Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Grotz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 12, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I’m thinking of the boiling sea
and the dream in which
all the fish were singing.
I want to wake up with my heart
not aching like death,
but I am always falling
in to terror. I’m a good person.
I grieve to appropriate degrees.
I mourn this season. This moment.
I mourn for the polar bear
drifting out of history
on a wedge of melting ice.
For the doughnut shop
which reached an end
yesterday, after decades and decades.
I’m thinking of the light
at dawn. Of the woman
in Alabama who ordered
six songbirds from a catalog because
she was lonely. Or
heartbroken. I’m thinking
of the four that came
dead in the box, mangled.
Of the two that are
missing. I want to tell you
that they were spotted
in the humid air
winging above a mall.
I want to tell you a story
about the time leaves fell from
the trees all at once. I am
thinking of cataclysm.
More than anything, I want to tell you
this. I want to disappear
in the night. I want
the night to vanish from memory.
I want to tell you
how this happened.
Copyright © 2017 by Paul Guest. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
It sweeps away depression and today
you can’t tell the heaped pin-white
cherry blossoms abloom along
Riverside Drive from the clouds above
it is all kerfluffle, all moisture and light and so
into the wind I go
past Riverside Church and the Fairway
Market, past the water treatment plant
and in the dusky triangle below
a hulk of rusted railroad bed
a single hooded boy is shooting hoops
It’s ten minutes from here to the giant bridge
men’s engineering astride the sky heroic
an animal roar of motors on it
the little red lighthouse at its foot
big brother befriending little brother
in the famous children’s story
eight minutes back with the wind behind me
passing the boy there alone shooting
his hoops in the gloom
A neighborhood committee
must have said that space
should be used for something recreational
a mayor’s aide must have said okay
so they put up basketball and handball courts
and if it were a painting or a photo
you would call it American loneliness
Copyright © 2017 by Alicia Ostriker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 2, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
Copyright © 2017 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by James Longenbach. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
The bumper sticker says Live In The Moment! on a Jeep that cuts me off. I’m working to forget it, to let go of everything but the wheel in my hands, as a road connects two cities without forcing them to touch. When I drive by something, does it sway toward me or away? Does it slip into the past or dance nervously in place? The past suffers from anxiety too. It goes underground, emerging once in a blue moon to hiss. I hear the grass never saying a word. I hear it spreading its arms across each grave & barely catch a name. My dying wish is scattering now before every planet. I want places to look forward to. Listen: the earth is a thin voice in a headset. It’s whispering breathe... breathe... but who believes in going back?
Copyright © 2018 by Ben Purkert. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
That streetlight looks like the slicked backbone
of a dead tree in the rain, its green lamp blazing
like the first neon fig glowing in the first garden
on a continent that split away from Africa
from which floated away Brazil. Why are we not
more amazed by the constellations, all those flung
stars held together by the thinnest filaments
of our evolved, image making brains. For instance,
here we are in the middle of another Autumn,
plummeting through a universe that made us
from its shattering and dust, stooping
now to pluck an orange leaf from the sidewalk,
a small veined hand we hold in an open palm
as we walk through the park on a weekend we
invented so we would have time to spare. Time,
another idea we devised so the days would have
an epilogue, precise, unwavering, a pendulum
strung above our heads. When was the sun
enough? The moon with its diminishing face?
The sea with its nets of fish? The meadow’s
yellow baskets of grain? If I was in charge
I’d say leave them there on their backs
in the grass, wondering, eating berries
and rolling toward each other’s naked bodies
for warmth, for something we’ve yet to name,
when the leaves were turning colors in their dying
and we didn’t know why, or that they would return,
bud and green. One of a billion
small miracles. This planet will again be stone.
Copyright © 2019 by Dorianne Laux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
I hear the sound of the sprinkler outside, not the soft kind we used to run through
but the hard kind that whips in one direction then cranks back and starts again.
Last night we planned to find the white argument of the Milky Way
but we are twenty years too late. Last night I cut the last stargazer
lily to wear in my hair.
This morning, the hardest geography quiz I’ve ever taken: how does one carry
oneself from mountain to lake to desert without leaving anything behind?
Perhaps I ought to have worked harder.
Perhaps I could have paid more attention.
A mountain I didn’t climb. Music I yearned for but could not achieve.
I travel without maps, free-style my scripture, pretend the sky is an adequate
representation of my spiritual beliefs.
The sprinkler switches off. The grass will be wet.
I haven’t even gotten to page 2 of my life and I’m probably more than halfway through,
who knows what kind of creature I will become.
