People going through 
hard times don’t listen 
to songs about people

going through hard times,
says my son. Debt, addiction, 
chronic bad luck, unemployment—

I’m with you, I say. The only 
exception is heartbreak;
when you’re deep in it 

you just want a late-night
DJ to spin your pain. The car 
radio is playing Jason Isbell 

through Wyoming, part of it
in Yellowstone National Park,
home to 500 of the world’s

900 geysers. Mesmerizing
eruptions! Geothermal wonders!
Hot holes and fumaroles! 

Last week a Bison
gored a Phoenix woman,
but who knows how close

she got before it charged.
Bison run three times faster
than humans and injure

more people than any animal 
in the park—even grizzlies. 
In thermal areas the ground 

is just a thin crust above 
acidic pools, some resembling 
milky marbles, others the insides 

of celestine geodes reflecting 
the sky. Boardwalk signs 
all over Yellowstone shout 

Dangerous Ground! Potentially 
fatal! and despite that—
despite the print of a boy 

off-balance, falling through 
the surface into a boiling 
hot spring, his mouth an O 

of fear—despite the warnings
in writing that more than
a dozen people have been

scalded to death here and
hundreds badly burned 
or scarred, there are still

the tourons taunting bears,
dipping their fingers
off the side of the Boardwalk

into a gurgling mudpot.
Got a loan out on the truck 
but I’m runnin’ out of luck, 

sings Isbell, and the parking lots 
are packed with license plates 
from every state—so many 

borrowed RVs taking the curves 
too hard, so much rented 
bear spray dangling from 

carabiners clipped to cargo 
short waistbands, and ample
Christianity too: the Jesus

& Therapy t-shirt, the Enjoy 
Jesus baseball hat, the all I need
today is a little bit of coffee

and a whole lot of Jesus tote,
Mennonite families with 
women in bonnets

hauling toddlers. I want 
to tell my son it’s not
shameful to need

something or someone
to help us out of the darkness
when it gets very dark.

Jeff Buckley. Joy Division.
Jesus. Dolly Parton. Even
Delilah and her long 

distance dedications 
cracking the silence of 
every solo backroad

I’ve been driving since
before he was born.
He is sixteen. Does he know 

the black hole of loving 
and not being loved in return,
the night and its volume?

And the moon—nearly full,
rising over Old Faithful
which erupts on cue

to an appreciative crowd
every ninety-ish minutes.
And the moon, keeping me 

insomniac with its light 
shining like an interrogation 
trick into this cabin

through the crack
between the window 
and the blind.

Copyright © 2024 by Erika Meitner. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 27, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Over the past two weeks, please list the items you have lost.

At the present moment, do you know the location & number of your teeth?

(in grams) Please estimate the weight of each of the following: Left lung, half-liver, three fingers on your right hand.

(in miles) Please estimate the distance from the back of your skull to the skin of your eye.

Over the past two weeks, please estimate the number of times you’ve attempted to start a conversation and failed (including, but not limited to: grocery stores, living rooms, when you are alone.)

(in incandescence) How much light passes through you? Is it enough to write a letter?

Pick a letter. Pick a new name.

Can you hear the woman singing?

What was your death’s taxonomy? Where is its kingdom & domain?

How important do you feel to others?

Are you sitting atop the creaking hinges of something only you can see?

Are you certain there is no part of your body that is missing.

Are you certain there is nothing missing at all.

Copyright © 2024 by James Fujinami Moore. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 16, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Take me back to homesteaders who pronounce poem & perm
The same & know neither take too well watered or weighted down.

To those who teach the difference between wahoos & no-hows
& haints & t’ain’t no body’s beast or business or property no mo’.

To endless back roads, verdant & muddy. To racing waist-deep
In fields of wildflowers & corn stalks as tall as your big brother’s crown

& Verily, I say, & because I say, so it is. To fields of blinding white &
Chiggers & bolls that burrow deep in soil richer & veined & reddened

By all those black, bruised palms’ blood. To never will I pick again. To
Melons & peanuts & as many hogs & heads of cattle as our pennies

& prayers can feed. To knowing when to slaughter & what
To keep. To knowing where to hide the blade, who not to tell. 

To Mrs. Mable’s snuff-mucked mouth & her darlin’ Ben, to
Mack & Nellie & they ol’ mule Sally’s slack back breaking wind.

To Sister Lola’s man’s astigmatism, Uncle Willis’ crossed legs
& arms belying memories of a rifle, his right hand unflinching

In salute, winning the Battle of the Bulge I never will. To Miss
Lou Mamie convulsing, then giving up the right for the wrong

Right there, finally, in the choir stand, where Grandpa Roy
& Grandma Noretha keep time at the Hammond & Console,

Ruby-throated tenor & contralto entwined across a space vast
As the two-room shanty where they will make the restless boy

Who will make me, whose hearts stopped ’fo’ I could lay on
They chests & listen. To unsteady as this fraught rhyme reaching,

Reaching, echoing the murmur they gifted him & me, they baby
Boygirl. Take me back to the original question, which enters

This room’s crooked lines long before you with your morning
Coffee or fresh blend of tinctures, teas or spirits: What must

I do to be saved from myself now? What you got to take away
This plague’s unyielding ache?
I’m nobody’s savior, Nicodemus, but

Come here. Hear them. In my dreams, these & a few others await:
Always alive, hear them rocking a stain-glassed house of pews,

Blues creaking in sync, brows & arms aloft, hands caressing
Oaken divets on the quaking boards’ floors & collicky babies’

Backs in brokenhearted girls’ arms & laps. Let us kneel, faces flat,
Fingers flexed, nostrils becking Pine-Sol to cleanse every crevice

It can reach, backs arched, conjuring bolts of holy heat
No unnatural flesh, unmoved, can stand. Come on, Jesus

Allah Amma. Anyone Listening? Take us down, down into
These plantations’ mire, believing in ussin the only way beyond through

To ours. There, Thomas’ dubious gaze will mirror mine, help us
Cross in a calm time. Rest our thorny sides in its briar patch, thatch

A home from its scrapyards’ booty, undulate real proper like, loose
Our selves in this shifty baldachin’s ready sway. I’ll go, I cried all

Those years ago. Send me. But I’m so tired, all cried out, so take
Me back to this nowhere town, where we can lay our burdens down.

Copyright © 2024 by L. Lamar Wilson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 18, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.