Assétou Xango performs at Cafe Cultura in Denver.

“Give your daughters difficult names.
Names that command the full use of the tongue.
My name makes you want to tell me the truth.
My name does not allow me to trust anyone
who cannot pronounce it right.”
      —Warsan Shire

Many of my contemporaries,
role models,
But especially,

Have a name that brings the tongue to worship.
Names that feel like ritual in your mouth.

I don’t want a name said without pause,
muttered without intention.

I am through with names that leave me unmoved.
Names that leave the speaker’s mouth unscathed.

I want a name like fire,
like rebellion,
like my hand gripping massa’s whip—

I want a name from before the ships
A name Donald Trump might choke on.

I want a name that catches you in the throat
if you say it wrong
and if you’re afraid to say it wrong,
then I guess you should be.

I want a name only the brave can say
a name that only fits right in the mouth of those who love me right,
because only the brave
can love me right

Assétou Xango is the name you take when you are tired
of burying your jewels under thick layers of
and self-doubt.

Assétou the light
Xango the pickaxe
so that people must mine your soul
just to get your attention.

If you have to ask why I changed my name,
it is already too far beyond your comprehension.
Call me callous,
but with a name like Xango
I cannot afford to tread lightly.
You go hard
or you go home
and I am centuries
and ships away
from any semblance
of a homeland.

I am a thief’s poor bookkeeping skills way from any source of ancestry.
I am blindly collecting the shattered pieces of a continent
much larger than my comprehension.

I hate explaining my name to people:
their eyes peering over my journal
looking for a history they can rewrite

Ask me what my name means...
What the fuck does your name mean Linda?

Not every word needs an English equivalent in order to have significance.

I am done folding myself up to fit your stereotype.
Your black friend.
Your headline.
Your African Queen Meme.
Your hurt feelings.
Your desire to learn the rhetoric of solidarity
without the practice.

I do not have time to carry your allyship.

I am trying to build a continent,
A country,
A home.

My name is the only thing I have that is unassimilated
and I’m not even sure I can call it mine.

The body is a safeless place if you do not know its name.

Assétou is what it sounds like when you are trying to bend a syllable
into a home.
With shaky shudders
And wind whistling through your empty,

I feel empty.

There is no safety in a name.
No home in a body.

A name is honestly just a name
A name is honestly just a ritual

And it still sounds like reverence.

Copyright © 2017 Assétou Xango. Used with permission of the poet. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 9, 2020. 

I find an upscale bistro with a big screen at the bar.
The Williams Sisters will step out on to this Center Court,
for the very first time as a team. I celebrate the event
with my very first Cosmopolitan. I feel like a kid

watching TV in the Before Times: miraculously, Nat King Cole or
Pearl Bailey would appear on the Dinah Shore Show or Ed Sullivan.
Amazed, we’d run to the phone, call up the aunts and cousins.
Quick! Turn on Channel 10!... Three minutes of pride...

Smiling at no one in particular, I settle in to enjoy the match.
What is the commentator saying? He thinks it’s important
to describe their opponents to us: one is “dark,”
the other “blonde.” He just can’t bring himself to say:

Venus & Serena. Look at these two Classy Sisters:
Serious. Strategic. Black. Pounding History.

Copyright © 2020 by Kate Rushin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 13, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Come, “Will,” let’s be good friends again, 
     Our wrongs let’s be forgetting, 
For words bring only useless pain, 
     So wherefore then be fretting. 

Let’s lay aside imagined wrongs, 
    And ne’er give way to grieving,
Life should be filled with joyous songs, 
    No time left for deceiving. 

I’ll try and not give way to wrath, 
    Nor be so often crying; 
There must some thorns be in our path, 
    Let’s move them now by trying. 

How, like a foolish pair were we, 
    To fume about a letter; 
Time is so precious, you and me; 
    Must spend ours doing better.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 6, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I thought it was the neighbor’s cat back
to clean the clock of the fledgling robins low
in their nest stuck in the dense hedge by the house
but what came was much stranger, a liquidity
moving all muscle and bristle. A groundhog
slippery and waddle thieving my tomatoes still
green in the morning’s shade. I watched her
munch and stand on her haunches taking such
pleasure in the watery bites. Why am I not allowed
delight? A stranger writes to request my thoughts
on suffering. Barbed wire pulled out of the mouth,
as if demanding that I kneel to the trap of coiled
spikes used in warfare and fencing. Instead,
I watch the groundhog closer and a sound escapes
me, a small spasm of joy I did not imagine
when I woke. She is a funny creature and earnest,
and she is doing what she can to survive.

