Late night July, Minnesota,
John asleep on the glassed-in porch,
Bob Dylan quiet on a cassette


you made from an album
I got rid of soon after
you died.  Years later,


I regret giving up
your two boxes of vinyl,
which I loved.  Surely


they were too awkward,
too easily broken
for people who loved music


the way we did.  But tonight
I’m in the mood for ghosts,
for sounds we hated: pop,


scratch, hiss, the occasional
skip.  The curtains balloon;
I’ve got a beer; I’m struck


by guilt, watching you
from a place ten years away,
kneeling and cleaning each


with a velvet brush before 
and after, tucking them in
their sleeves.  Understand,


I was still moving then.
The boxes were heavy.
If I had known



I would stop here
with a husband to help me
carry, and room—too late,


the college kids pick over
your black bones on Mass. Ave.,
we’ll meet again some day


on the avenue but still,
I want to hear it,
the needle hitting the end


of a side and playing silence
until the arm gives up,
pulls away.

Copyright © 2005 by Katrina Vandenberg. From Atlas. Reprinted with permission of Milkweed Editions.

Love, leave me like the light,
The gently passing day;
We would not know, but for the night,
When it has slipped away.

So many hopes have fled,
Have left me but the name
Of what they were. When love is dead,
Go thou, beloved, the same.

Go quietly; a dream
When done, should leave no trace
That it has lived, except a gleam
Across the dreamer’s face.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 28, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

When in the morning’s misty hour,
When the sun beams gently o’er each flower;
When thou dost cease to smile benign,
And think each heart responds with thine,
When seeking rest among divine,
                                    Forget me not.

When the last rays of twilight fall,
And thou art pacing yonder hall;
When mists are gathering on the hill,
Nor sound is heard save mountain rill,
When all around bids peace be still,
                                    Forget me not.

When the first star with brilliance bright,
Gleams lonely o’er the arch of night;
When the bright moon dispels the gloom,
And various are the stars that bloom,
And brighten as the sun at noon,
                                    Forget me not.

When solemn sighs the hollow wind,
And deepen’d thought enraps the mind;
If e’er thou doest in mournful tone,
E’er sigh because thou feel alone,
Or wrapt in melancholy prone,
                                    Forget me not. 

When bird does wait thy absence long,
Nor tend unto its morning song;
While thou art searching stoic page,
Or listening to an ancient sage,
Whose spirit curbs a mournful rage,
                                    Forget me not.

Then when in silence thou doest walk,
Nor being round with whom to talk;
When thou art on the mighty deep,
And do in quiet action sleep;
If we no more on earth do meet,
                                    Forget me not.

When brightness round thee long shall bloom,
And knelt remembering those in gloom;
And when in deep oblivion's shade,
This breathless, mouldering form is laid,
And thy terrestrial body staid,
                                     Forget me not.

“Should sorrow cloud thy coming years,
And bathe thy happiness in tears,
Remember, though we’re doom’d to part,
There lives one fond and faithful heart,
                        That will forget thee not.”

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 2, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

“All life is built from song”
   In youth’s young morn I sang;
And from a top-near hill
   The echo broke and rang.

The years with pinions swift
   To youth’s high noon made flight,
“All life is built from song”
   I sang amid the fight.

To life’s sun-setting years,
   My feet have come—Alas!
And through its hopes and fears
   Again I shall not pass.

The lusty song my youth
   With high-heart ardor sang
Is but a tinkling sound—
   A cymbal’s empty clang.

And now I sing, my Dear,
   With wisdom’s wiser heart,
“All life is built from love,
   And song is but a part.”

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 27, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

O, come, Love, let us take a walk,
Down the Way-of-Life together;
Storms may come, but what care we,
If be fair or foul the weather.

When the sky overhead is blue,
Balmy, scented winds will after
Us, adown the valley blow
Haunting echoes of our laughter.

When Life’s storms upon us beat
Crushing us with fury, after
All is done, there’ll ringing come
Mocking echoes of our laughter.