Copyright © 2019 by Kazim Ali. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 8, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
My goal out-distances the utmost star,
Yet is encompassed in my inmost Soul;
I am my goal—my quest, to know myself.
To chart and compass this unfathomed sea,
Myself must plumb the boundless universe.
My Soul contains all thought, all mystery,
All wisdom of the Great Infinite Mind:
This is to discover, I must voyage far,
At last to find it in my pulsing heart.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 8, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.
From The Collected Poems by Stanley Kunitz (W. W. Norton, 2000). Copyright © 1978 by Stanley Kunitz. Used by permission of W. W. Norton. All rights reserved. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 29, 2014.
I thought by now my reverence would have waned,
matured to the tempered silence of the bookish or revealed
how blasé I’ve grown with age, but the unrestrained
joy I feel when a black skein of geese voyages like a dropped
string from God, slowly shifting and soaring, when the decayed
apples of an orchard amass beneath its trees like Eve’s
first party, when driving and the road Vanna-Whites its crops
of corn whose stalks will soon give way to a harvester’s blade
and turn the land to a man’s unruly face, makes me believe
I will never soothe the pagan in me, nor exhibit the propriety
of the polite. After a few moons, I’m loud this time of year,
unseemly as a chevron of honking. I’m fire in the leaves,
obstreperous as a New England farmer. I see fear
in the eyes of his children. They walk home from school,
as evening falls like an advancing trickle of bats, the sky
pungent as bounty in chimney smoke. I read the scowl
below the smiles of parents at my son’s soccer game, their agitation,
the figure of wind yellow leaves make of quaking aspens.
Copyright © 2019 by Major Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 15, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Is it winter again, is it cold again, didn't Frank just slip on the ice, didn't he heal, weren't the spring seeds planted didn't the night end, didn't the melting ice flood the narrow gutters wasn't my body rescued, wasn't it safe didn't the scar form, invisible above the injury terror and cold, didn't they just end, wasn't the back garden harrowed and planted— I remember how the earth felt, red and dense, in stiff rows, weren't the seeds planted, didn't vines climb the south wall I can't hear your voice for the wind's cries, whistling over the bare ground I no longer care what sound it makes when was I silenced, when did it first seem pointless to describe that sound what it sounds like can't change what it is— didn't the night end, wasn't the earth safe when it was planted didn't we plant the seeds, weren't we necessary to the earth, the vines, were they harvested?
Section I is reprinted from October by Louise Glück, published by Sarabande Books, Inc. Copyright © 2004 by Louise Glück. Reprinted by permission of Sarabande Books and the author. All rights reserved.
Needless to say I support the forsythia’s war
against the dull colored houses, the beagle
deciphering the infinitely complicated universe
at the bottom of a fence post. I should be gussying up
my resume, I should be dusting off my protestant work ethic,
not walking around the neighborhood loving the peonies
and the lilac bushes, not heading up Shamrock
and spotting Lucia coming down the train tracks. Lucia
who just sold her first story and whose rent is going up,
too, Lucia who says she’s moving to South America to save money,
Lucia, cute twenty-something I wish wasn’t walking down train tracks
alone. I tell her about my niece teaching in China, about the waiter
who built a tiny house in Hawaii, how he saved up, how
he had to call the house a garage to get a building permit.
Someone’s practicing the trumpet, someone’s frying bacon
and once again the wisteria across the street is trying to take over
the nation. Which could use a nice invasion, old growth trees
and sea turtles, every kind of bird marching
on Washington. If I had something in my refrigerator,
if my house didn’t look like the woman who lives there
forgot to water the plants, I’d invite Lucia home,
enjoy another hour of not thinking about not having a job,
about not having a mother to move back in with.
I could pick Lucia’s brain about our circadian rhythms,
about this space between sunrise and sunset,
ask if she’s ever managed to get inside it, the air,
the sky ethereal as all get out—so close
and no ladder in sight.
Copyright © 2021 by Valencia Robin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 6, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
I’ve been visiting again
with a sunken southern corner.
Fish smaller than first teeth, birthed from the soil,
maneuver in the glaze
where rain pools, covering the lowest stones.
Behind him, in a cracked white tub,
my knees to his sides,
left ear pressed to
the stack of bones in his neck,
I was once so terrified of my own contentment
I bit my shoulder
and drew blood there
to the surface—past it—
What I have wanted most
is many lives. One for each longing,
round and separate.
Sometimes I bring figs here, asphyxiating
in plastic, for their distant echo
of your humid, ghost-flesh air
shouldering the leaves—that almost-a-human
I was born in autumn
as it fled underground
to be fed to a body
of water that only swallows.
Copyright © 2021 by Gabrielle Bates. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 20, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.