Copyright © 2020 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The great thing
is not having
a mind. Feelings:
oh, I have those; they
govern me. I have
a lord in heaven
called the sun, and open
for him, showing him
the fire of my own heart, fire
like his presence.
What could such glory be
if not a heart? Oh my brothers and sisters,
were you like me once, long ago,
before you were human? Did you
permit yourselves
to open once, who would never
open again? Because in truth
I am speaking now
the way you do. I speak
because I am shattered.

From The Wild Iris, published by Ecco Press, 1992. Copyright © 1992 by Louise Glück. All rights reserved. Used with permission. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on October 10, 2020.

That’s us: the bruise on my thigh, a Camel
dangling from your beautiful mouth
and this our favorite wedding picture. The vows:
      (1) Do I take thee Wife
as wedge against the fear

of sleeping alone
in Southeast Asia?

      (2) Do I take thee Husband as solace
for all the girls ever wanted? For the ones kissed

and held by and held.

Twenty years later I am queer as
a happy Monday and you dead from cancer—

lung or liver, I no longer know
anyone to ask and made up the cause, cancer 
I say, because the paper said you died at home.
And that there was a child after besides the one before
and nothing to mark the one 
we washed away.
I dream of her sometimes, little toothless sack of skin.
with something, nothing, something 
swimming inside. 
                                     But more often
I dream of a house I once lived in,

a certain room, a street, its light. I wake 
trying to remember which country, 
what language. Not the house
where we lived and its bodies.
How they come and go

late at night, nearly dawn. I am making 
crepes and coffee and the group from the bar 
can’t believe their luck.
What did we talk about? I am trying to remember
and not trying to remember
how I tried or never tried to love you.

Copyright © 2020 by Janet McAdams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 25, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

From The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994) by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the author.

for Maya

We meet at a coffee shop. So much time has passed and who is time? Who is waiting by the windowsill? We make plans to go to a museum but we go to a bookshop instead. We’re leaning in, learning how to talk to each other again. I say, I’m obsessed with my grief and she says, I’m always in mourning. She laughs and it’s an extension of her body. She laughs and it moves the whole room. I say, My home is an extension of my body and she says, Most days are better with a long walk. The world moves without us—so we tend to a garden, a graveyard, a pot on the windowsill. Death is a comfort because it says, Transform but don’t hurry. There is a tenderness to growing older and we are listening for it. Steadier ways to move through the world and we are learning them. A way to touch your own body. A touch that says, Dig deeper. There, in the ground, there is our memory. I am near enough my roots. Time is my friend. Tomorrow is a place we are together.

Copyright © 2021 by Sanna Wani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

she says the planets & stars show that I’m too good at being alone
I have unresolved traumas from past lives it is true
there were difficulties during my delivery even in the womb
I had a bad feeling cord around my throat as I tried
to make passage forced into this world or rather out of another
by extraction the witch asks if I often feel guilty
asks if I try to heal those around me despite finding it difficult
to bond with anyone other than myself
she wants to know about my childhood memories
if I’m alone in them
& I admit I stop listening though I can still hear
the untroubled tone in her voice vowels elongated
mouth full of sounds like spandex bursting at the seams
I want to go back to the stars we’ve strayed so far from the planets
she says there’s much to learn about my sources of pain
the gaping wound I will try to alleviate for the rest of my life
I want to touch her long hair as if it were my hair
I want to convince her I believe in everything she believes
but I demand too much of faith
like apples in the market I inspect the curves & creases
put them back at the slightest sign of bruising

Copyright © 2021 by Eloisa Amezcua. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 19, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

On nights like this, she sleeps with the car’s jack handle
            in her hand, the smell of oil and metal oddly comforting
in such a public place. She keeps her clothes

in a cardboard box on the ’54 Chevy’s back seat,
            along with a green wool blanket, two towels, a bag
of books. And tonight she piles blouses, blue jeans,

sweater, skirt—all of it—on top of her body, hunkering
            down low on the front seat. She’s parked beneath
the brightest overhanging street light she could find

at the edge of this shopping mall parking lot, slammed
            the door locks down tight. Tomorrow, she’ll drive
across town, tell a pack of lies to a do-gooder doctor.

