In the thick brush
they spend the hottest part of the day,
              soaking their hooves
in the trickle of mountain water
              the ravine hoards
on behalf of the oleander.
              You slung your gun
across your back in order to heave
              a huge grey stone
over the edge, so it rolled, then leaped
              and crashed below.
This is what it took to break the shade,
              to drive the beast,
not to mention a thrumming of wings
              into the sky,
a wild confetti of frantic grouse,
              but we had slugs,
not shot, and weren’t after their small meat,
              but the huge ram’s,
whose rack you’d seen last spring, and whose stench
              now parted air,
that scat-caked, rut-ripe perfume of beast.
              Watch now, he runs,
you said, launching another boulder,
              then out it sprang
through a gap in some pine, brown and black
              with spiraled horns
impossibly agile for its size.
              But, yes, he fell
with one shot, already an idea
              of meat for fire
by the time we’d scrambled through the scree.
              And that was all.
No, you were careful, even tender,
              with the knife-work,
slitting the body wide with one stroke
              then with your hands
lifting entire the miraculous
              liver and heart,
emptying the beast on the mountain.
              Later, it rained,
knocking dust off the patio stones.
              Small frogs returned
from abroad to sing in the stream beds.
              We sat and drank.
The beast talked to its rope in the tree.
              And then you spoke:
no more, you said, enough with mourning,
              then rose to turn
our guts, already searing on the fire.

Copyright © 2017 by Christopher Bakken. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 19, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Seventy-seven betrayers will stand by the road,
And those who love you will be few but stronger.

Seventy-seven betrayers, skilful and various,
But do not fear them: they are unimportant.

You must learn soon, soon, that despite Judas
The great betrayals are impersonal

(Though many would be Judas, having the will
And the capacity, but few the courage).

You must learn soon, soon, that even love
Can be no shield against the abstract demons:

Time, cold and fire, and the law of pain,
The law of things falling, and the law of forgetting.

The messengers, of faces and names known
Or of forms familiar, are innocent.

Copyright ©️ 1987 by the Estate of Hyam Plutzik. All rights reserved.

She daily effuses
the close-mouthed
tantrum of her fevers.

Hog-tied and lunatic.                         
Born toothsome, 
unholy. Born uppity.        
    
Blue-jawed and out-order.   
Watched her sculptor                   
split her bitter seam        
              
with his scalding knife;
mauled through the errant                
flesh of her nature

and hemorrhaged mercury, 
molted snakeroot, a smoke           
of weeping silver. 
 
She, accused.
Sprung from the head 
of a thousand-fisted

wretch or a blood-dark                                   
cosmos undoubling
her bound body.  
                   
Vexed shrew. Blight of moon.         
She, armory. Pitched-milk pours
from her gold oracular.

Bred in her nest a lone                          
grenade, prized, unpried
its force-ripe wound.

She, disease. Often bruised
to brush the joy of anything.
Zombic. Un-groomed.      

Her night slinks open 
its sliding pin. One by one
these loose hopes

harpoon themselves
in, small-ghosts alighting
at her unwhoring.    

She, infirmary.
God’s swallowed
lantern, tar-hair and thick.

Her black torchstruck.
A kindling stick.
No sinkle-bible fix

to cure this burning.
Shrill hell. Jezebel.

Isn’t it lonely.

Copyright © 2016 by Safiya Sinclair. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 15, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Life has loveliness to sell,
   All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
   Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder in a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
   Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
   Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
   Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
   Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstacy
Give all you have been, or could be.

This poem is in the public domain.

              for Dad

I’m writing you
         10 years later
    & 2,000 miles
                 Away from 
    Our silence
My mouth a cave
That had collapsed 
      I’m writing
  While you 
You wear the
                Hospital gown & 
          count failures
  Such as the body’s 
Inability to rise
             I see your fingers 
Fumbling in the
       Pillbox     as if
             Earthquakes are in
    Your hands
                I think it’s time
    For us to  abandon
Our cruelties
             For us to speak
So     s    o    f    t 
We’re barely
                Human.

Copyright © 2018 by Christopher Soto. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

                        I

Beyond the years the answer lies,
Beyond where brood the grieving skies
        And Night drops tears.
Where Faith rod-chastened smiles to rise
        And doff its fears,
And carping Sorrow pines and dies—
        Beyond the years.

                        II

Beyond the years the prayer for rest
Shall beat no more within the breast;
        The darkness clears,
And Morn perched on the mountain's crest
        Her form uprears—
The day that is to come is best,
        Beyond the years.

