from “Mama and Papa Have the Going Home Shiprock Blues”

Forever.
And ever.
And ever.
There’s my cousin. Auntie. Uncle.
Another cousin.
Ever.
And ever.
And ever.
Vending machines and pop.
Chips, candy, and not enough clean water.
And ever, ever, ever.
Waiting and tired.
Tired of waiting.
Forever.
And ever.
And ever.
Go water the horses.

This poem was commissioned for T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America, a book edited by Karen Kramer and published by Peabody Essex Museum. Copyright © 2018 by Joy Harjo. Used with the permission of the author.

from “Mama and Papa Have the Going Home Shiprock Blues”

Forever.
And ever.
And ever.
There’s my cousin. Auntie. Uncle.
Another cousin.
Ever.
And ever.
And ever.
Vending machines and pop.
Chips, candy, and not enough clean water.
And ever, ever, ever.
Waiting and tired.
Tired of waiting.
Forever.
And ever.
And ever.
Go water the horses.

This poem was commissioned for T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America, a book edited by Karen Kramer and published by Peabody Essex Museum. Copyright © 2018 by Joy Harjo. Used with the permission of the author.

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
And mouth with myriad subtleties,

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
     We wear the mask.

We smile, but oh great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile,
But let the world dream otherwise,
     We wear the mask!

This poem is in the public domain.

all the forbidden fruit I ever 
dreamt of--or was taught to 
resist and fear--ripens and 
blossoms under the palms of my 
hands as they uncover and explore 
you--and in the most secret 
corners of my heart as it discovers 
and adores you--the forbidden fruit 
of forgiveness--the forbidden fruit 
of finally feeling the happiness 
you were afraid you didn't deserve-- 
the forbidden fruit of my life's labor
--the just payment I have avoided 
since my father taught me how-- 
the forbidden fruit of the secret 
language of our survivors' souls as 
they unfold each others secret 
ballots--the ones where we voted 
for our first secret desires to come 
true--there's so much more
I want to say to you--but for 
the first time in my life I'm at 
a loss for words--because 
(I understand at last) 
I don't need them 
to be heard by you.

From It Takes One to Know One by Michael Lally, published by Black Sparrow Press. Copyright © 2001 by Michael Lally. Reprinted with the permission of Black Sparrow Press. All rights reserved.

Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up

From Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara. Copyright © 1964 by Frank O'Hara. Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books. All rights reserved.

I 

Throughout the afternoon I watched them there, 
Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky, 
Whirling fantastic in the misty air, 
Contending fierce for space supremacy. 
And they flew down a mightier force at night, 
As though in heaven there was revolt and riot, 
And they, frail things had taken panic flight 
Down to the calm earth seeking peace and quiet. 
I went to bed and rose at early dawn 
To see them huddled together in a heap, 
Each merged into the other upon the lawn, 
Worn out by the sharp struggle, fast asleep. 
The sun shone brightly on them half the day, 
By night they stealthily had stol'n away. 


II 

And suddenly my thoughts then turned to you 
Who came to me upon a winter's night, 
When snow-sprites round my attic window flew, 
Your hair disheveled, eyes aglow with light. 
My heart was like the weather when you came, 
The wanton winds were blowing loud and long; 
But you, with joy and passion all aflame, 
You danced and sang a lilting summer song. 
I made room for you in my little bed, 
Took covers from the closet fresh and warm, 
A downful pillow for your scented head, 
And lay down with you resting in my arm. 
You went with Dawn. You left me ere the day, 
The lonely actor of a dreamy play.

This poem is in the public domain.

I find myself most alone 
When I believe I am striving for glory. 

These times, cool and sharp,  
A monument of moon-white stone 

lodges in place near my heart. 
In a dream, my children  

Glisten inside raindrops, or teardrops. 
Like strangers, like seeds of children.  

I will only be allowed to claim them 
if I consent to love everyone’s children. 

If I consent to love everyone’s children, 
Only then will I be allowed to claim them, 

My strangers, my seeds of children, 
Glistening inside raindrops or teardrops 

In my dream. Children 
Lodged in place near my heart— 

A monument of moon-white stone, 
Cool and sharp. 

I believe I am striving for glory 
When I find myself most alone. 

Copyright © 2024 by Tracy K. Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 20, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.