She’ll lie about her name, her address, her age—
            she’ll invent a husband. After the impossible
calendar questions, the awkward, back-opening

gown, the cold feet in iron stirrups, the knees
            spreading, the gloved hand pressing, the fingers
probing—the earnest-faced doctor will tell her

(while pulling gloves off, while tossing them
            into a gray metal bin), will tell her: yes. A baby
is arriving in late August—as if

she should expect a visitor, maybe stepping off
            the Greyhound bus, suitcase in hand—
and she remembers how her grandmother would call

her period the unwelcome visitor, how she’d say
            the only thing worse than the monthly visitor
is no visitor at all. The doctor will say everything

looks fine. He’ll say No charge for today. He’ll smile a little,
            shake her hand. The best he can do.
Then he’ll leave her alone in that white, white room

and she’ll button up her wrinkled work uniform, slip out
            onto the street, and make her way back
to the shopping mall to work the snack bar’s sorry

evening shift, serving coffee, burgers and fries to bored
            store clerks and tired housewives. Soon, like everyone else,
her high school principal will notice the swelling arc

of her belly, and he’ll call her into his windowless office,
            sit her down on a metal chair, and recite
district policy excluding pregnant students

from attending school. He will insist
            it’s for her own good. The girl will say he’s wrong.
She’ll say she’s not pregnant at all. He’ll call in

the kind, freckled woman who teaches history, and the girl
            will deny it again. She’ll deny it
over and over—to all of them—determined to hold them off

until graduation in June. Spring will be long, and filled with rain.
            But tonight, large flakes of snow hover in the light
and she thinks of her mother, scrambling toward the promise

of a job—her mother and the five younger kids, sleeping
            600 miles away on the floor of a rented house in a warm
desert town this girl has never seen, and she starts the car, lets it run

a few minutes with heater on and the urgency
            of Grace Slick’s “Somebody to Love” on the radio,
and she pulls the blanket close around her shoulders, imagines

the dense, pressed asphalt under the car, and the ancient
            earth beneath the asphalt, and she watches
the snow grow heavy, pile up, darkening.

Copyright © 2021 by Corrinne Clegg Hales. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 3, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sometimes I still think of Gertrude 
and all her privacies, of the tenuous
sheen of her thin gray hair,
and the sculptural, elegant way 
she piled it high up on her head. 
                                       Even now
typing these simple words, vividly
she returns, conjuring the images 
that made her real, transcending
the withered anonymities of elderly
citizens one passes in the street
without even noticing a whole life
is walking by…  

agony seemed different from ours.
Older. Well-thumbed. Polite
And buckled to her person
Like a well-fitting garment. Ours?
Untamed, sharp-edged and shouting.
Hungry infant, railing in a crib. Not 
noiseless and ancient like hers.  
Nor glamorous as a hologram
Of anguish, flickering and glittering
with broken fragments of 
captured light which lit her up
inside her grief and made her

              Surely she could not 
be as fragile as she looked,
carrying that weight. We craved
the object lesson of her tragedy 
thinking it would teach us how 
to transcend our sobbing, 
corporeal essences that grieved 
us so, and held us back as we 
kept on searching for the sure 
way out: the red door marked exit 
that Gertrude (we assumed) 
had passed through long before.

If you’re lucky, she once said
elliptically and apropos of nothing 
specific, It will bring you to your knees, 
speaking so softly we could barely 
even hear her, her legs crossed at the ankles
arranged off center, cotillion style 
of the debutante she once had been.  
Her vein-swollen, bony hand
gestured midpoint of her chest 
as if something still lodged there 
that had never broken free.

The rest of us felt shocked then—or I did
anyway—perceiving the torment 
still living inside her that we thought
she had conquered. The mystery was how
someone insignificant and ordinary
as Gertrude had redistributed 
that weight, and reoriented
the magnetic poles that for us
always defaulted to agony.  

She had been our hero,
icon of a victory that could
one day be ours if we learned
to live as Gertrude lived: elegant
and stoical, silencing our constant
clamoring for relief. But now 
here she was: testifying to victory 
or defeat? We could not tell, and that
Fucked us up. Oracular and  
Eternal was what we’d
thought she was. In possession 
of the answer. Instead,
her image and her words— 
It will bring you to your knees
turned us back into ourselves.
where the suffering was,
and the mystery, and offered 
no answer but the hard shock 
of our knees knocking against 
the earth, and the prickling burn 
of blood breaking its barrier of skin
and starting to flow.

