

I must be far from men and women,
As God is far away,
To keep my faith with Beauty,
My heart sweet towards them,
And love them with a god’s tranquility.

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain. 

Not an act, I’m told, more a leave to live 
where words have no leverage—I’ve a pile 
of words. It was useful to hear actors 
talk shop about how one doesn’t just act 

but live the role—a trick into feeling 
what doesn’t need said. I watch a cast now 
from this seat next to no one asking me
what was said like these two do, one row up. 

Once home, they’ll unwrap each other’s bow-tied 
necks; mouths agape, marvel over their spoils
as if for the first time. Look at the way
one lowers the other’s mask, levies a kiss, 

then worries back its curl over the usher
-hushed laugh, each needling the other to live.

Copyright © 2023 by Tommye Blount. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 15, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

I begged the year for intimacy. Dashed down into my sheets
with nothing but the fan on. I begged my knees for oil, to bend
easy guillotine around some neck, maybe cut off the lamp in my belly, 
knock out the dust from my toes, sweep out the tricks webbing up my corneas.
I said give me back my wata and the sleep number started seizing
—put a hump in the hour—but no more. When I finally gave up, I went 
to the mirror for a look-see and found that bitch sucking face
with last winter when I’d come close to the Mojave’s affection
only to float on too quick and too far West. Seeing me she said something 
I can do for you? Shaking my head I let her go on, got me some 
coffee and went back to work feeding myself pretty lyrics and lead.

Copyright © 2023 by Faylita Hicks. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 21, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

If for a day joy masters me,
Think not my wounds are healed;
Far deeper than the scars you see,
I keep the roots concealed.

They shall bear blossoms with the fall;
I have their word for this,
Who tend my roots with rains of gall,
And suns of prejudice.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 15, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

SAY my love is easy had,
      Say I’m bitten raw with pride,
Say I am too often sad,––
   Still behold me at your side.

Say I’m neither brave nor young,
   Say I woo and coddle care,
Say the devil touched my tongue,––
   Still you have my heart to wear.

But say my verses do not scan,
   And I get me another man!

From Enough Rope (Boni & Liveright, 1926) by Dorothy Parker. This poem is in the public domain.

Always at dusk, the same tearless experience,
The same dragging of feet up the same well-worn path
To the same well-worn rock;
The same crimson or gold dropping away of the sun
The same tints—rose, saffron, violet, lavender, grey
Meeting, mingling, mixing mistily;
Before me the same blue black cedar rising jaggedly to a point;
Over it, the same slow unlidding of twin stars,
Two eyes, unfathomable, soul-searing,
Watching, watching—watching me;
The same two eyes that draw me forth, against my will dusk after dusk;
The same two eyes that keep me sitting late into the night, chin on knees
Keep me there lonely, rigid, tearless, numbly miserable,
       —The eyes of my Regret.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 18, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

When we two parted
   In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
   To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
   Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
   Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning
   Sunk chill on my brow— 
It felt like the warning
   Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
   And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
   And share in its shame.

They name thee before me,
   A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o'er me—
   Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
   Who knew thee too well—
Long, long shall I rue thee,
   Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met—
   In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
   Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
   After long years,
How should I greet thee?—
   With silence and tears.

This poem is in the public domain.

Oh, seek, my love, your newer way;
     I’ll not be left in sorrow.
So long as I have yesterday,
     Go take your damned to-morrow!

From Enough Rope (Boni & Liveright, 1926) by Dorothy Parker. This poem is in the public domain.

Secrets, you said, would hold us two apart;
    You’d have me know of you your least transgression
And so the intimate places of your heart,
    Kneeling, you bared to me, as in confession.
Softly you told of loves that went before,
    Of clinging arms, of kisses gladly given;
Luxuriously clean of heart once more,
    You rose up, then, and stood before me, shriven.

When this, my day of happiness, is through,
    And love, that bloomed so fair, turns brown and brittle,
There is a thing that I shall ask of you
    I, who have given so much, and asked so little.
Some day, when there’s another in my stead;
    Again you’ll feel the need of absolution,
And you will go to her, and bow your head,
    And offer her your past, as contribution.

When with your list of loves you overcome her,
For Heaven’s sake, keep this one secret from her!

From Enough Rope (Boni & Liveright, 1926) by Dorothy Parker. This poem is in the public domain.

Slow moves the pageant of a climbing race;
   Their footsteps drag far, far below the height,
   And, unprevailing by their utmost might,
Seem faltering downward from each hard won place.
No strange, swift-sprung exception we; we trace
   A devious way thro’ dim, uncertain light,—
   Our hope, through the long vistaed years, a sight
Of that our Captain’s soul sees face to face.

