after Jacqueline Rose / after Chen Chen
she fed me
in spite of
so much to
eat I needed
to ward off
how not to
utter the un-
that I am
saved my life:
I kept trying
to make her
proud of my
again & now
there is relief
guilt or blame
but they are
you are born
into the slip-
had told her
that the last
thing a young
is false decency
courage & cheer
she might not
have hurt us
both but what
to do with
love that comes
unbidden like a
how to accept
her care after
the storm is there
a point at which
the mother is
can the origin
story be re-told
the version where
the garden is always
paradise & no one
need ever fall
out of grace
Copyright © 2019 by Mary Jean Chan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 2, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
The debt is paid,
The verdict said,
The Furies laid,
The plague is stayed.
All fortunes made;
Turn the key and bolt the door,
Sweet is death forevermore.
Nor haughty hope, nor swart chagrin,
Nor murdering hate, can enter in.
All is now secure and fast;
Not the gods can shake the Past;
Flies-to the adamantine door
Bolted down forevermore.
None can re-enter there,—
No thief so politic,
No Satan with a royal trick
Steal in by window, chink, or hole,
To bind or unbind, add what lacked,
Insert a leaf, or forge a name,
New-face or finish what is packed,
Alter or mend eternal Fact.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 31, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Propped against a tree on a sidewalk next
to the trash cans, shorn of sheets, its fabric
a casing for its coils, harborer of secretions
seeped and dried, its phosphorous surface
glitters abandoned skin flakes in moonlight,
shingles from roof sides of humans. Mucous
trails pearlescent from a snail crawled up
the trunk of the tree upon which this bed
formerly slept on now leans. Loved upon?
Perhaps. Dreamt on most definitely. Hands
on skin most definitely, the stains it harbors
are the trails of dreams, the shotguns aimed
at baby carriages, molars boring holes into
the palm upon which they are cast like dice,
and the mystery of love as scratchy and fine
smelling as the needle tree that carried you
off with its scent of resin: it’s a hideous thing.
Sheet marks on the face won’t disappear into
the water filling the basin. Under the eyes dark
lakes before the resinous reflection of window
cast into mirror by interior lights set against
the night. Do you wonder if I dream of your
shattering? Marks on the face don’t melt into
the water. It would be strange to dream that
hard for a stranger, even for you who became
strange within an hour. Yet, I am waking from
the press of your face against my face. Carried
off over the shoulder, hauled through doorways,
receiving your murder, once this mattress was
bent at its middle, sagged profuse as a gaping
blouse, and bore stains of which I was never
aware while asleep. You knew. You were there
too. You will dream of congress between us.
I withdraw my hand. I refuse. Haul me away.
Copyright © 2019 by Cate Marvin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 15, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
My mother said this to me
long before Beyoncé lifted the lyrics
from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs,
and what my mother meant by
Don’t stray was that she knew
all about it—the way it feels to need
someone to love you, someone
not your kind, someone white,
some one some many who live
because so many of mine
have not, and further, live on top of
those of ours who don’t.
I’ll say, say, say,
I’ll say, say, say,
What is the United States if not a clot
of clouds? If not spilled milk? Or blood?
If not the place we once were
in the millions? America is Maps—
Maps are ghosts: white and
layered with people and places I see through.
My mother has always known best,
knew that I’d been begging for them,
to lay my face against their white
laps, to be held in something more
than the loud light of their projectors
of themselves they flicker—sepia
or blue—all over my body.
All this time,
I thought my mother said, Wait,
as in, Give them a little more time
to know your worth,
when really, she said, Weight,
meaning heft, preparing me
for the yoke of myself,
the beast of my country’s burdens,
which is less worse than
my country’s plow. Yes,
when my mother said,
They don’t love you like I love you,
Natalie, that doesn’t mean
you aren’t good.
*The italicized words, with the exception of the final stanza, come from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs song "Maps."
Copyright © 2019 by Natalie Diaz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 20, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
It’s one thing to be hopeful and to be full
of feathers is another and it’s a third to
conflate the two and do fourth things
even survive being thought of?
Five fingers on fire close into a metaphor
about how we’ll never, never ever, never ever.
The smoke above the hospital is beautiful.
The smoke above the hospital was beautiful.
Above the hospital, the smoke looked
and seemed, its seams dissolved
into memory which is a terrible way
to tell time in the cold. I misread
the “Creve Coeur Camera” sign
of the shop beside the supermarket
as “Cri De Coeur Camera” like it is my job
to misread signs. Something beautiful arrived
in a helicopter, something beautiful left
forever. Here we go again, against,
aghast. Something in us floats, floated,
our feet dragging through future ruins.
I know, “something” is an ulcer
on any reaching, making intelligence
but the ulcer wants what it wants, to be
something after all. For an awful whale,
a moment tries to beach itself, it does,
I learn Tomaž has died
then it is a magnet of terrible power
when I know for certain Tomaž has died.
I convalesce, selfish as a branch punished
mildly by wind—Tomaž lived! and will,
but it’s only the kind of enough
nothing ever is. I feel I am being
ironed, and it all only burns. I feel
the subtraction machine subtracting
my maneuvers. I feel the abacus
in my brain, that accordion, finally.
Finally licked into char. Five. Now any chair
I steal into for any length of time
has three unsteady legs. Cri cri cri, etc.
It would be a swell time to have a handle on
any methodology for rising into the sky,
a really great time to turn into a bird.
What a time! the sun is out and it is snowing
and I am as close to being a plastic sword
as I ever have been. How I would love
some toddler coming into their tongues
or some beloved ancient to sentence me.
How I will love the sound
of my own final clatter, but
only if it comes when I am tossed aside
to signal the end of hostilities.
Copyright © 2019 by Marc McKee. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 4, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.