Copyright © 2021 by Kate Daniels. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 29, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

we were never caught

we partied the southwest, smoked it from L.A. to El Dorado
worked odd jobs between delusions of escape
drunk on the admonitions of parents, parsons & professors
driving faster than the road or law allowed.
our high-pitched laughter was young, heartless & disrespected
authority. we could be heard for miles in the night

the Grand Canyon of a new manhood.
womanhood discovered
like the first sighting of Mount Wilson

we rebelled against the southwestern wind

we got so naturally ripped, we sprouted wings,
crashed parties on the moon, and howled at the earth

we lived off love. It was all we had to eat

when you split you took all the wisdom
and left me the worry

Copyright © 2001 by Wanda Coleman. Reprinted from Mercurochrome: New Poems with the permission of Black Sparrow Press. All rights reserved.

You can’t remember what they did to you. Your loneliness isn’t welcome here, you know, but still you walk the dream-lit village, looking for someone gentle enough. There must be an animal trapped under your shirt, you think, because little claws scratch against your chest and you throb there, but you're afraid to look because looking means remembering. You ask a man passing on the road to lift your shirt and check and he retches at what he sees, says the flesh there overflows, as if grinding its own meat, that strips of skin curl away from the wound like rot mushrooms growing on a tree, and he can't help you, you make him sick, he says, he has to go now, so you wander some more until you reach the gate, which is the end of who you could have been, the end of the dream of your body made full with starmilk, propelled by a heart of sea anemone. You’ll be hungry forever if you stay here, trying to hide your secret mouth from all this light. Before you can cross the gate into that dark valley, you must look at yourself. You can think of other words for red: crimson, cherry, scarlet. But there's no other name for blood, no name for a shame like this, its hiss of pain when you press your finger to it, the sweet stain it leaves on your fingertip. You just have to taste it.

Copyright © 2021 by Sara Eliza Johnson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 6, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

9 Enigmatic Quatrains / 3 Stealth Couplets


                                   the feminine subject &/or 
                                   dispossession &/or
                                   the posthuman &/or
                                   are(n’t) we all postracial yet? &/or

                                   the lure of technocracy &/or
                                   freedom to fail &/or
                                   an imaginary racism &/or
                                   the fanaticism of the apocalypse &/or

                                   a biography of ordinary man &/or
                                   the feminine subject &/or
                                   general theory of victims &/or
                                   intellectuals and power &/or

                                   the insurrection of the victim &/or
                                   classification struggles



                                   clint eastwood’s america &/or
                                   spike lee’s america &/or
                                   alfred hitchcock’s america &/or
                                   steven spielberg’s america &/or

                                   martin scorsese’s america &/or
                                   foucault now &/or
                                   derrida now &/or
                                   rancière now &/or

                                   nancy now &/or
                                   xenofeminism &/or
                                   narcocapitalism &/or
                                   why philosophize? &/or

                                   playstation dream world &/or
                                   persons and things



                                   human dignity &/or
                                   dream notes &/or
                                   abstracts and brief chronicles of the time &/or
                                   the feminine subject &/or

                                   old women in bloom &/or
                                   the art of freedom &/or
                                   eve escapes &/or
                                   zero’s neighbor &/or

                                   philosophical introductions &/or
                                   five approaches to communicative reason &/or
                                   the triumph of religion &/or
                                   networks of outrage and hope &/or

                                   search engine society &/or
                                   a history of silence

Copyright © 2021 by Joan Retallack. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 30, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I was newly naked: aware of myself
as a separate self, distinct from dirt and bone. 

I had not hands enough, 
and so, finally, uncrossed my arms.

In trying to examine one body part, 
I’d lose sight of another. I couldn’t 

imagine what I looked like during 
the fractured angles of sex.

At the river’s edge, it was impossible
to see all of myself at once.

I began to understand nakedness
as a feeling.

It was a snake, loose and green;
it was the snake skin, coiled and discarded.

The shedding chained itself 
like a balloon ribboned to a child’s wrist.

Morning’s birdsong reminded me
of the sloughing off of skin.

The rumored beauty of my husband’s first 
wife never bothered me before.

I missed the sensation of being fixed
in amber. Then the hair in the comb, 

fingernail clippings, the red mole on my
left breast grown suddenly bigger.  