So we’ll walk the Way-of-Life,
You and I, Love, both together,
Storm or sunshine, happy we
If be foul or fair the weather.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 15, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

For Laquan McDonald

I think it’s quails lining the road but it's fallen Birchwood.

What look like white clouds in a grassy basin, sprinklers.

I mistake the woman walking her retriever as a pair of fawns.

Could-be animals. Unexplained weather. Maybe they see us

that way. Knowing better, the closer they get. Not quite ready to let it go.

Copyright © 2020 by Rio Cortez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 8, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Now and then the phone will ring and it will be
someone from my youth. The voice of a favorite cousin
stretched across many miles sounding exactly as she always has:
that trained concentration of one who stutters—
the slight hesitations, the drawn-out syllables,
the occasional lapse into a stammer.

When asked, she says my aunt is well for her age but
she forgets. I remember the last time I saw my aunt—
leaning on her cane, skin smooth as river rock,
mahogany brown, gray hair braided into two plaits
stretched atop her head and held in place
with black bobby pins.

She called to say James Lee has died. And did I know
Aunt Mary, who had four crippled children
and went blind after uncle Benny died, died last year?

I did not.

We wander back awhile, reminding and remembering:

Me under the streetlight outside our front yard
face buried in the crook of my arm held close
to the telephone pole as I closed my eyes and sang the words:
Last night, night before, twenty-four robbers at my door
I got up to let them in... hit ‘em in the head with a rolling pin,
then counted up to ten while they ran and hid.

Visiting the graves of grandparents I never knew.
Placing blush-pink peonies my father grew and cut
for the occasion into mason jars. Saying nothing.
Simply staring at the way our lives come down
to a concrete slab.

Copyright © 2020 by Rhonda Ward. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 4, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Come, “Will,” let’s be good friends again, 
     Our wrongs let’s be forgetting, 
For words bring only useless pain, 
     So wherefore then be fretting. 

Let’s lay aside imagined wrongs, 
    And ne’er give way to grieving,
Life should be filled with joyous songs, 
    No time left for deceiving. 

I’ll try and not give way to wrath, 
    Nor be so often crying; 
There must some thorns be in our path, 
    Let’s move them now by trying. 

How, like a foolish pair were we, 
    To fume about a letter; 
Time is so precious, you and me; 
    Must spend ours doing better.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 6, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

   Again it is September! 
It seems so strange that I who made no vows
Should sit here desolate this golden weather 
And wistfully remember—

    A sigh of deepest yearning, 
A glowing look and words that knew no bounds, 
A swift response, an instant glad surrender
To kisses wild and burning! 

   Ay me! 
   Again it is September! 
It seems so strange that I who kept those vows 
Should sit here lone, and spent, and mutely praying 
That I may not remember! 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 5, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

i heard your voice this morning
speaking from the foot of the bed
your quilt crawled to the
floor
as i lay down in the
first whisper of dawn.
i heard your voice this morning
the sound of cloth
a casual sound
a sunday morning
preparing to visit your lord
sound
half your life
half my life
half my daughter’s life
we all dream of landscapes
romantic deserts
white sands
connecting us together
a half dozen roses
i play out my life
listening every morning
for your voice
at the foot of the bed.

From Breath of the Song: New and Selected Poems (Carolina Wren Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Jaki Shelton Green. Used with the permission of the author.

Just a rainy day or two
In a windy tower,
That was all I had of you—
Saving half an hour.

Marred by greeting passing groups
In a cinder walk,
Near some naked blackberry hoops
Dim with purple chalk.

I remember three or four
Things you said in spite,
And an ugly coat you wore,
Plaided black and white.

Just a rainy day or two
And a bitter word.
Why do I remember you
As a singing bird?

