O’er all my song the image of a face
    Lieth, like shadow on the wild sweet flowers.
    The dream, the ecstasy that prompts my powers;
    The golden lyre’s delights bring little grace
To bless the singer of a lowly race.
    Long hath this mocked me: aye in marvelous hours,
    When Hera’s gardens gleamed, or Cynthia’s bowers,
    Or Hope’s red pylons, in their far, hushed place!
But I shall dig me deeper to the gold;
    Fetch water, dripping, over desert miles.
    From clear Nyanzas and mysterious Niles
Of love; and sing, nor one kind act withhold.
    So shall men know me, and remember long,
    Nor my dark face dishonor any song.

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.

translated from the Spanish by Ursula K. Le Guin

   Life of my life, what you loved I sing.
If you're near, if you’re listening,
remembering earth, in the evening,
my life, my shadow, hear me sing.

   Life of my life, I can’t be still.
What is a story we never tell?
How can you find me unless I call?

   Life of my life, I haven’t changed,
not turned aside and not estranged.
Come to me as the shadows grow long,
come, life of my life, if you know the song
you used to know, if you know my name.
I and the song are still the same.

    Beyond time or place I keep the faith.
Follow a path or follow no path, 
don’t fear the night or the rainy wind.
call me to come to you, now at the end,
and come to me, soul of my soul, my friend. 

Canto Que Amabas 

Yo canto lo que tú amabas, vida mía,
por si te acercas y escuchas, vida mía,
por si te acuerdas del mundo que viviste,
al atardecer yo canto, sombra mía.

Yo no quiero enmudecer, vida mía.
¿Cómo sin mi grito fiel me hallarías?
¿Cuál señal, cuál me declara, vida mía?

Soy la misma que fue tuya, vida mía.
Ni lenta ni trascordada ni perdida.
Acude al anochecer, vida mía;
ven recordando un canto, vida mía,
si la canción reconoces de aprendida
y si mi nombre recuerdas todavía.

Te espero sin plazo ni tiempo.
No temas noche, neblina ni aguacero.
Acude con sendero o sin sendero.
Llámame a donde tú eres, alma mía,
0201y marcha recto hacia mí, compañero.

From Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral: Translated by Ursula K. Le Guin. Copyright © 2003 Ursula K. Le Guin. Courtesy of University of New Mexico Press. 

I am the river of Spavinaw,
    I am the river of pain;
Sadness and gladness must answer my law;
Measure for measure I give, and withdraw
Back through the hills of the Spavinaw,
    Hiding away from the plain.

I am the river of Spavinaw;
    I sing the songs of the world;
Dashing and whirling, swishing and swirling,
Delicate, mystical, silvery spray hurling,
    Sing I the songs of the world,
    The passionate songs of the world.

I sing of laughter and mirth,
    And I laugh in a gurgle of glee
As the myriad joys of the earth
    Trip through the light with me.
Gay shallows dimple, sparkle and ripple.
    Like songs that a lover would sing,
      Skipping in moonlight,
      Tripping in moonlight,
    Whispering echoes of spring.

And again
    I move with the slow sadness of pain.
In my dark blue deep, where the shadows creep,
    I catch up life’s sorrows and mirror them back again.
And my song is a throbbing, pitiful sobbing,
    Choked by an agonized pain.

And then
    I move forth toward the beckoning north,
       And I sing of the power of men.
           As I dash down my falls,
           As I beat at my walls
Frantically fighting, running and righting,
All through the flood, through the snarling and biting,
       I sing of the power of men,
       Of the hurry and power of men.

       I am the river of Spavinaw,
       I am the giver of pain;
Sadness and gladness must answer my law;
Measure for measure I give, and withdraw
Back through the hills of the Spavinaw,
       Hiding away from the plain.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 15, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

                    What makes
                     a voice
                     What special
                     makes it
                     Yours is plaintive,
                     as any singer
                     of torch songs
                     must be,
                     yet endowed
                     with confidence,
                     and fully
                     in command.
                     Deep and
                     a bit husky
                     if you like.
                     A voice that rises—
                     or skyrockets,
                     a wellspring
                     of pure emotion.
                     in “I Only
                     Want to Be
                     with You.”
                     Desperate to
                     keep your
                     lover from
                     leaving in
                     “Stay Awhile.”
                     in “I Just
                     Don’t Know
                     What to Do
                     with Myself”
                     and “You Don’t
                     Have to Say
                     You Love Me.”
                     All cried out
                     in “All Cried
                     Out.”  But then
                     on the rebound
                     in “Brand New Me.”