I perceived my likeness in everything:
the lines on my palm as the veins

of a leaf, my mind as a swarm of flies 
humming over something sugary or dead,

my vulnerability as the buck
I’d kill then wrap myself inside, 

my hair as switchgrass, twine, and nest, 
a roving cloud my every limb.

Copyright © 2021 by Ama Codjoe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 1, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

We prefer to do it with the lights on, 
the Victrola scratching How long can it last?
against the tremble of curtains. Patient,
we learn the walls, their glossary of knocks,
translating harlequin and dust. What we
know lives here—lonely bone star blossom
of the spider plant, lost bee on the sill,
the recorder’s static alive and puckering.
I tell you our future is the guttering candle
in the basement birdcage. Prove it, you say,
and I set both its shadows swaying. Our history—
the attic window, how the unseen surprises
the photograph. You ask what is there
to be afraid of. I ask the past to make itself
known to me. We only have to make it through
the night, so we close the dolls’ eyes. Danger
midwifes the heart’s spring. We are cabbage roses 
grooming the parlor air with unsexed pistils. 
I have this kiss and its sleepless itinerary. 
Your lip, pink logic and cushion. The door 
tests its lock, and I let you ruin each light
orb and whisper with physics. If we’re sure
something is here, then we have to find out 
what it wants. A voice on the recorder, sweet
as gravecake—don’t go. We can admit it wasn’t
proof we came for, it was the question.

Copyright © 2021 by Traci Brimhall. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

curry nipple / shrapnel bindi / lassi whiplash / lengha language / rumproof canefield / erotic indenture / henna pregnancy / golden roti / chocolate kajal / pagan burial / choke me / kindly in / these archives / camphor mothbites / grandmother’s saris / drowning dowry / wield the / mace and / master me


this is not a burning / these are not white spells


witch hindu walks everywhere on blue throated feet
scattering febrile cockheads, emptying all bad seed
witch hindu knows your atmosphere, can taste it in
the charnel house your kind raped my kind adjacent
to without a single prayer for the irradiated skin, o
witch hindu promises you will not be able to think of
sorries in the land where reparations are drawn first
from the battlements of your thighs, o descendants
of sailors and minstrels of thanes and thieves and kin
who walk upright and never permit their girlfriends


to come


witch hindu has a ceremony for you under the cutlass
of her tongue, gathering all the hymens of indenture
in her four arms as ribboning hurricanes, glowering
pregnant, growing darjeeling and lanate and rum


mortuary deya / guillotine kohl / grandfather’s cutlass / hidden beef / halogenic boneshards / India, disgorged / these archives / kindly / choke in me / consummation dagger / turban deathmask / holy pornshop / hunted bride / translucent elephant / trampling down


these are not white burnings / this is not your spell

Copyright © 2021 by Shivanee Ramlochan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 26, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

after a promise by Staceyann Chin

Because I don’t
             have to anymore, 
I pray for you
             who never had to 
be—& wonder 
             what god might
damn that girl 
             to labor through
another man’s 
             command to 
create anything
             but herself. 
Who’s to say   
             what might
have arrived
             instead of me?
Holy is what
             happens when
there’s nothing    
             between your belief
& what you do.
             Holy is the savior
I was taught
             would come
eventually, but
             looking back
was you. Blessed 
             be that parking lot—
its early, empty
             peace—& blessed 
be the ring of keys
             who made her 
rounds & kept 
             you feeling safe.
Blessed be
             the woman I
would meet
             & not have to
become; praises 
             for this sleeping
child we chose
               & what new mercies
time divulged: nurse
             at your shoulder, 
doctor at your 
             feet: then’s only, 
holy trinity
             that made this 
life complete.

Copyright © 2021 by Meg Day. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 16, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I know you love me better, cold—
Strange as the pyramids of old,
But I am frail, am spent and weak
With surging torrents that bespeak
A living fire!
So, like a veil, my poor disguise
Is draped to save me from your eyes’
Deep challenges.
Fain would I fling this robe aside
And from you, in your bosom hide
You love me better cold,
Like frozen pyramids of old,

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 11, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

We shall have our little day.
Take my hand and travel still
Round and round the little way,
Up and down the little hill.

It is good to love again;
Scan the renovated skies,
Dip and drive the idling pen,
Sweetly tint the paling lies.

