How desire is a thing I might die for. Longing a well,
a long dark throat. Enter any body
of water and you give yourself up
to be swallowed. Even the stones
know that. I have writhed
against you as if against the black
bottom of a deep pool. I have emerged
from your grip breathless
and slicked. How easily
I could forget you
as separate, so essential
you feel to me now. You
beneath me like my own
blue shadow. You silent as the moon
drifts like a petal
across your skin, my mouth
to your lip—you a spring
I return to, unquenchable, and drink.
Copyright © 2021 by Leila Chatti. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 14, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
There will be no stars—the poem has had enough of them. I think we can agree
we no longer believe there is anyone in any poem who is just now realizing
they are dead, so let’s stop talking about it. The skies of this poem
are teeming with winged things, and not a single innominate bird.
You’re welcome. Here, no monarchs, no moths, no cicadas doing whatever
they do in the trees. If this poem is in summer, punctuating the blue—forgive me,
I forgot, there is no blue in this poem—you’ll find the occasional
pelecinid wasp, proposals vaporized and exorbitant, angels looking
as they should. If winter, unsentimental sleet. This poem does not take place
at dawn or dusk or noon or the witching hour or the crescendoing moment
of our own remarkable birth, it is 2:53 in this poem, a Tuesday, and everyone in it is still
at work. This poem has no children; it is trying
to be taken seriously. This poem has no shards, no kittens, no myths or fairy tales,
no pomegranates or rainbows, no ex-boyfriends or manifest lovers, no mothers—God,
no mothers—no God, about which the poem must admit
it’s relieved, there is no heart in this poem, no bodily secretions, no body
referred to as the body, no one
dies or is dead in this poem, everyone in this poem is alive and pretty
okay with it. This poem will not use the word beautiful for it resists
calling a thing what it is. So what
if I’d like to tell you how I walked last night, glad, truly glad, for the first time
in a year, to be breathing, in the cold dark, to see them. The stars, I mean. Oh hell, before
something stops me—I nearly wept on the sidewalk at the sight of them all.
Copyright © 2019 by Leila Chatti. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 29, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Come second heartbeat sounding in the breast
Come prismatic light dissembling
Come familiar spirit Come bare-chested in the weeds
Come private imposter Come hidden ballast
Come sudden departures Come stress without shape
Because belief is odd Come swaggering answer
Come invisible ink Come beatific scrawl
Come as squirrels are climbing backwards
Come as dogwood blossoms come apart
Come strumming an unspeakable power ballad
Through a torrent of rain with cheeks flushed scarlet
Come down the rusty metal slide
Come belted kingfisher flapping
Come lavender asters wheeling
Come loose, a sapling lengthening
Come honeysuckle Come glistening
From In Full Velvet. Copyright © 2017 by Jenny Johnson. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Sarabande Books, www.sarabande.org.
Silence with you is like the faint delicious
Smile of a child asleep, in dreams unguessed:
Only the hinted wonder of its dreaming,
The soft, slow-breathing miracle of rest.
Silence with you is like a kind departure
From iron clangor and the engulfing crowd
Into a wide and greenly barren meadow,
Under the bloom of some blue-bosomed cloud;
Or like one held upon the sands at evening,
When the drawn tide rolls out, and the mixed light
Of sea and sky enshrouds the far, wind-bellowed
Sails that move darkly on the edge of night.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 10, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
There is a silence where hath been no sound, There is a silence where no sound may be, In the cold grave—under the deep deep sea, Or in wide desert where no life is found, Which hath been mute, and still must sleep profound; No voice is hush’d—no life treads silently, But clouds and cloudy shadows wander free. That never spoke, over the idle ground: But in green ruins, in the desolate walls Of antique palaces, where Man hath been, Though the dun fox, or wild hyaena, calls, And owls, that flit continually between, Shriek to the echo, and the low winds moan,— There the true Silence is, self-conscious and alone.
This poem is in the public domain.
Since I lost you I am silence-haunted,
Sounds wave their little wings
A moment, then in weariness settle
On the flood that soundless swings.
Whether the people in the street
Like pattering ripples go by,
Or whether the theatre sighs and sighs
With a loud, hoarse sigh:
Or the wind shakes a ravel of light
Over the dead-black river,
Or night’s last echoing
Makes the daybreak shiver:
I feel the silence waiting
To take them all up again
In its vast completeness, enfolding
The sound of men.