                        III

Beyond the years the soul shall find
That endless peace for which it pined,
        For light appears,
And to the eyes that still were blind
        With blood and tears,
Their sight shall come all unconfined
        Beyond the years.

This poem is in the public domain.

I am glad daylong for the gift of song,
         For time and change and sorrow;
For the sunset wings and the world-end things
         Which hang on the edge of to-morrow.
I am glad for my heart whose gates apart
         Are the entrance-place of wonders,
Where dreams come in from the rush and din
         Like sheep from the rains and thunders.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 11, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

“Scaffolding” from Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966–1996​ by Seamus Heaney. Copyright © 1998 by Seamus Heaney.

By the stream I dream in calm delight, and watch as in a glass,
How the clouds like crowds of snowy-hued and white-robed maidens pass,
And the water into ripples breaks and sparkles as it spreads,
Like a host of armored knights with silver helmets on their heads.
And I deem the stream an emblem fit of human life may go,
For I find a mind may sparkle much and yet but shallows show,
And a soul may glow with myriad lights and wondrous mysteries,
When it only lies a dormant thing and mirrors what it sees.

This poem is in the public domain.

It’s not that the old are wise
But that we thirst for the wisdom

we had at twenty
when we understood everything

when our brains bubbled
with tingling insights

percolating up from
our brilliant genitals

when our music rang like a global siege
shooting down all the lies in the world

oh then we knew the truth
then we sparkled like mica in granite

and now we stand on the shore
of an ocean that rises and rises
but is too salt to drink

Copyright © 2018 by Alicia Ostriker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

say it with your whole black mouth: i am innocent

& if you are not innocent, say this: i am worthy of forgiveness, of breath after breath

i tell you this: i let blue eyes dress me in guilt
walked around stores convinced the very skin of my palm was stolen

& what good has that brought me? days filled flinching
thinking the sirens were reaching for me

& when the sirens were for me
did i not make peace with god?

so many white people are alive because
we know how to control ourselves.

how many times have we died on a whim
wielded like gallows in their sun-shy hands?

here, standing in my own body, i say: the next time
they murder us for the crime of their imaginations

i don’t know what i’ll do.

i did not come to preach of peace
for that is not the hunted’s duty.

i came here to say what i can’t say
without my name being added to a list

what my mother fears i will say

                       what she wishes to say herself

i came here to say

i can’t bring myself to write it down

sometimes i dream of pulling a red apology
from a pig’s collared neck & wake up crackin up

           if i dream of setting fire to cul-de-sacs
           i wake chained to the bed

i don’t like thinking about doing to white folks
what white folks done to us

when i do
                      can’t say

          i don’t dance

o my people

          how long will we

reach for god

          instead of something sharper?

          my lovely doe

with a taste for meat

          take

the hunter

          by his hand

Copyright © 2018 by Danez Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

This is not how it begins
but how you understand it.
 
I walk many kilometers and
find myself to be the same—
 
the same moon hovering over
the same, bleached sky,
 
and when the officer calls me
it is a name I do not recognize,
a self I do not recognize.
 
We are asked to kneel, or
stand still, depending on which land
we embroider our feet with—
 
this one is copious with black blood
or so I am told.
 
Someone calls me by the skin
I did not know I had
and to this I think—language,
 
there must be a language
that contains us all
that contains all of this.
 
How to disassemble
the sorrow of beginnings,
 
how to let go, and not,
how to crouch beneath other bodies
how to stop breathing, how not to.
 
Our fathers are not elders here;
they are long-bearded men
shoving taxi cabs and sprawled
in small valet parking lots—
 
at their sight, my body dims its light
(a desiccated grape)
and murmur, Igziabher Yistilign—
our pride, raw-purple again.
 
We begin like this: all of us
walking in solitude
walking a desert earth and
unforgiving bodies. We cross lines
we dare not speak of; we learn and
unlearn things quickly, or intentionally slow
(because, that, we can control)
and give ourselves new names
because these selves must be new
to forget the old blue.
 
But, sometimes, we also begin like this:
on a cold, cold night
memorizing escape routes
kissing the foreheads of small children
hiding accat in our pockets,
a rosary for safekeeping.
 
Or, married off to men thirty years our elders
big house, big job, big, striking hands.
 
Or, thinking of the mouths to feed.
 