Trace the dripping, piercèd heart,
Speak the fair, insistent verse,
Vow to God, and slip apart,
Little better, little worse.

Would we need not know before
How shall end this prettiness;
One of us must love the more,
One of us shall love the less.

Thus it is, and so it goes;
We shall have our day, my dear.
Where, unwilling, dies the rose
Buds the new, another year.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 23, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I shall gather myself into myself again,
   I shall take my scattered selves and make them one,
Fusing them into a polished crystal ball
   Where I can see the moon and the flashing sun.

I shall sit like a sibyl, hour after hour intent,
   Watching the future come and the present go,
And the little shifting pictures of people rushing
   In restless self-importance to and fro.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 30, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

out of the way. It knows that I tend to cling
to potential in the dark, that I am myself only
as I am beguiled by the moon’s lunatic luster,
when the streets are so bare they grow voices.
The sun has lost patience with my craving
for the night’s mass-produced romance, that
dog-eared story where every angle is exquisite,
and ghostly suitors, their sleek smells exploding,
queue up to ravish my waning. Bursting with
bluster, the sun backslaps the moon to reveal
me, splintered, kissing the boulevard face first,
clutching change for a jukebox that long ago
lost its hunger for quarters. It wounds the sun
to know how utterly I have slipped its gilded
clutch to become its most mapless lost cause.
Her eye bulging, she besieges me with bright.
So I remind her that everything dies. All the
brilliant bitch can do for me then is spit light
on the path while I search for a place to sleep.

Copyright © 2022 by Patricia Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 25, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

As a fathom of waters 
As a keeper of otters 
As a fan of the Dodgers 
As a foremost scholar 
As a leaver of mothers 
As a giver of quarters 
As a failure of rathers 
As a faithful supporter 
As we gather together 
As a fear of disorder 
As a phantom of operas 
As defender of borders 
As a frayer of wires 
As a friend of the doctor’s 
As an author of gospels 
As a field after slaughter

Copyright © 2022 by Hannah Aizenman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 1, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Where does the future live in your body? 
Touch it 

Sri Lankan radical women never come alone. 
We have a tradition of coming in groups of three or four, minimum.
The Thiranagama sisters are the most famous and beloved,
but in the ’20s my appamma and great-aunties were the Wild Alvis Girls.
Then there’s your sister, your cousin, your great-aunties 
everyone infamous and unknown. 
We come in packs                       we argue 
we sneak each other out of the house                       we have passionate  agreements and disagreements 
we love each other very much but can’t stand to be in the same room or  continent for years. 
We do things like, oh, start the first rape crisis center in Jaffna in a war zone
in someone’s living room with no funding. 
When war forces our hands, 
we all move to Australia or London or Thunder Bay together
or, if the border does not love us, we are what keeps Skype in business.
When one or more of us is murdered 
by the state or a husband 
we survive 
whether we want to or not. 

I am an only child 
I may not have been born into siblinghood 
but I went out and found mine
Made mine. 

We come in packs 
even when we are alone 

Because sometimes the only ancestral sisterlove waiting for you
is people in books, dreams 
aunties you made up 
people waiting for you in the clouds ten years in the future 
and when you get there  
you make your pack 
and you send that love 

When the newly disabled come 
they come bearing terror and desperate. Everyone else has left them
to drown on the titanic. They don’t know that there is anyone
but the abled. They come asking for knowledge 
that is common to me as breath, and exotic to them as, well,
being disabled and not hating yourself. 
They ask about steroids and sleep. About asking for help.
About how they will ever possibly convince their friends and family
they are not lazy and useless. 
I am generous—we crips always are. 
They were me. 
They don’t know if they can call themselves that
they would never use that word, but they see me calling myself that,
i.e., disabled, and the lens is blurring, maybe there is another world
they have never seen
where crips limp slowly, laugh, have shitty and good days
recalibrate the world to our bodies instead of sprinting trying to keep up.
Make everyone slow down to keep pace with us. 

Sometimes, when I’m about to email the resource list, 
the interpreter phone numbers, the hot chronic pain tips, the best place to rent a ramp, 
my top five favorite medical cannabis strains, my extra dermal lidocaine  patch
—it’s about to expire, but don’t worry, it’s still good—I want to slip in a
P.S. that says, 
remember back when I was a crip
and you weren’t, how I had a flare and had to cancel our day trip
and when I told you, you looked confused
and all you knew how to say was, Boooooooooo!
as I was lying on the ground trying to breathe?
Do you even remember that? 
Do your friends say that to you now? 
Do you want to come join us, on the other side? 
Is there a free future in this femme of color disabled body?