                     I hear your
                     voice, Dusty,
                     and I am
                     back in time,
                     not quite
                     a teenager
                     all over
                     full of longing
                     and confusion,
                     to your
                     latest hit
                     on my
                     red plastic
                     radio on
                     a mid-sixties
                     Los Angeles

                     Twice in
                     my life, I
                     found myself
                     in the same
                     room as you.
                     Can one fathom
                     anything more
                     The first
                     time was
                     in 1983, late
                     in the basement
                     of a church
                     in Los Feliz,
                     around the
                     corner from
                     where I lived.
                     Sober only
                     a few weeks,
                     I watched
                     you approach
                     the podium,
                     but didn’t
                     realize who
                     you were
                     until you
                     yourself as
                     “Dusty S.”
                     For the next
                     twenty minutes,
                     you told us
                     the story
                     of your
                     How early in
                     your career,
                     before a
                     one of the 
                     Four Tops
                     handed you
                     your first
                     drink, vodka.
                     How smoothly
                     it went down
                     and loosened
                     you up,
                     lit you from
                     gave you
                     to go out on
                     stage, into that
                     blinding spot,
                     and sing like
                     no one else.
                     The alcohol
                     stopped working—
                     it always does,
                     that brand
                     of magic
                     is transient—
                     and here you
                     were, two
                     later, sober
                     and clean
                     and still singing,
                     so to speak,
                     before a live
                     In my youth,
                     your words
                     had come over
                     the radio
                     and stirred
                     of heartbreak
                     and infatuation.
                     Now they
                     inspired me
                     to keep
                     coming back.

                     The second
                     time, 1987,
                     four years
                     sober, at a more
                     upscale meeting
                     at Cedars-Sinai
                     in West Hollywood,
                     I sat directly
                     behind you.
                     It was hard
                     to breathe
                     being in such
                     close proximity.
                     I didn’t hear
                     a word the
                     speaker said.
                     During his
                     I slowly,
                     moved the
                     toe of my
                     white high-top
                     until it touched
                     the back of
                     your folding chair.
                     Then said a
                     little prayer.
                     I hoped
                     (should I be
                     admitting this?)
                     that some
                     of your
                     might travel
                     down the
                     metal leg
                     of your chair,
                     like a lightning
                     rod, and be
                     passed on
                     to me.

                     It’s after
                     again, Dusty,
                     half a century
                     since, on
                     a suburban
                     lawn or alone
                     in my room,
                     I suffered
                     through hits
                     by Paul Revere
                     & the Raiders
                     and Herman’s
                     just to
                     two or
                     three minutes
                     of your
                     sultry voice.
                     I’m on
                     again, watching
                     the black-and-white
                     video of you
                     singing “I
                     Only Want
                     to Be
                     with You.”
                     Your 1964
                     on some teen
                     variety show.
                     I’ve viewed
                     it innumerable
                     times, but
                     it’s always
                     exciting to see
                     you dance
                     out of the
                     darkness into
                     the round
                     as the song’s
                     intro, arms
                     in a chiffon
                     dress and
                     high heels,
                     your platinum
                     hair, sprayed
                     in place,
                     as bright
                     and shiny
                     as the moon.
                     through the
                     turn and
                     sashay around
                     the edge of
                     the spotlight,
                     the ruffled
                     hem of your
                     chiffon dress
                     twisting with
                     your hips
                     and intricate
                     Circle circling
                     circle: your
                     full backlit
                     hair orbiting
                     the pool of
                     white light
                     in the center
                     of the stage.
                     I watch this
                     again and again,
                     like Bashō’s moon
                     walking around
                     the pond
                     all night long.

Copyright © 2018 by David Trinidad. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 13, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.