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 25, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

                    What makes
                     a voice
                     distinct?
                     What special
                     quality
                     makes it
                     indelible?
                     Yours is plaintive,
                     as any singer
                     of torch songs
                     must be,
                     yet endowed
                     with confidence,
                     and fully
                     in command.
                     Deep and
                     resonant,
                     a bit husky
                     if you like.
                     A voice that rises—
                     or skyrockets,
                     rather—from
                     a wellspring
                     of pure emotion.
                     Manically
                     infatuated
                     in “I Only
                     Want to Be
                     with You.”
                     Desperate to
                     keep your
                     lover from
                     leaving in
                     “Stay Awhile.”
                     Despondent
                     in “I Just
                     Don’t Know
                     What to Do
                     with Myself”
                     and “You Don’t
                     Have to Say
                     You Love Me.”
                     All cried out
                     in “All Cried
                     Out.”  But then
                     amazingly
                     on the rebound
                     in “Brand New Me.”

                     I hear your
                     voice, Dusty,
                     and I am
                     instantly
                     whisked
                     back in time,
                     not quite
                     a teenager
                     all over
                     again,
                     full of longing
                     and confusion,
                     listening
                     to your
                     latest hit
                     on my
                     red plastic
                     transistor
                     radio on
                     a mid-sixties
                     Los Angeles
                     suburban
                     summer
                     afternoon.

                     Twice in
                     my life, I
                     found myself
                     in the same
                     room as you.
                     Can one fathom
                     anything more
                     miraculous?
                     The first
                     time was
                     in 1983, late
                     November,
                     in the basement
                     of a church
                     in Los Feliz,
                     around the
                     corner from
                     where I lived.
                     Sober only
                     a few weeks,
                     I watched
                     you approach
                     the podium,
                     but didn’t
                     realize who
                     you were
                     until you
                     identified
                     yourself as
                     “Dusty S.”
                     For the next
                     twenty minutes,
                     you told us
                     the story
                     of your
                     drinking.
                     How early in
                     your career,
                     backstage
                     before a
                     performance,
                     one of the 
                     Four Tops
                     handed you
                     your first
                     drink, vodka.
                     How smoothly
                     it went down
                     and loosened
                     you up,
                     lit you from
                     within,
                     gave you
                     enough
                     courage
                     to go out on
                     stage, into that
                     blinding spot,
                     and sing like
                     no one else.
                     The alcohol
                     eventually
                     stopped working—
                     it always does,
                     that brand
                     of magic
                     is transient—
                     and here you
                     were, two
                     decades
                     later, sober
                     and clean
                     and still singing,
                     so to speak,
                     before a live
                     audience.
                     In my youth,
                     your words
                     had come over
                     the radio
                     and stirred
                     feelings
                     of heartbreak
                     and infatuation.
                     Now they
                     inspired me
                     to keep
                     coming back.

                     The second
                     time, 1987,
                     four years
                     sober, at a more
                     upscale meeting
                     at Cedars-Sinai
                     in West Hollywood,
                     I sat directly
                     behind you.
                     It was hard
                     to breathe
                     being in such
                     close proximity.
                     I didn’t hear
                     a word the
                     speaker said.
                     During his
                     drunkalog,
                     I slowly,
                     surreptitiously,
                     moved the
                     toe of my
                     white high-top
                     until it touched
                     the back of
                     your folding chair.
                     Then said a
                     little prayer.
                     I hoped
                     (should I be
                     embarrassed
                     admitting this?)
                     that some
                     of your
                     stardust
                     might travel
                     down the
                     metal leg
                     of your chair,
                     like a lightning
                     rod, and be
                     passed on
                     to me.

