after Iris Cushing

There is no empire in nerve. 
When I come home, I roam the map. 
My cursor lands on Truth or Consequences, 
and I read facts about Titanic till I’m blue. 

When I come home I’ve roamed the map. 
I tell my love what I have done Wyoming. 
The facts stack up titanic and I blue.
I don’t know what I love now, he tells me. 

I’ve done it, told my love Wyoming. 
Bit the corner off a dumpling before cooking. 
I don’t know if I love you, I should say.  
I want to see if there’s a mark left later. 

I bit the corner off this dumb thing. 
What was left behind and then uncovered? 
I want to see the mark that I felt later. 
When I got home my love was thinned obscure. 

Left behind and then uncovered, 
by noon the moon had taken the blue stage. 
My homeland, love, has been obscured, smeared
into surrounding states. Grass was growing greener. 

By two the moon had exited the stage. 
I preen into my screen and blue but I am gone. 
Grass was growing green where I should be,
bared beneath the briefly darkening desert. 

I preen into a blue screen where I’ve gone, 
a darkened noon, Wyoming under shadow,  
briefly spared beneath the blackening desert, 
an earth threaded with crescent meaning. 

At noon Wyoming slides from under shadow. 
I want to pull the fabric back, to see the other cloth. 
The threads I tend with meaning: 
dirt on my head, I should die, I would say. 

I pulled the fabric back and saw the other cloth. 
Beneath us is a net of empire sewn with nerve. 
Dirt in my mouth, I will die. 
I asked you for your weather, then your liver.

Copyright © 2022 by Tracy Fuad. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 8, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I long to hear the history of ordinary people who populate and recreate all over the NYC subway lines, strung together like beans on a charmbracelet drumming on their worldly advice and late-night distractions,
I smoked an ashtray’s worth of cigarettes, cold and tired and snuffing out the little fire on yellow brick walls baring my bones to the whims of demolition,
I jumped over to Manhattan from Staten Island wishing to be Superman but also making music, yes music, from stretched out lizard skins suspended in animation,
I wiped the hair off my scalp dancing around a hollow pumpkin, swore to the forehead of my German moms that I would be unmarried at 50 or otherwise relocate to a harsher life in Uzbekistan,
I hid behind cardamom, cumin, and Halal-style chicken with my eyes darted thinking about Egypt, and the ABCs of Atlantic Barclays Center, Brooklyn, and a biweekly regular named Catherine,
I drank in a tent in the Q train station at Beverly, never showered but always made time to guide clueless New Yorkers to alternative train service like an MTA angel,
I in a rush to get to a Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown dozed off daydreaming about mushrooms, catfish, silkworms and missed my destination by just one stop; went back the other way and still couldn’t stop dreaming,
I asked for baby formula, bow-legged and inarticulate, full of luck and lice on my silver hair, dashed from one street to the other, filling the night with whispers and threats of self-immolation,
I broke a mirror three years before, and now, feeling the effect of medications, yearned to go back to a more violent time in quiet white rooms praying to another religion mistaken for glued together plastic flowers,
I drank my Vietnamese sweat, turned around when spoken to in God’s language, offered fresh fish, pears, and dried plums on a makeshift altar afraid to blink under oath

Copyright © 2022 by Lam Lai. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 11, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

A firm hand. The shadow waves of satin.
I am not yet flesh. He calls me baby,
and I touch my face. I’m searching for god
when I oil my body in the mirror. To love it
means to love a man means an opening
to another man. When I take my glasses off
all the lines blur. A body is a body without
language, I tell my girlfriend and she laughs,
mouth wide enough to hide in. She shows me
my softest parts. I dissolve into what. I forget
hiding also means a good beating, the way
passion can be suffering. I can’t believe
my whole life I never touched what made me
holy. We have bread, butter and nowhere to be.

Copyright © 2022 by Dujie Tahat. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 26, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

January 2021

After my grandfather died
I waited for him to arrive
In Minneapolis. Daily
I walked across the water
Wearing my black armband
Sewn from scraps, ears trained for his voice.
Migration teaches death, deprives us
Of the language of the body,
Prepares us for other kinds of crossings,
The endless innovations of grief.
Forty-nine days, forty-nine nights—
I carried his name and a stick
Of incense to the island in the lake
And with fellow mourners watched
As it burned a hole in the ice.
He did not give a sign, but I imagined him
Traveling against the grain
Of the earth, declining time.
Spirit like wind, roughening
Whatever of ourselves we leave bare.
When he was alive, he and I
Rarely spoke. But his was a great
And courageous tenderness.
Now we are beyond the barriers
Of embodied speech, of nationhood.
Someday, I will join him there in the country
Of our collective future, knowing
That loneliness is just an ongoing
Relationship with time.
It is such a strange thing, to be
Continuous. In the weeks without snow,
What do the small creatures drink?

Copyright © 2022 by Anni Liu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 24, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

after Gwendolyn Brooks

My wild grief didn’t know where to end.
Everywhere I looked: a field alive and unburied.
Whole swaths of green swallowed the light.
All around me, the field was growing. I grew out
My hair in every direction. Let the sun freckle my face.
Even in the greenest depths, I crouched
Towards the light. That summer, everything grew
So alive and so alone. A world hushed in green.
Wildest grief grew inside out.

I crawled to the field’s edge, bruises blooming
In every crevice of my palms.
I didn’t know I’d reached a shoreline till I felt it
There: A salt wind lifted
The hair from my neck.
At the edge of every green lies an ocean.
When I saw that blue, I knew then:
This world will end.

Grief is not the only geography I know.
Every wound closes. Repair comes with sweetness,
Come spring. Every empire will fall:
I must believe this. I felt it
Somewhere in the field: my ancestors
Murmuring Go home, go home—soon, soon.
No country wants me back anymore and I’m okay.

If grief is love with nowhere to go, then
Oh, I’ve loved so immensely.
That summer, everything I touched
Was green. All bruises will fade
From green and blue to skin.
Let me grow through this green
And not drown in it.
Let me be lawless and beloved,
Ungovernable and unafraid.
Let me be brave enough to live here.
Let me be precise in my actions.
Let me feel hurt.
I know I can heal.
Let me try again—again and again.

Copyright © 2022 by Laurel Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 21, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.