everything i do comes down to the fact that i’ve been here before.
in some arrangement of my atoms i was allowed to be free
so don’t ask me when freedom is coming
when a certain eye of mine has seen it,
a cornea in a convoluted future recalls my freedom.
when asked about the absence of freedom, the lack of it
i laugh at the word absence, which always suggests
a presence that has left. but absence is the arena
of death, and we call the dead free (went on to glory), what
is the absence of freedom but an assumption of it?
i have never longed for something
which was not once mine. even fiction is my possession,
and flight is an act of fleeing as much as an act of flying.

Copyright © 2020 by Kara Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 3, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I’m docked at a lake that
the people don’t attend.

Machete on my hip to
make a devil cough up

blood    dust and light.
Hungry for ruins of

an afternoon of anything
wild and willing to stick

its neck through the roof
of the leftover lake. I’m

docked at a lake that ain’t
got no river    in a field that

ain’t    got no fence    under a
sun that ain’t    never heard

of mercy. I’m docked at the
edge of an unfortunate dinner

next to a wet knot of Cotton-
mouths    too big to see.

Copyright © 2019 by A. H. Jerriod Avant. This poem originally appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 2019. Used with permission of the author.

A prison is the only place that’s a prison.
Maybe your brain is a beehive—or, better:
an ants nest? A spin class?
The sand stuck in an hourglass? Your brain is like
stop it. So you practice driving with your knees,
you get all the way out to the complex of Little League fields,
you get chicken fingers with four kinds of mustard—
spicy, whole grain, Dijon, yellow—
you walk from field to field, you watch yourself
play every position, you circle each identical game,
each predictable outcome. On one field you catch.
On one field you pitch. You are center field. You are left.
Sometimes you have steady hands and French braids.
Sometimes you slide too hard into second on purpose.
It feels as good to get the bloody knee as it does to kick yourself in the shin.
You wait for the bottom of the ninth to lay your blanket out in the sun.
Admit it, Sasha, the sun helps. Today,
the red team hits the home run. Red floods every field.
A wasp lands on your thigh. You know this feeling.

Copyright © 2020 by Sasha Debevec-McKenney. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 26, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

We knew that things were deteriorating.

Gothic houses collapsing, sharks patrolling the lagoons, 

the born-again ministers warning of an immediate conflagration.

All the flights to paradise had been cancelled and even 

pinhole cameras weren’t letting light in.

It got to be so bad we didn’t want to listen to the news anymore,

where all we were doing was gawking at someone else’s trouble.

It wasn’t worth the effort. Where was the satisfaction we longed for?  

We couldn’t sleep so would spend all night watching the full moon’s

beams cement themselves to the silky water and travel for miles 

on the waves.  Someone was rowing along the shore, 

and in the silver light the evergreens were shaking slightly. 

At the edge of the forest the thistles

were attaching themselves to the fur of animals.  

What serendipity to hitch a ride to your future.

From How to Start Over (Deerbrook Editions, 2019). Copyright © 2019 by Stuart Kestenbaum. Used with permission of the author.

I’ve lost something and I can’t describe
what it is

line

and what if that’s my job
to say how empty an absence is

line

like rolling 2 gears together
and maybe teeth are missing in one
or both

line

or maybe trying to grind
two stones that are
polished and smoothed

line

I’ve always liked 
a little grit

line

but sand in my shoes
or in my hair

line

is like shattering
a glass in carpet
and using a broom to
get it out

line

I can’t describe
what it’s like to
sit on opposite ends
of a park bench and
not know how
to get any closer

line

I miss so many things
and I’ve looked through my piggy
bank and only found pennies

line

a pile of things that are
almost completely worthless

line

a shoebox full of sporks
a well with a bucket and a rope
that’s too short

line

sometimes in my room
it’s so dark that if I wake
up I won’t know if it’s morning or night

line

imagine being someplace you know
so well but are lost and don’t have any idea
how to get out

line

the rule is, put your right hand out
lay it on the wall, and follow

line

sometimes the rules don’t apply to all of us
I don’t want to sleep here again tonight

Copyright © 2020 by Kenyatta Rogers . Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 26, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

I didn’t want to break     my own heart     

oh no you didn’t      exist as a point on a plane     

in a modern philosophy of time     my new thing  
   

nope not today     in a world where transcendent 

incompetence is easy to spot     if that’s what you want to see     

and efficiency is still the enemy     of poetry and of love
     

oh no you didn’t write     poems on forgetting     fearsome leave-taking     

or crypto-amnesia     that act of forgetting     to cite fierce attachment     

nope     today is a day to be free     to transcend pedestrian realities  
   

O ethical imperative     dire as plagiarism nope     

O emotional appropriation     not today     

one form of redress     is if you write me a letter   
  

I will write you back      give and take means 

no hearts broken     if we concede to exist     

as a sudden broken thing     not fearful enemies of love      

we grow fierce as yes     transcendence yes     

on a plane in the sky     or in my mind     

no you didn’t forget     nor did I     nope not today

Copyright © 2019 by Tina Cane. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 15, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

When we slid out of the lane.

When my sleeve caught fire.

While we fought in the snow.

While the oncologist spoke.

Before the oil spilled.

Before your retina bled.

Beyond the kids at the curb.

Beyond the turn to the forest.

After the forest turned to ashes.

After you escorted my mother out.

As I led your father in.

As the dolphin swam the derelict canal.

While the cameras filmed it dying.

While the blackout continued.

When the plane dipped.

When the bank closed.

While the water.

While the water.

And we drank it.

Copyright © 2019 by Idra Novey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 25, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

What whispers suckle, tugs
spines upright, name god.

Acolytes—mice sniffing
a wet breeze, blouse milksoaked

at an infant's cry,
universe ever expanding.

Oh cosmic through line,
teach the weaker sex your

bruising grip. May we find
statements heavy as stones

in throats, stay hands that
push away plates, backs

arched only to provoke
a conclusion. Instead, let

what's clenched uncoil,
pulse under the tongue.

At dawn, we'll rise to tuck
ribs into the smoker's belly.

Copyright © 2018 Luiza Flynn-Goodlett. “Prayer for Appetite” originally appeared in Colorado Review. Used with permission of the author.

 

rooftopping myself into       the arms of the hottest June
Seattle can give       I remind myself that I’m a seed
of desert        drought my first     language        other landscaped 
languages may thrill           but will remain
foreign                     wearing my body bold      I try to stop  
myself from giving it
the side-eye when there is no one to witness my slip of a dress and
where my arms stretch     into marks               lines mapping where
I’m coming from                        and going       I study
my scarred   topography    roughed bumped skin and fat each line 
a curve           manifesting me      visible                      I’m reminded 
of my adolescent ache for dissipation                no whiteness—  
I slathered my grainy arms with     doctor prescribed chemicals
stayed out    of the sun                and waited     for my skin to peel
an unspooling of 
thread into    momentary ocean
but between burning and
unraveling of 
scars 
gathered compliments  for my new delicate dermis
this here is always uneasy           terrain
a whipped up regret                   the family nose too thick for desirability
that teenage mirror             would not reveal the good side of bone 
or       fat     or the brown of this expanse I call                      body
each day since       is worked reflection a tending         to my own geography— 
a sharp bloom of prickly spine. 

Copyright © 2019 by Casandra López. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 25, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Indian-summer-sun
With crimson feathers whips away the mists,—
Dives through the filter of trellises
And gilds the silver on the blotched arbor-seats.
 
Now gold and purple scintillate
On trees that seem dancing
In delirium;
Then the moon
In a mad orange flare 
Floods the grape-hung night.
 

This poem is in the public domain.