                     It’s after
                     midnight
                     again, Dusty,
                     half a century
                     since, on
                     a suburban
                     lawn or alone
                     in my room,
                     I suffered
                     through hits
                     by Paul Revere
                     & the Raiders
                     and Herman’s
                     Hermits,
                     just to
                     experience
                     two or
                     three minutes
                     of your
                     sultry voice.
                     I’m on
                     YouTube
                     again, watching
                     the black-and-white
                     video of you
                     singing “I
                     Only Want
                     to Be
                     with You.”
                     Your 1964
                     appearance
                     on some teen
                     variety show.
                     I’ve viewed
                     it innumerable
                     times, but
                     it’s always
                     exciting to see
                     you dance
                     out of the
                     darkness into
                     the round
                     spotlight,
                     exuberant
                     as the song’s
                     intro, arms
                     outspread,
                     in a chiffon
                     cocktail
                     dress and
                     high heels,
                     your platinum
                     hair, sprayed
                     perfectly
                     in place,
                     as bright
                     and shiny
                     as the moon.
                     Midway
                     through the
                     song—the
                     instrumental
                     bridge—you
                     turn and
                     sashay around
                     the edge of
                     the spotlight,
                     the ruffled
                     hem of your
                     chiffon dress
                     twisting with
                     your hips
                     and intricate
                     footwork.
                     Circle circling
                     circle: your
                     full backlit
                     hair orbiting
                     the pool of
                     white light
                     in the center
                     of the stage.
                     I watch this
                     again and again,
                     like Bashō’s moon
                     walking around
                     the pond
                     all night long.

Copyright © 2018 by David Trinidad. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 13, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Upon a poet’s page I wrote
Of old two letters of her name;
Part seemed she of the effulgent thought
Whence that high singer’s rapture came.

—When now I turn the leaf the same
Immortal light illumes the lay,
But from the letters of her name
The radiance has waned away!

This poem is in the public domain.

In the end, tree, a cloudy shelter will come 
to cover your dry, aged branches.

It will lend you, short on green,
the white glow of its weightlessness

As a drop undoes the cloud into tears
I’ll tell my children:
no, the tree didn’t die,
your childhood sun has set.

Originally published in the April 2019 issue of Words Without Borders. "No Fim" © Helder Faife. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Sandra Tamele and Eric M. B. Becker. All rights reserved.

That time I stole a blue Impala in Flagstaff

   the first year they made those automatic windows, you know?

   I was sixteen and I was cruising down the highway 

 

Hot on the trail to Albuquerque 

I was hungry

             and I was howling, man.

It was like stealing the best horse in the herd.

Copyright © 2014 by Laura Tohe. This poem originally appeard in Cream City Review. Used with permission of the author.

                                  I. 

Your soul and mine have gone the way of life:—

The dusty road where toiled the elfin strife—

Your hand entwined this hand of mine in love,

Your heart induced to scorn the clouds above—

And all the world was like a rose crowned song. 

 

                                  II. 

Your soul and mine have gone the way of life:—

We twain have bleeding wounds from Love's deep knife,

But you have kissed the tears that moist my cheeks

And lifted me beyond the cragged peaks—

And now the world is like a rose crowned song. 

This poem is in the public domain. 

A hint of gold where the moon will be; 
Through the flocking clouds just a star or two; 
Leaf sounds, soft and wet and hushed, 
And oh! the crying want of you. 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 23, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Come when the nights are bright with stars
    Or when the moon is mellow;
Come when the sun his golden bars
    Drops on the hay-field yellow.
Come in the twilight soft and gray,
Come in the night or come in the day,
Come, O love, whene’er you may,
    And you are welcome, welcome.

You are sweet, O Love, dear Love,
You are soft as the nesting dove.
Come to my heart and bring it rest
As the bird flies home to its welcome nest.

Come when my heart is full of grief
    Or when my heart is merry;
Come with the falling of the leaf
    Or with the redd’ning cherry.
Come when the year’s first blossom blows,
Come when the summer gleams and glows,
Come with the winter’s drifting snows,
    And you are welcome, welcome.

From The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1913) by Paul Laurence Dunbar. This poem is in the public domain.

We trekked into a far country,
My friend and I.
Our deeper content was never spoken,
But each knew all the other said.
He told me how calm his soul was laid
By the lack of anvil and strife.
"The wooing kestrel," I said, "mutes his mating-note
To please the harmony of this sweet silence."
And when at the day's end
We laid tired bodies 'gainst
The loose warm sands,
And the air fleeced its particles for a coverlet;
When star after star came out
To guard their lovers in oblivion—
My soul so leapt that my evening prayer
Stole my morning song!