   Who, faithless, faltering that the road is steep,
Now raiseth up his drear insistent cry?
   Who stoppeth here to spend a while in sleep
Or curseth that the storm obscures the sky?
   Heed not the darkness round you, dull and deep;
The clouds grow thickest when the summit’s nigh.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 26, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

After dark vapors have oppress'd our plains
   For a long dreary season, comes a day
   Born of the gentle South, and clears away
From the sick heavens all unseemly stains.
The anxious month, relieved of its pains,
   Takes as a long-lost right the feel of May;
   The eyelids with the passing coolness play
Like rose leaves with the drip of Summer rains.
The calmest thoughts came round us; as of leaves
   Budding—fruit ripening in stillness—Autumn suns
Smiling at eve upon the quiet sheaves—
Sweet Sappho's cheek—a smiling infant's breath— 
   The gradual sand that through an hour-glass runs—
A woodland rivulet—a Poet's death.

This poem is in the public domain.

A song is but a little thing,
  And yet what joy it is to sing!
In hours of toil it gives me zest,
And when at eve I long for rest;
When cows come home along the bars,
  And in the fold I hear the bell,
As Night, the shepherd, herds his stars,
  I sing my song, and all is well.
There are no ears to hear my lays,
No lips to lift a word of praise;
But still, with faith unfaltering,
I live and laugh and love and sing.
What matters yon unheeding throng?
  They cannot feel my spirit’s spell,
Since life is sweet and love is long,
  I sing my song, and all is well.
My days are never days of ease;
I till my ground and prune my trees.
When ripened gold is all the plain,
I put my sickle to the grain.
I labor hard, and toil and sweat,
  While others dream within the dell;
But even while my brow is wet,
  I sing my song, and all is well.
Sometimes the sun, unkindly hot,
My garden makes a desert spot;
Sometimes a blight upon the tree
Takes all my fruit away from me;
And then with throes of bitter pain
  Rebellious passions rise and swell;
But—life is more than fruit or grain,
  And so I sing, and all is well.

This poem is in the public domain. 

Dear March—Come in—
How glad I am—
I hoped for you before—
Put down your Hat—
You must have walked—
How out of Breath you are—
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest—
Did you leave Nature well—
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me—
I have so much to tell—

I got your Letter, and the Birds—
The Maples never knew that you were coming—
I declare - how Red their Faces grew—
But March, forgive me—
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue—
There was no Purple suitable—
You took it all with you—

Who knocks? That April—
Lock the Door—
I will not be pursued—
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied—
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come

That blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame—

This poem is in the public domain.

And when we are finished, I ask
            if she thinks us grotesque,
two plain monsters basking
            in our blood—our liquid plaque.

We celebrate the art of
            our unmaking. She spirals my body
into a single drop, ambrosia
            spoiled by the Gods. I copy

the signature of her sin-
            ged moan, grind it down
until it becomes my own dim
            map. Even the Gods fuck. Crown

themselves in gardens pastored
            by snakes. I am crying. Not out of shame
but out of tradition. To have mastered
            this want, only to carve for it a lock, a name

as queer as unholy. How queer it fits
            inside the mouth, how queer is my woman
and the sweat she makes of me, a sweet trick
            of her tongue. Don’t we deserve a hand-

made altar. Don’t we deserve a crowd
            of worshipers to carry our bed. And yes
please to the beads, the sacred
            wars, the body ornaments, the vain-eyed

statues pulsing deep with our flood.
            Yes to the orchestrated violence, a quiver
licked down my spine. May our love blood
            the skies like a storm of Gods high off terror.

O Zeus. O Oshun. O Ra. O Kali. O Me. O Her. O Gods—God? 
            Yes. Gods. Don’t act like you don’t know our names’ roar.
Whispered. Sweet and savage inside your temples.
            Preserved behind velvet doors.

Copyright © 2023 by Crystal Valentine. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

An opening to a story should be                                             When the will
unremarkable.                    of one’s willingness to work
After my essay                                                alphabetical
was stretched              by                                        order. When the
the love doctor,                                                           will of
I resumed a hermetic lifestyle. To manage                                               a local spirit
my               interrupts your martyrdom. A
time, I distributed water crystals                                  medium becomes a
and Kirkland                                                      medium
bottles on the highway. As                         because they can’t avoid
a side character, I have only                                         the fact of their
desired to                                                        calling.
agency                          They assume mortality.
with little to                         They eat average meals.
no knowledge.                             They excommunicate
journalists. A troupe
And you wished                                                of exorcists
that for me.                          exudes brilliance. Sure,
let’s say last
Even listening is                                                 night I was
useless. I have nothing to say.                                           an anthurium
I don’t think a man can                                          full of wonder.
understand petty                    ,                                                                     
nor                   can he                                                  Dreaming
 recognize the mercy                              on the third day. The
inherent in                                                         end of
his own killing.                fragrance, renewing stomps.

Copyright © 2023 by Catherine Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 20, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Sorrow, O sorrow, moves like a loose flock
of blackbirds sweeping over the metal roofs, over the birches, 
                    and the miles. 
    One wave after another, then another, then the sudden 

where the feathered swirl, illumined by dusk, parts to reveal 
the weeping 
                     heart of all things.

Copyright © 2024 by Vievee Francis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 12, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.