When I hear my femme say, When I’m old and am riding a motorcycle with  white hair down my back.
When I hear my femme say, When I’m old and sex work paid off my house  and my retirement.
When I hear my femme/myself say, When I get dementia and I am held with respect when I am between all worlds.
When I see my femme packing it all in, because crip years are like dog years and you never know when they’re going to shoot Old Yeller.
When I hear my femme say, when I quit my teaching gig and never have to  deal with white male academic nonsense again.

When I hear us plan the wheelchair accessible femme of color trailer park,
the land we already have a plan to pay the taxes on 
See the money in the bank and the ways we grip our thighs back to ourselves 

When I hear us dream our futures, 
believe we will make it to one, 
We will make one. 

The future lives in our bodies 
Touch it.

Originally published in Hematopoiesis Press, Issue 2. Copyright © 2017 by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Used with the permission of the author. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 12, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Aging, at all. I want that. And to fall
perhaps most honestly in love
beside the ocean, in a home I’ve paid
for by doing as I like: drinking good
wine, dusting sugar over a croissant, or
the stage play I’m writing myself into.
Aging Black woman in neutral summer
turtleneck. Known. And jogging. Lonesome
enough. Eating homemade lavender
ice cream, the moon blooming
through the kitchen window. The distant
sound of waves. Learning
French as a second language.
Votre pâte merveilleux, I smile back.
And then, just like that! Falling, cautiously,
for my busy, middle-aged lover,
who needs me, but has never truly seen me
until now. Our Black friends, celebrating
with hors d’oeuvres. Our Black children
growing older.

Copyright © 2022 by Rio Cortez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 22, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

For further reference: I go to love
like a fire engine to a three-alarm,                              flashing

and spinning, yelling across town. Nothing
to be afraid of: the ceiling falling,                                windows 

concave, doors bowed and stiff. My body 
parts fall to, like I was made                                        of the heat. 

Everyone watches, chest-clutching, pointing. 
Inhalation will surely be the cause of                         my death.

Urban myth says an aging vagina once
well-used will shrink from lack                                    of exercise.

I would think, instead, like the collar of a sweater,
stretched, gaping. Or a fish out                                   of water,

grasping for purchase. A soft pop every time
you check to see whether or not                                 it is dead.

I want a song to be written about me: black
pearls, sulfur, bronze-plated silver.                             It should 

have a verse about blood-soaked hands,
a chorus that is a shout of                                            AAAAAHHHHH!

[Sing it with me:                                                              AAAAAHHHHH!]

It won’t be a song where someone stares into 
lit windows from the end of a driveway                     on the last note.

Copyright © 2022 by C. Prudence Arceneaux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 29, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Odd how you entered my house quietly,
Quietly left again.
While you stayed you ate at my table,
Slept in my bed.
There was much sweetness,
Yet little was done, little said.
After you left there was pain,
Now there is no more pain.

But the door of a certain room in my house
Will be always shut.
Your fork, your plate, the glass you drank from,
The music you played,
Are in that room
With the pillow where last your head was laid.
And there is one place in my garden
Where it’s best that I set no foot.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 5, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

                                                          the disembodied voice ribs
in the clip of the snake whirlpooling itself to a fake death.
            Blech, she belches, blepp,
as the faux-bra scrapes, underside-up along the grass, forked
                                                          tongue trailing the coil. Oh,
I’m dead—but we know it’s not. The touch-me-not gapes
            its mouth long enough
to be patted again by the cowgirl who runs one finger a length
                                                          of ventral scales. With shit
it musks itself, sometimes punctures a bleed in its commitment
            to being left alone.
I rewind to the seconds of its resurrection, when it flips to flee,
                                                          and pause to admire its hog-
nose of a snout, upturned and useful, subtle shovel in the plot.

Copyright © 2022 by Janine Joseph. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 30, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

She really let herself go.

This story is hard to tell. 
When the men you love
insist a woman hold on
let herself go 
let herself loose
let herself leave
let herself depart
let herself mobilize
let herself imagine
let herself grow
big enough to lift off
the runway 
like a jet
full of fuel.