At times
we begin in silence;
 
water making its way into our bodies—
rain, or tears, or black and red seas
until we are ripe with longing.

Copyright © 2018 by Mahtem Shiferraw. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets

Sunday afternoon on a city beach.
No sand, slabs of manufactured stone.
I watch two blondes, maybe sisters,
Inflate a raft. They use a bicycle pump.
One tries to assemble two paddles,
Gives up, puts them in her bag.
The one on the pump removes her top.
She has exerted herself into better posture.
Her breasts are larger than I expected.
I want to see if their tiny raft will hold them.
The clouds and current move north.
As they enter the water, Tony Allen warns
Against the boat journey: Running away
From a misery / Find yourself in a double misery.
I recall photos of British tourists in Greece
Frowning at refugees,
Greek children in gym class while hungry.
In the direction the raft floats, the sisters
Paddling with their hands, a planetarium.
I wonder if it houses a telescope capable
Of seeing the double misery on a Greek island.
Maybe its lens is too powerful.
The side of their raft reads EXPLORER.
Their soles are black. If you pay attention
To movies, white women have grimy soles.
I have seen black actresses with exquisite feet.
I recall my mother checking my socks
In the exam room before the doctor entered.
The sisters let their ponytails drag
In dubious lake water.
I’m not sure I hear these lyrics: Even if
They let you enter / They probably won’t let you.
Even if they let you enter / The baron won’t let you,
The baron won’t let you.

I note their appearances,
Takeoff point. Just in case.
I doubt any of our thoughts converge.
What is it like to be so free?
To drift in water in a country you call
Your own. Unprepared because you can laugh
Into an official’s face. Explain, offer no apology.

Copyright © 2018 by Ladan Osman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 18, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Copyright © 1966 by Robert Hayden, from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

dear reader, with our heels digging into the good 
mud at a swamp’s edge, you might tell me something 
about the dandelion & how it is not a flower itself 
but a plant made up of several small flowers at its crown 
& lord knows I have been called by what I look like 
more than I have been called by what I actually am & 
I wish to return the favor for the purpose of this 
exercise. which, too, is an attempt at fashioning 
something pretty out of seeds refusing to make anything 
worthwhile of their burial. size me up & skip whatever semantics arrive 
to the tongue first. say: that boy he look like a hollowed-out grandfather 
clock. he look like a million-dollar god with a two-cent 
heaven. like all it takes is one kiss & before morning, 
you could scatter his whole mind across a field.

Copyright © 2018 by Hanif Abdurraqib. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Can’st thou conjure a vanished morn of spring,
        Or bid the ashes of the sunset glow
Again to redness? Are we strong to wring
        From trodden grapes the juice drunk long ago?
Can leafy longings stir in Autumn's blood,
        Or can I wear a pearl dissolved in wine,
Or go a-Maying in a winter wood,
        Or paint with youth thy wasted cheek, or mine?
What bloom, then, shall abide, since ours hath sped?
        Thou art more lost to me than they who dwell
In Egypt's sepulchres, long ages fled;
        And would I touch—Ah me! I might as well
Covet the gold of Helen's vanished head,
        Or kiss back Cleopatra from the dead!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

We lay in shade diaphanous
And spoke the light that burns in us

As in the glooming’s net I caught her,
She shimmered like reflected water!

Romantic and emphatic moods
Are not for her whom life eludes...

Its vulgar tinsel round her fold?
She'd rather shudder with the cold,

Attend just this elusive hour,
A shadow in a shadow bower,

A moving imagery so fine,
It must have been her soul near mine

And so we blended and possessed
Each in each the phantom guest,

Inseparate, we scarcely met;
Yet other love-nights we forget!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Dear Empire, I am confused each time I wake inside you.
                      You invent addictions.
Are you a high-end graveyard or a child?
                      I see your children dragging their brains along.
                      Why not a god who loves water and dancing
              instead of mirrors that recite your pretty features only?

You wear a different face to each atrocity.
You are un-unified and tangled.
                      Are you just gluttony?
                      Are you civilization’s slow grenade?

     I am confused each time I’m swallowed by your doors.

Copyright © 2018 by Jesús Castillo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Out of the deep and the dark,

A sparkling mystery, a shape, 

Something perfect,

Comes like the stir of the day:

One whose breath is an odour,

Whose eyes show the road to stars,

The breeze in his face,

The glory of Heaven on his back.