This poem is in the public domain.

What is the difference between objects and things?

Things, I think, have less personality.

These days, all objects are antiques—hearken back to an era of hands handling them.

Playing cards, wooden matches, buttons, plush stuffed bears—we recognize them from the still lifes where they once quivered.

They were—are—tools, curios, refugees from the modernist era.

Of course, we still have these things. But now they are like us, just things.

They no longer celebrate their secret identity—the inner life once bequeathed upon even objects.

They are a bit featureless. One thing not so different from another.

From The Intangibles. Copyright © 2019 by Elaine Equi. Used with the permission of the author.

You have sweet flowers for your pleasure;
    You laugh with the bountiful earth
In its richness of summer treasure:
    Where now are your flowers and your mirth?
Petals and cadenced laughter,
    Each in a dying fall,
Droop out of life; and after
    Is nothing; they were all.

But we from the death of roses
    That three suns perfume and gild
With a kiss, till the fourth discloses
    A withered wreath, have distilled
The fulness of one rare phial,
    Whose nimble life shall outrun
The circling shadow on the dial,
    Outlast the tyrannous sun.

This poem is in the public domain.

Practical people, I have been told,
Weary of the sea for his waves go up and down
Endlessly to no visible purpose;
Tire of the tides, for the tides are tireless, the tides
Are well content with their own march-tune
And nothing accomplished is no matter to them.
It seems wasteful to practical people.
And that the nations labor and gather and dissolve
Into destruction; the stars sharpen
Their spirit of splendor, and then it dims, and the stars
Darken; and that the spirit of man
Sharpens up to maturity and cools dull
With age, dies, and rusts out of service;
And all these tidal gatherings, growth and decay,
Shining and darkening, are forever
Renewed; and the whole cycle impenitently
Revolves, and all the past is future:–––
Make it a difficult world… for practical people.

This poem is in the public domain.

‘It is but thin soil where we stand; I have felt my roots in a richer ere this. I have seen a bunch of violets in a glass vase, tied loosely with a straw, which reminded me of myself.’—The Week.

I am a parcel of vain strivings tied
   By a chance bond together,
Dangling this way and that, their links
   Were made so loose and wide,
                        Methinks,
         For milder weather.

A bunch of violets without their roots,
   And sorrel intermixed,
Encircled by a wisp of straw
   Once coiled about their shoots,
                        The law
         By which I’m fixed.

A nosegay which Time clutched from out
   Those fair Elysian fields,
With weeds and broken stems, in haste,
   Doth make the rabble rout
                        That waste
         The day he yields.

And here I bloom for a short hour unseen,
   Drinking my juices up,
With no root in the land
   To keep my branches green,
                        But stand
         In a bare cup.

Some tender buds were left upon my stem
   In mimicry of life,
But ah! the children will not know,
   Till time has withered them,
                        The woe
         With which they’re rife.

But now I see I was not plucked for nought,
   And after in life’s vase
Of glass set while I might survive,
   But by a kind hand brought
                        Alive
         To a strange place.

That stock thus thinned will soon redeem its hours,
   And by another year,
Such as God knows, with freer air,
   More fruits and fairer flowers
                        Will bear,
         While I droop here.

 

This poem is in the public domain.

Love, leave me like the light,
The gently passing day;
We would not know, but for the night,
When it has slipped away.

So many hopes have fled,
Have left me but the name
Of what they were. When love is dead,
Go thou, beloved, the same.

Go quietly; a dream
When done, should leave no trace
That it has lived, except a gleam
Across the dreamer’s face.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 28, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Turn me to my yellow leaves,
I am better satisfied;
There is something in me grieves—
That was never born, and died.
Let me be a scarlet flame
On a windy autumn morn,
I who never had a name,
Nor from breathing image born.
From the margin let me fall
Where the farthest stars sink down,
And the void consumes me,—all
In nothingness to drown.
Let me dream my dream entire,
Withered as an autumn leaf—
Let me have my vain desire,
Vain—as it is brief.

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922) edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.

