I hear you
Outside my winter studio
Moaning in the alley below my bedroom window
Calling for god the machine of all magics
All spells written on our bodies
All the right incense of rank summer
The flowers breaking through the confusion

You speak for all of us
By that I mean me
You speak for me myself and I
This morning tomorrow’s and
My midnight always now, moan for me
I moan full bridge
Field of lavender
The bridge to Olosega
White sand road and men’s voices
Beneath the road flows the sea between two islands
Lavender stream
The spirits of the sea
My lovers

Copyright © 2022 by Dan Taulapapa McMullin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 24, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

you have since swallowed
so much blood, the sailboats
rap violently about the docks,
and how heavy the gulls’ wings
have grown, how sour, sourly
beloved, and what shall we then
call it, this consternation, a blue
funk, some pestilence, which hangs
or blooms or paints itself silently
within the many courtyards
of the body, or across that high
court of the skull, what looms
like another steamrolled peony,
or some pink paper moon.

Copyright © 2018 Amaud Jamaul Johnson. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Summer nights cool came down
blotting heat like a kiss for colored children.
Heat surged
as we danced jagged up and down the street,
played hide and seek.
Last night, night before
Twenty-four robbers
at my door.
I got up
let em in
Hit em in the head
with a rollin pin.

All hid? Among the leaves
of church hedges
we smelled
something slow and splendid
in our sweat.

Our fathers we knew worked good
jobs that required muscle.
Our mothers in day work
used elbow grease and unwritten receipts
for smothered chicken and gravy,
caused white women to envy and delight.

Outside mothers waited for aid checks
and a long gone man; large women
on folding chairs
ate chunks of Argo starch.

Lean days, sugar sandwiches,
ketchup, or mayonnaise.
Missing meat a vague notion.
Love, manna.

Twilight, blessed the block,
poured from a dark man’s mouth
like a spout of Joe Louis milk,
our champion toast

heralding the greatest’s arrival
however long the getting there.

Slow rocking grandmothers
spit out words into small cans
held in their hands.

Their eyes trained on us
from Deep South porches
we never left behind.

Never left us.

Even after Exodus.

Mouths wide open, we drank
the evening’s pleasures.
Men, women who loved us more
than we could have known.
We were their quick, flashing hope-
                                              treasures.
The memory of us
Their milk.     Their honey.

Copyright © 2013 by Angela Jackson. This poem originally appeared in Triquarterly, January 2013. Used with permission of the author.

The cry of the cicada
Gives us no sign
That presently it will die.

 

 

                                              —Translation by William George Aston

This poem is in the public domain.

love between us is
speech and breath. loving you is
a long river running.

From Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums. Copyright © 1998 by Sonia Sanchez. Used with the permission of Beacon Press. 

A silence slipping around like death,
Yet chased by a whisper, a sigh, a breath;
One group of trees, lean, naked and cold,
Inking their cress ’gainst a sky green-gold;
One path that knows where the corn flowers were;
Lonely, apart, unyielding, one fir;
And over it softly leaning down,
One star that I loved ere the fields went brown.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 20, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

  I have just seen a most beautiful thing,
                     Slim and still,
              Against a gold, gold sky,
              A straight black cypress,
                     Sensitive,
                     Exquisite,
                     A black finger
                     Pointing upwards.
Why, beautiful still finger, are you black?
And why are you pointing upwards?

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 29, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Little grey dreams,
I sit at the ocean’s edge,
At the grey ocean’s edge, 
With you in my lap.

I launch you, one by one,
    And one by one,
      Little grey dreams,
Under the grey, grey, clouds,
Out on the grey, grey, sea, 
You go sailing away, 
From my empty lap,
      Little grey dreams.

Sailing! Sailing!
Into the black,
At the horizon’s edge.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 26, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

On the way to water, I think, low
moan, heat too deep for me

to reach. A new noise
from a vent in the paper palace. Before,

I bounce off brick
wall, begging for a change;

the door swings open and unhinges
me to the nail. I heard ssssSMH behind me;

you not ready. As it turns out, ticks,
like cops, have a taste for black blood.

The mosquitos made a meal of me
for weeks—their walking Slurpee.

One stuck his straw in my third eye. I spell
him struck blind. My friends compile lists

of things they never knew, read me
for filth. I say in every language, I don’t have

the answers. They don’t believe me.
I stop buying tickets to the shit

show, but no matter the distance,
the smell is pervasive. In the woods,

I learned baby wolves get high
from the scent of hearts bursting

on their Instagram feeds. Serotonin
is a helluva drug. In the clearing, I strain

to hear the echoes of men whose bodies
drag the forest floor. Unfortunately, all

the witnesses withered seventy winters ago.
Blood is a potent fertilizer.

Copyright © 2018 by Krista Franklin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth, 
And laid them away in a box of gold;
Where long will cling the lips of the moth,
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth; 
I hide no hate; I am not even wroth
Who found earth’s breath so keen and cold; 
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth, 
And laid them away in a box of gold.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 7, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

The play room’s alphabet pattern padding could be pulled apart, then
repositioned; after snack, the older, all-day boys—who tore off,
one by one, the turtles’ shells, a hippo’s quiet heft, and fed
the bashful ones their heads—huddled around their stockpile of
letters and laid out a dirty word that made the other kids
giggle or gasp and Miss Margaret tap the backs of their hands with
the yellow wooden yardstick. I couldn’t read yet.
I wouldn’t talk, either;
                              my language was the felt
flowers in the clear plastic tub, at the back table by the window, which
looked out at the slide, glistening like a tongue in
the brash noon light. An older boy stole
my poppy, so I assembled a pansy, pre-cut
by Miss Margaret at her house after school. I imagined her
pouring over a private abundance 
of patterned scissors for the jaggedness of a lily’s leaf, then the sturdy
kitchen shears for a pile of rose petals. Years later, she’d return beneath
the tangled top sheet of dreams, and before I could smooth
the intrusion in me, a muscle-drenched arm—veins like a textbook’s
anatomical orchid, dense hair
like my father had—guided her two fingers farther
into the scissor’s doubled gape—
                                                  Blistering then in the fully-bloomed heat,
the swings seemed to rock, but within themselves, the way
a lightbulb, untouched for years, holds a spasm
in its tungsten, a self-possessed momentum, awaiting fingers
on the switch. A group of girls, that day, trudged over, 
at Miss Margaret’s insistence, barrettes wincing above their ears, 
the button I’d cut from my best Sunday dress a makeshift bud 
atop a glue glob smear. They asked me if I wanted
to play house. I set my pink felt down.
                                              I didn’t know I could be the father, so
I said I’d be the dog. They named me Princess. One girl put on
an apron, white plastic pearls. Two others, fabric dolls in hand,
the daughters. One adhered
                                    a costume mustache and a voice
absurdly low. We arranged the mats by color for the rooms in our
make-believe home. I played my part; I laid in the yard, 
on the green pieces, the letters, an F, an A. My job, I’d decided, was not
to bound into the room, pretend-panting at my family’s feet,
with the whimper
                         dogs give when they want to be loved, but—
watching Miss Margaret tend to the bullies, our tiny table set, 
the family complete, curled up in
my own constant obstinate heat—to guard my made-up post,
on the bladeless lawn, alone, even if anyone called my name.

Copyright © 2021 by Noah Baldino. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 24, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.