Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

Copyright © 2005 James Wright. From Selected Poems. Reprinted with permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

First they called me “it,” and then, ignorant of how my people
use this word, they mashed up the meager nouns
they had for gender and called me “the goy,” and said
to not be one or the other was to be nothing.
It ate the grass it was shoved in, knelt at salt licks.
It took the barbs and kicks and crushed them into
fur and leather. Oiled and burnished, it made those
halves into one galloping body. Horse and rider.
The centaur endured the school-day, cruel gray rag, filth-
stiffened. The boys and girls who fit so easily in their costumes
looked like stick figures, crude and two dimensional.

Dante already knew, it read later. In The Inferno, in the seventh
circle of hell, centaurs guard the river Phlegethon, one of Hades’
five rivers. Phlegethon: river of fire, river of boiling blood,
which boils forever the souls of those who commit violence
against their neighbors. Centaurs guard the edges, shooting
arrows at any of these sinners who try to move to the shallows.

When sometimes I wish I’d had a boyhood, I remember those
days instead, my four muscled legs. I was seven feet tall then,
riding myself, carrying myself. A centaur is never lonely.

Copyright © 2024 by Miller Oberman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 9, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

translated from the Spanish by William Cullen Bryant

          My bird has flown away,
Far out of sight has flown, I know not where.
          Look in your lawn, I pray,
          Ye maidens, kind and fair,
And see if my beloved bird be there.

          His eyes are full of light;
The eagle of the rock has such an eye;
          And plumes, exceeding bright,
          Round his smooth temples lie,
And sweet his voice and tender as a sigh.

          Look where the grass is gay
With summer blossoms, haply there he cowers;
          And search, from spray to spray,
          The leafy laurel-bowers,
For well he loves the laurels and the flowers.

          Find him, but do not dwell,
With eyes too fond, on the fair form you see,
          Nor love his song too well;
          Send him, at once, to me,
Or leave him to the air and liberty.

          For only from my hand
He takes the seed into his golden beak,
          And all unwiped shall stand
          The tears that wet my cheek,
Till I have found the wanderer I seek.

          My sight is darkened o’er,
Whene’er I miss his eyes, which are my day,
          And when I hear no more
          The music of his lay,
My heart in utter sadness faints away.



El pájaro perdido 


   ¡Huyó con vuelo incierto,
Y de mis ojos ha desparecido! . . .
¡Mirad si a vuestro huerto
Mi pájaro querido,
Niñas hermosas, por acaso ha huido!

   Sus ojos relucientes
Son como los del águila orgullosa;
Plumas resplandecientes
En la cabeza airosa
Lleva, y su voz es tierna y armoniosa.

   Mirad si cuidadoso
Junto a las flores se escondió en la grama:
Ese laurel frondoso
Mirad rama por rama,
Que él los laureles y las flores ama.

   Si le halláis por ventura,
No os enamore su amoroso acento;
No os prende su hermosura:
Volvédmele al momento,
O dejadle, si no, libre en el viento.

   Porque su pico de oro
Sólo en mi mano toma la semilla,
Y no enjugaré el lloro
Que veis en mi mejilla
Hasta encontrar mi prófuga avecilla.

   Mi vista se oscurece
Si sus ojos no ve, que son mi día;
Mi ánima desfallece
Con la melancolía
De no escucharle ya su melodía.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 15, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.


Andante con grazia e molto maestoso.

The morning dawns, and shakes the stars
    From the raven locks of the queen of night,
        Some ripple down into the sea,
            Some drown in the morning light.

The morning dawns, and strange white forms
    O’er the silent waters stray,
        As if they were searching for falling stars,
            Whose gold has dripped astray,
                             Slipped away
              From the rose of morn
               To the shoreless waste,
                That, dull and grey, with its misty bars,
                  Yields no reflection to the death of stars.

The morning dawns, and the starting breeze,
   Rends the curtain of silence and mist
       Whence, tinged with roseate morn,
   The pirate’s galleon drifts—
                    Away from the shore,
        Where the watchfires gleam
           And the sea-gulls scream,
               To her daily toil
                    In quest of spoil
                       To waylay some wanderer of the sea.

With plumage strange and wings outspread,
   Like some huge bird from earth long fled,
      The highwayman of the main
                           Veers his way
To some blood-red day,
    Out of the silent, gray and shoreless night,
        As the stars ripple down into the sea
            Or drown in the morning light.

            Allegro con passione

The sea is white with the noonday glare,
    Save a dark unrest and reddish flare
        That troubles the seashine in the West.