It is a huge curtain,
stretched at a distance around me.
Aimless gypsies crawl up and over the curtain.
They are my days.
They neither sing nor laugh
but hop over the top of my sadness.
Here and there one wears a gay shirt.
He is faster than the rest.
Even in my sleep with closed eyes
I cannot pierce this drapery.
Some day I will wind a child's smile around my face
and thus disguised
Slip through the curtain and jump...
Where?
Ah, yes, where?

This poem is in the public domain, and originally appeared in Others for 1919; An Anthology of the New Verse (Nicholas L. Brown, 1920). 

Now the flowers are all folded
And the dark is going by. 
The evening is arising…
It is time to rest.
When I am sleeping
I find my pillow full of dreams. 
They are all new dreams:
No one told them to me
Before I came through the cloud. 
They remember the sky, my little dreams,
They have wings, they are quick, they are sweet. 
Help me tell my dreams 
To the other children, 
So that their bread may taste whiter, 
So that the milk they drink 
May make them think of meadows
In the sky of stars. 
Help me give bread to the other children
So that their dreams may come back:
So they will remember what they knew 
Before they came through the cloud.
Let me hold their little hands in the dark, 
The lonely children,
The babies that have no mothers any more. 
Dear God, let me hold up my silver cup 
For them to drink, 
And tell them the sweetness 
Of my dreams. 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 8, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets. 

Bees and a honeycomb in the dried head of a horse in a pasture corner—a skull in the tall grass and a buzz and a buzz of the yellow honey-hunters.       

And I ask no better a winding sheet
                             (over the earth and under the sun.) 

Let the bees go honey-hunting with yellow blur of wings in the dome of my head, in the rumbling, singing arch of my skull.     

Let there be wings and yellow dust and the drone of dreams of honey—who loses and remembers?—who keeps and forgets? 

In a blue sheen of moon over the bones and under the hanging honeycomb the bees come home and the bees sleep.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

He predicted froth, and geese
took to the sky like a hurricane.
I trust my captain. He told me
when I turn over on my stomach in sleep
to think of loneliness. I draw a circle
and put an X through it for here, meaning ship.
All I packed was an empty pillowcase and aspirin
and rain I collected. The geese turn their bodies
into clouds for me to pour the rain.
Nights I tuck my fingers into feathers
and repeat a song I was sung as a baby.

Copyright © 2018 Joanna I. Kaminsky. Reprinted with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Autumn 2018.

Dream on, for dreams are sweet:
     Do not awaken!
Dream on, and at thy feet
     Pomegranates shall be shaken.

Who likeneth the youth
     of life to morning?
’Tis like the night in truth,
     Rose-coloured dreams adorning.

The wind is soft above,
     The shadows umber.
(There is a dream called Love.)
     Take thou the fullest slumber!

In Lethe’s soothing stream,
     Thy thirst thou slakest.
Sleep, sleep; ’tis sweet to dream.
     Oh, weep then thou awakest!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 17, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

 

translated from the Arabic by Khaled Mattawa

Alone, now you are free.

You pick a sky and name it
                 a sky to live in
                 a sky to refuse

But if you want know
                 if you are really free
and to remain free
you must steady yourself
                 on a foothold of earth

so that the earth may rise
so that you may give
                 wings
to the children of earth
                 below 

 

Copyright © 2019 by Khaled Mattawa. Reprinted with the permission of Khaled Mattawa. 

I saw you as I passed last night,
    Framed in a sky of gold;
And through the sun’s fast paling light
    You seemed a queen of old,
Whose smile was light to all the world
    Against the crowding dark.
And in my soul a song there purled—
    Re-echoed by the lark.

I saw you as I passed last night,
    Your tresses burnished gold,
While in your eyes a happy bright
    Gleam of your friendship told.
And I went singing on my way;
    On, on into the dark.
But in my heart still shone the day,
    And still—still sang the lark.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 25, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I do not crave to have thee mine alone, dear
   Keeping thy charms within my jealous sight;
Go, give the world the blessing of thy beauty,
   That other hearts may share of my delight!