He steps like a vision hung in air,

Diffusing the passion of Eternity;

His abode is the sunlight of morn,

The music of eve his speech:

In his sight,

One shall turn from the dust of the grave,

And move upward to the woodland.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 8, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

                      for Natalie

So much like sequins
the sunlight on this river.
Something like that kiss—
 
remember?
Fourth of July, with the moon
down early	the air moved
 
as if it were thinking,
as if it had begun
to understand
 
how hard it is 
to feel at home
in the world,
 
but that night
she found a place
just above your shoulder
 
and pressed her lips
there. Soft rain
 
had called off the fireworks:
the sky was quiet, but
back on Earth
 
two boys cruised by on bikes
trying out bad words. You turned
to reach her mouth,
 
at last, with yours	after weeks
of long walks, talking
 
about former loves
gone awry—
 
how the soul finally
falls down
 
and gets up alone
once more
 
finding the city strange,
the streets unmarked.

Every time you meet someone
it’s hard not to wonder
 
who they’ve been—one story
breaking so much
 
into the next: memory
engraves its hesitations—
 
but that night
you found yourself
unafraid. Do you remember
 
what the wind told the trees
about her brown hair?—
how the cool dark turned around:
 
that first kiss,
long as a river.
 
Didn’t it seem like you already loved her?
 
Off the sidewalk: a small pond,
the tall cattails, all those sleepy koi
 
coloring the water.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Seibles. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Long ago I met
a beautiful boy

Together we slept
 in my mother's womb 

Now the street of our fathers 
rises to eat him
::
Everything black
is forbidden in Eden

In my arms my brother
sleeps, teeth pearls

I give away the night
so he can have this slumber
::
I give away the man
who made me white

I give away the man
who freed my mother

I pry apart my skull
my scalp unfurls 
::
I nestle him gray
inside my brain, 

my brother sleeps
and dreams of genes

mauve lips fast against spine
he breathes. The sky
::
bends into my eyes
as they search for his skin 

Helicopter blades
invade our peace:::

Where is that Black
Where is it
Where
::
Blades slice, whine
pound the cupolas 

I slide him down and out
the small of my vertebrae 

He scurries down the bone
and to the ocean
::
navigates home 
in a boat carved of gommier

When he reaches our island 
everyone is relieved 

though they have not
forgotten me, belsé
::
Where is
your sister, eh?
Whey?

Koté belsé yé?
Whey?

Koté li yé 
Koté li yé
To the sand
To the stars on the sea 

Koté li yé
Koté li yé
To the one-celled egun
To the torpid moon 

Koté li yé
Koté li yé
::
There:::

Koté li yé
drapes across a baton;
glows electric in shine of taser;
pumped dry with glass bottle;
::
There:::

Koté li yé
vagina gape into the night;
neck dangle taut with plastic
bags and poorly knotted ropes;
::
There::: 

Koté li yé
belsé
Koté?

:::	     I burn 

my skin shines blacker, lacquer

:::	     non-mwen sé 		      flambó

ashes tremble in the moonlight

::: 	     sans humanité

my smoking bones fume the future

::: 	     pa bwè afwéchi pou lafiyèv dòt moun

Copyright © 2018 by r. erica doyle. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

There is more glory in a drop of dew,
    That shineth only for an hour,
Than there is in the pomp of earth’s great Kings
    Within the noonday of their power.

There is more sweetness in a single strain
    That falleth from a wild bird’s throat,
At random in the lonely forest’s depths,
    Than there’s in all the songs that bards e’er wrote.

Yet men, for aye, rememb’ring Caesar’s name,
    Forget the glory in the dew,
And, praising Homer’s epic, let the lark’s
    Song fall unheeded from the blue.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That's not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of the year.

This poem is in the public domain.

In the mercy of the more hollow sister 
A serene fog of moons sprinkled with plum
the vexed haint of Quasimoto is patient
her tongue leaps from her mouth like a tombstone
three times
Smooth as ash 
her favorite word is ‘apothecary’
the bliss in me like the interior of a melting fear
as she moves time with an even glance
the boorish anvil of rain as she leads me into a gully
farther into the hollow sister’s carny lungs
teaching me to hear in silence as hearts do

Copyright © 2019 by manuel arturo abreu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 1, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Rise up, rise up,
And, as the trumpet blowing
Chases the dreams of men,
As the dawn glowing
The stars that left unlit
The land and water,
Rise up and scatter
The dew that covers
The print of last night’s lovers—
Scatter it, scatter it!

