(at St. Mary’s)
may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that
From Quilting: Poems 1987-1990 by Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 2001 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with permission of BOA Editions Ltd. All rights reserved.
How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest
The seagull's wings shall dip and pivot him,
Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
Over the chained bay waters Liberty—
Then, with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes
As apparitional as sails that cross
Some page of figures to be filed away;
—Till elevators drop us from our day . . .
I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen;
And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced
As though the sun took step of thee, yet left
Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,—
Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!
Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft
A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,
Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
A jest falls from the speechless caravan.
Down Wall, from girder into street noon leaks,
A rip-tooth of the sky's acetylene;
All afternoon the cloud-flown derricks turn . . .
Thy cables breathe the North Atlantic still.
And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,
Thy guerdon . . . Accolade thou dost bestow
Of anonymity time cannot raise:
Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show.
O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet's pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover's cry,—
Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path—condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.
Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
The City's fiery parcels all undone,
Already snow submerges an iron year . . .
O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies' dreaming sod,
Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God.
From The Complete Poems and Selected Letters and Prose of Hart Crane by Hart Crane, edited with an introduction and notes by Brom Weber. Used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1933, 1958, 1966 by Liveright Publishing Corporation.
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
Poetry used by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Ralph W. Franklin ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
One flower on the cliffside Nodding at the canyon
From Book of Haikus by Jack Kerouac, published by Penguin Poets. Copyright © 2003 by the Estate of Stella Kerouac, John Sampas, Literary Representative. All rights reserved.
When my mother died
I was as far away
as I could be, on an arm of land
floating in the Atlantic
where boys walk shirtless
down the avenue
holding hands, and gulls sleep
on the battered pilings,
their bright beaks hidden
beneath one white wing.
Maricopa, Arizona. Mea Culpa.
I did not fly to see your body
and instead stepped out
on a balcony in my slip
to watch the stars turn
on their grinding wheel.
Early August, the ocean,
a salt-tinged breeze.
Botanists use the word
serotinous to describe
for the season of late-summer.
I did not write your obituary
as my sister requested, could
not compose such final lines:
I closed the piano
to keep the music in. Instead
I stood with you
on what now seems
like the ancient deck
of a great ship, our nightgowns
flaring, the smell of dying lilacs
drifting up from someone’s
untended yard, and we
listened to the stars hiss
into the bent horizon, blossoms
the sea gathered tenderly, each
shattered and singular one
long dead, but even so, incandescent,
making a singed sound, singing
as they went.
Copyright © 2017 by Dorianne Laux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 1, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
Li-Young Lee, “From Blossoms” from Rose. Copyright © 1986 by Li-Young Lee. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., boaeditions.org.
I've decided to waste my life again, Like I used to: get drunk on The light in the leaves, find a wall Against which something can happen, Whatever may have happened Long ago—let a bullet hole echoing The will of an executioner, a crevice In which a love note was hidden, Be a cell where a struggling tendril Utters a few spare syllables at dawn. I've decided to waste my life In a new way, to forget whoever Touched a hair on my head, because It doesn't matter what came to pass, Only that it passed, because we repeat Ourselves, we repeat ourselves. I've decided to walk a long way Out of the way, to allow something Dreaded to waken for no good reason, Let it go without saying, Let it go as it will to the place It will go without saying: a wall Against which a body was pressed For no good reason, other than this.
From May Day by Phillis Levin. Copyright © 2008 by Phillis Levin. Used by permission of Penguin. All rights reserved.
After the birthing of bombs of forks and fear,
the frantic automatic weapons unleashed,
the spray of bullets into a crowd holding hands,
that brute sky opening in a slate metal maw
that swallows only the unsayable in each of us, what's
left? Even the hidden nowhere river is poisoned
orange and acidic by a coal mine. How can
you not fear humanity, want to lick the creek
bottom dry to suck the deadly water up into
your own lungs, like venom? Reader, I want to
say, Don't die. Even when silvery fish after fish
comes back belly up, and the country plummets
into a crepitating crater of hatred, isn't there still
something singing? The truth is: I don't know.