I do not ask, thy love should be mine only
   While others falter through the dreary night;
Go, kiss the tears from some wayfarer’s vision, 
   That other eyes may know the joy of light!

Where days are sad and skies are hung with darkness, 
   Go, send a smile that sunshine may be rife;
Go, give a song, a word of kindly greeting, 
   To ease the sorrow of some lonely life!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 12, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

O dainty bud, I hold thee in my hand—
A castaway, a dead, a lifeless thing.
A few days since I saw thee, wet with dew,
A bud of promise to thy parent cling,
Now thou art crushed yet lovely as before,
The adverse winds but waft thy fragrance more.

How small, how frail! I tread thee underfoot
And crush thy petals in the rocking ground:
Perchance some one in pity for thy state
Will pick thee up in reverence profound—
Lo, thou art pure with virtue more intense,
Thy perfume grows from earthly detriments.

Why do we grieve? Let each affliction bear
A greater beauty springing from the sod,
May sweetness well as incense from the urn,
Which, rising high, enshrouds the throne of God.
Envoy of Hope, this lesson I disclose—
“Be Ever Sweet,” thou humble, fragrant rose!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 5, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

This cool night is strange
Among midsummer days…
Far frosts are caught
In the moon’s pale light,
And sounds are distant laughter
Chilled to crystal tears.

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922) edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.

Since men grow diffident at last,
And care no whit at all,
If spring be come, or the fall be past,
Or how the cool rains fall,

I come to no flower but I pluck,
I raise no cup but I sip,
For a mouth is the best of sweets to suck;
The oldest wine's on the lip.

If I grow old in a year or two,
And come to the querulous song
Of 'Alack and aday' and 'This was true,
And that, when I was young,'

I must have sweets to remember by,
Some blossom saved from the mire,
Some death-rebellious ember I
Can fan into a fire.

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922) edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.

So many cares to vex the day,
    So many fears to haunt the night,
My heart was all but weaned away
    From every lure of old delight.
Then summer came, announced by June,
    With beauty, miracle and mirth.
She hung aloft the rounding moon,
    She poured her sunshine on the earth,
She drove the sap and broke the bud,
    She set the crimson rose afire.
She stirred again my sullen blood,
    And waked in me a new desire.
Before my cottage door she spread
    The softest carpet nature weaves,
And deftly arched above my head
    A canopy of shady leaves.
Her nights were dreams of jeweled skies,
    Her days were bowers rife with song,
And many a scheme did she devise
    To heal the hurt and soothe the wrong.
For on the hill or in the dell,
    Or where the brook went leaping by
Or where the fields would surge and swell
    With golden wheat or bearded rye,
I felt her heart against my own,
    I breathed the sweetness of her breath,
Till all the cark of time had flown,
    And I was lord of life and death.

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922) edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.

Nothing was remembered, nothing forgotten.
When we awoke, wagons were passing on the warm summer pavements,
The window-sills were wet from rain in the night,
Birds scattered and settled over chimneypots
As among grotesque trees.

Nothing was accepted, nothing looked beyond.
Slight-voiced bells separated hour from hour,
The afternoon sifted coolness
And people drew together in streets becoming deserted.
There was a moon, and light in a shop-front,
And dusk falling like precipitous water.

Hand clasped hand,
Forehead still bowed to forehead—
Nothing was lost, nothing possessed,
There was no gift nor denial.

2.

I have remembered you.
You were not the town visited once,
Nor the road falling behind running feet.

You were as awkward as flesh
And lighter than frost or ashes.

You were the rind,
And the white-juiced apple,
The song, and the words waiting for music.

3.

You have learned the beginning;
Go from mine to the other.

Be together; eat, dance, despair,
Sleep, be threatened, endure.
You will know the way of that.

But at the end, be insolent;
Be absurd—strike the thing short off;
Be mad—only do not let talk
Wear the bloom from silence.

And go away without fire or lantern.
Let there be some uncertainty about your departure.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 29, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.