While you are listening
To the clear horn,
Forget, men, everything
On this earth new-born,
Except that it is lovelier
Than any mysteries.
Open your eyes to the air
That has washed the eyes of the stars
Through all the dewy night:
Up with the light,
To the old wars:
Arise, arise.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 19, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

I've been fighting a War Within Myself all my life,
Tired of the hurt, the pain, the strife.
Anger consumes me from day to day,
Cellies now walking on eggshells, unsure of what to say.
I do pray each night for the peace that I need in my heart,
I need it before I tear what friendships I have apart.
Prison has a funny way of doing some things,
Leaves me wondering what tomorrow may bring.
I'm tired of the hate, anger and pain that I feel,
I just want my heart and soul to be healed.
I want to be able to simply laugh at a joke,
I need someone to help me before I lose all hope.
My heart is almost completely hardened with what I've been through,
I need someone, anyone, maybe that someone is you.
I'm fighting a War Within Myself, and I'm so tired,
So nervous, scared, like I'm on a high tight wire.
I hope that I don't fall before someone catches me,
But then again... maybe it's my destiny.

Copyright © 2019 by Daniel K. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 20, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

after a bottle of chianti
              Don’t mistake me, I’ve pondered this before.
              But tonight I’m serious.
              One bottle and the end is certain.
              Tomorrow: Lawyer. Boxes. Road map. More wine.

while walking the dog
              Paris won’t even notice.
              I’ll feed the pup, pack a quick bag,
              take out the trash, and slip away into the night.
              Home to Sparta. Or Santa Monica.
              An island off the southernmost tip of Peru.
              Disappear. Like fog from a mirror.

while paying the bills
              Guess I’ll have to give up that whole new career plan.
              Academic dreams. House-and-yard dreams.
              Stay on like this a few more years. Or forever.
              Face the bottomless nights in solitude.
              Wither. Drink. Write poems about dead ends.
              Drink more. Work. Pay rent.
              End.

when Paris comes home drunk
              Call Clytemnestra. Make a plan.
              Move a few things into Clym’s spare room,
              storage for the rest. Set up arbitration.
              File what needs to be filed.
              Head to Athens. Or back to Crown Heights.
              Maybe find a roommate in Fort Greene.
              All I know is out out out.
              Sure, I can blame the past or the scotch
              or my own smartmouth or my worst rage,
              but blame is a word. I need a weapon.

when Menelaus writes a letter
              As if.

from the ocean floor
              Bathtub. Ocean. Whichever. All this water.
              Yes, Paris pulled me from the ruby tub.
              Menelaus fed me to the river a year before that.
              Metaphorical, and not at all.
              O, a girl and her water. Such romance.
              Gaudy. And gauche.
              How do I leave what cared enough to keep me?
              What of those goddamn ships?
              That ridiculous horse? All those men?
              Now, wretched little me. All this dizzy sadness.
              How many kings to tame one woman? Silence her?
              How many to put her under?

Copyright © 2019 by Jeanann Verlee. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 26, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

When, at the end, the children wanted
to add glitter to their valentines, I said no.

I said nope, no, no glitter, and then,
when they started to fuss, I found myself

saying something my brother’s football coach
used to bark from the sidelines when one

of his players showed signs of being
human: oh come on now, suck it up.

That’s what I said to my children.
Suck what up? my daughter asked,

and, because she is so young, I told her
I didn’t know and never mind, and she took

that for an answer. My children are so young
when I turn off the radio as the news turns

to counting the dead or naming the act,
they aren’t even suspicious. My children

are so young they cannot imagine a world
like the one they live in. Their God is still

a real God, a whole God, a God made wholly
of actions. And I think they think I work

for that God. And I know they will someday soon
see everything and they will know about

everything and they will no longer take
never mind for an answer. The valentines

would’ve been better with glitter, and my son
hurt himself on an envelope, and then, much

later, when we were eating dinner, my daughter
realized she’d forgotten one of the three

Henrys in her class. How can there be three Henrys
in one class? I said, and she said, Because there are.

And so, before bed we took everything out
again—paper and pens and stamps and scissors—

and she sat at the table with her freshly washed hair
parted smartly down the middle and wrote

WILL YOU BE MINE, HENRY T.? and she did it
so carefully, I could hardly stand to watch.