But sometimes, I swear I hear it, the wound closing
like a rusted-over garage door, and I can still move
my living limbs into the world without too much
pain, can still marvel at how the dog runs straight
toward the pickup trucks break-necking down
the road, because she thinks she loves them,
because she’s sure, without a doubt, that the loud
roaring things will love her back, her soft small self
alive with desire to share her goddamn enthusiasm,
until I yank the leash back to save her because
I want her to survive forever. Don't die, I say,
and we decide to walk for a bit longer, starlings
high and fevered above us, winter coming to lay
her cold corpse down upon this little plot of earth.
Perhaps, we are always hurtling our body towards
the thing that will obliterate us, begging for love
from the speeding passage of time, and so maybe
like the dog obedient at my heels, we can walk together
peacefully, at least until the next truck comes.
Copyright © 2016 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 1, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
At the May Day parade, my mask made of moss
and bark, my hair full of flowers, my friend beside me,
her pretty red mouth under the hawk’s beak
of her mask of green sage.
At the children’s pageant, music
died in the speakers. The shadow
of a crow passed over. My hair a crown
of flowers, yellow and red roses large as fists,
flowers on which I’d spent my last $20
at the mercado.
But beauty wasn’t enough. Being admired
by strangers was not enough.
I saw a girl, wandering, looking for her mother.
I knelt down, lowered my mask, showed her
my face. She’s looking for you too, I say.
She tries to spot her mother’s yellow dress.
A gold dog passes, happy and white-faced,
wearing pink nylon fairy wings. The girl points
and laughs; the hard part of her day
The people I’m looking for—I don’t know where they are.
I don’t know the color of their clothing. From across the park
I see the dark windows of my apartment.
Spring has arrived.
Let me not despair.
Copyright © 2016 Gretchen Marquette. Used with permission of the author.
I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.
I will look at cliffs and clouds
With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
And the grass rise.
And when lights begin to show
Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
And then start down!
This poem is in the public domain.
One river gives
Its journey to the next.
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.
We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.
We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—
Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.
Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:
Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.
You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me
What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made
Something greater from the difference.
Copyright © 2014 by Alberto Ríos. Used with permission of the author.
Shaken, The blossoms of lilac, And shattered, The atoms of purple. Green dip the leaves, Darker the bark, Longer the shadows. Sheer lines of poplar Shimmer with masses of silver And down in a garden old with years And broken walls of ruin and story, Roses rise with red rain-memories. May! In the open world The sun comes and finds your face, Remembering all.
This poem is in the public domain.
At evening when the lamp is lit, Around the fire my parents sit; They sit at home and talk and sing, And do not play at anything. Now, with my little gun, I crawl All in the dark along the wall, And follow round the forest track Away behind the sofa back. There, in the night, where none can spy, All in my hunter's camp I lie, And play at books that I have read Till it is time to go to bed. These are the hills, these are the woods, These are my starry solitudes; And there the river by whose brink The roaring lions come to drink. I see the others far away As if in firelit camp they lay, And I, like to an Indian scout, Around their party prowled about. So, when my nurse comes in for me, Home I return across the sea, And go to bed with backward looks At my dear land of Story-books.
This poem is in the public domain.
A book decorates
And a body
Decorates a bed.
May be made
Of plastic, metal,
And is normally
Height as the bed.
Even if they are
And aver and
One of them
For a word
The other has
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Yakich. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 28, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
As the future ripens in the past...
a terrible festival of dead leaves
The trees talk quietly among themselves
the thrush sings its brown song brushed with blue
the roses from the bodega open in the vase
and under the streetlight the long shadows
tarnishing the day as we know it—if
I ask for a stone you give me a stone,
if I ask for water I do not get water,
everything I love weighted and found
wanting, as if the world knew how to give
answers to questions. In the long generous
shadow of history, I wake and wonder
how long it can go on, my lips touching
your ear, asking, what are you thinking—
while in the capital the lion stalks his cage
and on the veld the scorched banyans bend
under their fruit, the camps charred, no one
to pick it. A long time ago, after months
when death came so quickly to us it was
as if we had written an invitation, crows
settled in the ghost trees. There is my
mother, you said, and my father. It goes on.
Copyright © 2017 by Cynthia Zarin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 2, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.