This poem is in the public domain.
My soul, there is a country
Far beyond the stars,
Where stands a wingéd sentry
All skilful in the wars;
There above the noise and danger,
Sweet Peace sits crown'd with smiles,
And One born in a manger
Commands the beauteous files.
He is thy gracious Friend,
And—O my Soul awake!—
Did in pure love descend
To die here for thy sake.
If thou canst get but thither,
There grows the flower of Peace,
The Rose that cannot wither,
Thy fortress and thy ease.
Leave then thy foolish ranges,
For none can thee secure
But One, who never changes,
Thy God, thy life, thy cure.
This poem is in the public domain.
"We go back to our house. We are lovers. We cannot stop loving each other." I come to confiscate your love. What will you do? Small shrubs grow in the blackened yard. Sun, which is yellow, shines in through the windows, now barred. You were watching me eat. Put your tongue in my mouth then retract it. We were waiting for our recompense. But everyone knows love is bankrupt. On the billboard in front of us: breasts. The empty middles of the mannequins that peered out through the glass. Reprehensibly, I mouthed the words: I love you.
Copyright © 2011 by Katy Lederer. Used with permission of the author.
Blond fireflies amid the summer hedges, how splendid your sunray darting through the darkness! You’ve reminded me of something that has never vanished from my childhood: infinite hope through the fields. I see myself as a child again, feel the unknown rhythm of times past: I a dream I am lying on a girl stuck in my heart: a musical bas-relief for vast infinity: I compare her to the moon, to the stars, to the splendorous night and everything attaches me to that love I lose myself in: of this I actually know nothing except a confusing clamor.
Lucciole bionde per le siepi d’estate,
com’è splendido il vostro raggio
che per le tenebra appare! Voi mi ricordate
qualcosa che non si annulla
della mia fanciullezza: infinita
speranza pei prati. Mi rivedo
fanciullo, sento l’ignota
cadenza di tempi andati:
sono in sogno sopra una fanciulla
che mi s’è fitta in cuore:
un bassorilievo musicale
per estese infinità: la paragono
alla luna, alle stelle,
allo splendore della notte
e tutto mi affiso in quell’amore
e mi vi disperdo:
di qui non so nulla
Copyright © 2013 by John Taylor. Used by permission of the translator. All rights reserved.
I love to see the big white moon,
A-shining in the sky;
I love to see the little stars,
When the shadow clouds go by.
I love the rain drops falling
On my roof-top in the night;
I love the soft wind’s sighing,
Before the dawn’s gray light.
I love the deepness of the blue,
In my Lord’s heaven above;
But better than all these things I think,
I love my lady love.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
In the burned house I am eating breakfast.
You understand: there is no house, there is no breakfast,
yet here I am.
The spoon which was melted scrapes against
the bowl which was melted also.
No one else is around.
Where have they gone to, brother and sister,
mother and father? Off along the shore,
perhaps. Their clothes are still on the hangers,
their dishes piled beside the sink,
which is beside the woodstove
with its grate and sooty kettle,
every detail clear,
tin cup and rippled mirror.
The day is bright and songless,
the lake is blue, the forest watchful.
In the east a bank of cloud
rises up silently like dark bread.
I can see the swirls in the oilcloth,
I can see the flaws in the glass,
those flares where the sun hits them.
I can't see my own arms and legs
or know if this is a trap or blessing,
finding myself back here, where everything
in this house has long been over,
kettle and mirror, spoon and bowl,
including my own body,
including the body I had then,
including the body I have now
as I sit at this morning table, alone and happy,
bare child's feet on the scorched floorboards
(I can almost see)
in my burning clothes, the thin green shorts
and grubby yellow T-shirt
holding my cindery, non-existent,
radiant flesh. Incandescent.
From Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood. Copyright © 1995 by Margaret Atwood. Published in the United States by Houghton Mifflin Co., published in Canada by McClelland and Stewart, Inc. All rights reserved.
If I can’t save us
then let me feel you
happy and safe
under my chin.
If this will drown
then let us drink starlight
nap under trees
sing on beaches—
the morning rush to sit indoors
If we are dying
then let me rip open
and bleed Love,
spill it, spend it
see how much
the reward for misers is
If this life is ending
then let me begin
a new one
Copyright © 2020 Lynna Odel. From All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis (One World, 2020) edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson. Used with the permission of the editors.