Copyright © 2022 by Stacey Waite. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 22, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

She asks me to write a list
of all the names I’ve been called.
And then a list of things
that are killing me.
Where to start? Susie. Sue.
Big Head. Men have called me cold.
Men I know, men I don’t.
It’s all over the news
how they want to kill me.
It doesn’t matter what they
call me. When I was 17, I kneeled
on the stained carpet at Men’s Wearhouse,
looping a tape measure around
a small boy’s waist and he showed me
my name. He pulled his eyes slant
as I measured the distance
between belly button and floor: inseam
or outseam, it’s hard to keep track.
A wedding, his father said.
There was going to be a wedding.
The boy needed a tux.
I don’t like this memory
because I did nothing.
In remembering,
I become nothing again.
Not long after in college,
I was sorting clothes in the back
of a Goodwill. Court-ordered community
service. An older man took
his time looking me up
and down as I sweat through my shirt,
threw pit-stained blouses
into the discard pile,
everything else the salvaging bin.
I went home with him for years,
not knowing about the prior assaults.
Would my knowing have changed
anything? He was gentle
to my face. I only ignored
his texts sometimes.
Men have destroyed me
for less. Even the boy.
I’m supposed to tell you
I forgive him—
he was just a boy.
I forgive myself instead.

Copyright © 2022 by Susan Nguyen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 26, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

What  back  we spring from.  
What   woman   we   unravel  
from.    What     blade    pour  
howling into  our  pearltight  
mouth.  We  am diamond in  
land’s eye we am rotwitness  
moving     lightmemory    we  
tell.   We   treetalk.   All   the  
yous  untangling in our own  
body.  We  see all  our child.  
We gave our  tooths for  our  
sight    and   swallow   ocean  
eye. You know. You know in  
your   deep.  Open.   We  am  
the  coin  in  your throat  for  
passage. We  am  the bodies  
in the river. We am the river  
birth  you. We  am language  
in        your        body.       We    
say     ourselves    in    blood.    
Listen.   We   am   saying  so     
much      and     you      don’t  
listening. We am  saying  so   
much     message    turn    to   
cancer unspooling   through      
your.    They    unstitch   our  
bones   from    your    babies.     
Our     muscle   making   the   
house  he  rattles  into   your  
hips. They eat your  fruit  we   
made. Pear baby pear baby.   
Listen.    We     language    in 
your body. We say ourselves  
back. We say ourselves until  
you memory our alive

Copyright © 2022 by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 7, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

                   THE POOL PLAYERS. 
                   SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

From The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks, published by Harpers. © 1960 by Gwendolyn Brooks. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

This thin edge of December
Wears out meagrely in the
Cold muds, rains, intolerable nauseas of the street.
Closed doors, where are your keys?
Closed hearts, does your embitteredness endure forever?
Afternoon settles on the town,
                       each hour long as a street—

In the rooms
A sombre carpet broods, stagnates beneath deliberate steps:
Here drag a foot, there a foot, drop sighs, look round for nothing, shiver.
Sunday creeps in silence
Under suspended smoke,
And curdles defiant in unreal sleep.
The gas-fire puffs, consumes, ticks out its minor chords—
And at the door
I guess the arrested knuckles of the one-time friend,
One foot on the stair delaying, that turns again.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 11, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Cord or twine used to bind 
or cover a rope, keep the ends
from fraying.
To begin, 

place a hand 
on your daughter’s shoulders.
Tell her fifth grade is 
a bloodletting.

Show her your own path
of hard turns taken
before you were hauled taut
and loosed into motherhood.

Say, this knot 
is a folded note. 
This knot is a map

back to me. Lay out a rope.
Tell her to gather each end.
Say stitch them tight
or burn them down.

Copyright © 2023 by K. D. Harryman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 12, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

Make me laugh over coffee,
make it a double, make it frothy
so it seethes in our delight.
Make my cup overflow
with your small happiness.
I want to hoot and snort and cackle and chuckle.
Let your laughter fill me like a bell.
Let me listen to your ringing and singing
as Billie Holiday croons above our heads.
Sorry, the blues are nowhere to be found.
Not tonight. Not here.
No makeup. No tears.
Only contours. Only curves.
Each sip takes back a pound,
each dry-roasted swirl takes our soul.
Can I have a refill, just one more?
Let the bitterness sink to the bottom of our lives.
Let us take this joy to go.

From Misery Islands (CavanKerry Press, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by January Gill O’Neil. Used with the permission of the author.