Copyright © 2019 by Carrie Fountain. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 13, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

I told a million lies now it’s time to tell a single truth
Sometimes I cry
It’s hard dealing with my pride
Not knowing whether to fight or flee
Sometimes I cry
Hard to maintain this image of a tough guy
When deep down inside I am terrified
If I ever told you I wasn’t scared I lied
Struggling to make it back
To society and my family
I cry
I cry for my son who I barely see
Due to these mountains
And me and his mom’s beef
I cry for my siblings who never knew their older brother
Because he stayed in the streets
I cry for my grandma who is now deceased
I cry for my life, half of which they took for me
I cry for my anger and rage
The only emotions I can show in this place
I cry for how we treat each other inside these walls
I cry for the lack of unity we have most of all
When will it end I want to know
Till then all I can do is let these tears flow

Copyright © 2019 by DJ. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 19, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Of course, I don’t know very much
    About these politics,
But I think that some who run ’em
    Do mighty ugly tricks.

I’ve seen ’em honey-fugle round,
    And talk so awful sweet,
That you’d think them full of kindness,
    As an egg is full of meat.

Now I don’t believe in looking
    Honest people in the face,
And saying when you’re doing wrong,
    That “I haven’t sold my race.”

When we want to school our children,
    If the money isn’t there, 
Whether black or white have took it,
    The loss we all must share.

And this buying up each other
    Is something worse than mean,
Though I thinks a heap of voting,
    I go for voting clean. 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 23, 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,

she meant,
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.

Flaming wonderer! that dost leave vaunting, proud
Ambition boasting its lightning fringed
Immensity—cleaving wings, gaudy dipp’d
In sunset’s blossoming splendors bright and
Tinsel fire, with puny flight fluttering
Far behind! Thou that art cloth’d in mistery
More startling and more glorious than thine own
Encircling fires—profound as the oceans
Of shoreless space through which now thou flyest!
Art thou some erring world now deep engulph’d
In hellish, Judgement fires, with phrenzied ire
And fury hot, like some dread sky rocket
Of Eternity, flaming, vast, plunging
Thro’ immensity, scatt’ring in thy track
The wrathful fires of thine own damnation
Or wingest thou with direful speed, the ear
Of some flaming god of far off systems
Within these skies unheard of and unknown?
Ye Gods! How proud the thought to mount this orb
Of fire—boom thro’ the breathless oceans vast
Of big immensity—quickly leaving
Far behind all that for long ages gone
Dull, gray headed dames have prated of—
Travel far off mystic eternities—
Then proudly, on this little twisting ball
Returning once more set foot, glowing with
The splendors of a vast intelligence—
Frizzling little, puny humanity
Into icy horrors—bursting the big
Wide-spread eyeball of dismay—to recount
Direful regions travers’d and wonders seen!
Why I’d be as great a man as Fremont
Who cross’d the Rocky Mountains, didn’t freeze
And’s got a gold mine!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 21, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Every turn I took in the city
pressed me deeper into the warren

of what I hadn’t said, the words
thickening, constricting like a throat

as I moved through the streets,
oblivious to traffic and high walls,

the rain gutters’ crooked mouths
staining the pavement, human faces

mooning past me, indifferent,
eclipsing my silence

with their phones, their apparitions
floating—where?—and everyone,

everyone talking to the air.
Until around a new corner

on a narrow street I’d never seen
a piano began to play from above

a window-muffled music
at odds with itself, the rush of notes

splintering like glass across a floor
then picked back up, piece

by piece—first one hand sorting
along the keys, then the other

joining, out of step, irreconcilable,
unpunctuated by frustration,

or shame, but stung with the urgency
to make what couldn’t yet

be made. How could anyone learn
their way out of such blunder,

how could any song be gathered
from those shards grating

like something lodged in a shoe.                
My ear cocked into the air,

I thought of floating up, balloon-like,
to look. I felt cartoonish,

a marvel of the last century’s
animation already out of date.

I could have gone on like that,
listening, loosening into the song,

but then the piano stopped.
My ears filled with waiting—

car horns and chatter, the wheeze
of a stopping bus, the city going

about its filthy exclamations,
its abandon. The window

darkened as the player shut
the light over the sheet music,

and it reflected another window
across the street that in turn

reflected a bit of sky, a plane’s
bright sideways thought

trolling across the pane 
music once broke through—

delirious and awful and unabashed,
and so unlike what I’d wanted to say

swollen now, a contrail
coming extravagantly undone,       

or a balloon full of glass.

Copyright © 2019 by Corey Marks. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 17, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.