There the fight is on—
    With yards entangled and sails aflame,
        Enveloped in clouds that darken the sky,
            Two dark hulls, lashed fast together,
                Motionless on the noonday waters lie.

                              The fight is on—
Amidst the clank of weapons, and powder scent,
    The rattle of muskets, wild shuffle of feet,
        Like the hissing groans of some soul accursed,  
            With lightning flares and fanlike bursts,
                Pass shot and shell.

The mouth of the cannons grow a grinning stare,
    With blood are daubed masts and spars,
        And the sparks blown to the lurid air
            Fall on the sails like a rain of stars.

                              The fight is on—
Black death with his wings of flame
    Now dominates this scene,
        This scene of black and red.
            Like a snake of fire in dismal desire
                He coils up the rigging, chars every plank
                    And gnaws his way towards the powder tank,
                        While lurid streams of red
                             Gush from the wounded and dead
                                  To the passionless flood,
                                       Stained with fire and blood.

The hours pass, and the crews are thinned,
    Both demand quarter—but none will strike,
        And still they fight—and fight—and fight—
            Till the blackened masts crash on the burning decks,
                Strewn with bodies in formless stacks.
                    The shrieks of the wounded die away,
                        Silence takes the place of carnage and fray,
                            And as a change to all things must come—
                                Even death ceases his fire-song.

Riddled from bow to stern with leaks on the gain
The hulls sink deeper into the passionless main,
Still lashed together as in the hours of fight,
   Like wounded beasts in wild despair,
        They suddenly leap into the lurid air,
                     Then roll to the side
              And glide from the day’s waning light
                         Down to the dismal night
                            Of the passionless flood,
                              Stained with fire and blood.

The sun swings from the hovering murk,
    Dark crows, that follow the pirate’s wake,
        Flap over crushed timbers and shivered beams,
           Adrift on the blood-stained flood like dismal dreams.

            Adagio non lamentoso

Thirty times the cannons roar
    Over the black and barren shore
                   Of the pirate isle,
    Under whose rifts of shifting sand
        Lies buried the gold, the pirate’s hand
           Wrest from the sea wanderer of many a land.

On the black banner that never was furled
    Lies dead the pride of the pirate’s race
       The crew shifts over the quarter deck
            Once more to gaze at his stern sea face.

                Then the anchor is hoisted!—
                   Drenched in the twilight’s gold
                       The ship shakes out every sail
                          And sweeps before the gale
                              Towards the highway of the deep,
                                 To put its hero forever to sleep.

What mean now thy hords of gold
    A-dream in the depth of the wind blown sand?
        What remains of thy sea face fantastic and bold
            When you have reached that coral strand,
                          Where the mermaids dwell,
                 Who love their pirate sweethearts well?

                            A last farewell to the sun and air,
                             To the twilight flare
                               With its pennant unfold
                                  Of crimson and gold!
                                    As strapped to the plank
                                      On the gangway you stand,
                                         To make the bold leap
                                           To the emerald deep.

Harsh as the winds over your life have blown,
  Your fate will be in the lands unknown
           Of the moonstone twilights of the sea
    And as its currents toss thee from shore to shore
        Through coral halls on the moss-grown floor,
          Moss grown since the days of yore,
                               You still will be, 
                                 Fearless and free,
                                    Lord of the sea.

Finale sotte voce e legato.

On emerald waves o’er which the moonbeams flow,
   Lost like a song on the winds that blow,
     An enchanted castle, a phantom sail—
               In silent flight from the rolling orb
                 Pursuing the wanderers of the night—
                   Strays with the wayward breeze
                     To be lost on the murmuring seas,

Like a ghost that rose from some emerald tomb
To haunt the murmuring main
And tell the tale of the pirate’s doom,
The end of the seaking’s reign.

From reddened wave and blackened shore
  The galleon has vanished forever more
    In the moonstone twilights of the sea;
     And only the music the seaweed brings
       Tells of the dauntless deeds of the dead seakings.

From Drifting Flowers of the Sea and Other Poems (1904) by Sadakichi Hartmann. This poem is in the public domain.

If I were a bear,
   And a big bear too,
I shouldn’t much care
   If it froze or snew;
I shouldn’t much mind
   If it snowed or friz—
I’d be all fur-lined
   With a coat like his!

For I’d have fur boots and a brown fur wrap,
And brown fur knickers and a big fur cap.
I’d have a fur muffle-ruff to cover my jaws,
And brown fur mittens on my big brown paws.
With a big brown furry-down up to my head,
I’d sleep all the winter in a big fur bed.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 6, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.