The deer come out in the evening.
God bless them for not judging me,
I'm drunk. I stand on the porch in my bathrobe
and make strange noises at them—
                                                  language,
if language can be a kind of crying.
The tin cans scattered in the meadow glow,
each bullet hole suffused with moon,
like the platinum thread beyond them
where the river runs the length of the valley.
That's where the fish are.
                                   Tomorrow
I'll scoop them from the pockets of graveled
stone beneath the bank, their bodies
desperately alive when I hold them in my hands,
the way prayers become more hopeless
when uttered aloud.
                            The phone's disconnected.
Just as well, I've got nothing to tell you:
I won't go inside where the bats dip and swarm
over my bed. It's the sound of them
shouldering against each other that terrifies me,
as if it might hurt to brush across another being's
living flesh.
                But I carry a gun now. I've cut down
a tree. You wouldn't recognize me in town—
my hands lost in my pockets, two disabused tools
I've retired from their life of touching you.

From Beautiful in the Mouth by Keetje Kuipers. Copyright © 2010 by Keetje Kuipers. Used by permission of BOA Editions.

They come home with our daughter
because there’s no one at school
to feed them on the weekends.
They are mates, and like all true
companions they are devoted
and they bite. We set their cage
on the kitchen table and wait
for the weekend to end, for our girl
to fall asleep so we can talk
about god while the rats lick
the silver ball that delivers
the water one drop at a time.
There are so many points on which
you and I disagree: the value
of a clean counter, the purpose
of parent-teacher conferences,
what warrants a good cry or calling
you a name so cruel I make myself
whisper it through my teeth. God
is the least of it. When I think
I’m so angry I could hit you
in the face, you turn yours to me
with a look of disbelief. The rats,
meanwhile, have turned up the volume.
Tick, tick, says the silver ball
as their teeth click against it, thirsty
as ever, thirstier still at night
when the darkness wakes them.
And during the day, when they’re curled
together in their flannel hammock,
head to tail, two furry apostrophes
possessing nothing but each other,
paws pressed together as if in prayer—
to what gods do they prostrate
themselves then? God of fidelity? God
of forgiveness? I lied when I said
I didn’t believe. Who—even me,
the coldest of heart—could turn away
from a sea parted, bread that multiplies
to answer need, water transformed
to the sweetest wine, the kind
that tastes better for each year
it’s been left in the barrel?

Copyright © 2019 by Keetje Kuipers. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

I want a red dress. 
I want it flimsy and cheap, 
I want it too tight, I want to wear it 
until someone tears it off me. 
I want it sleeveless and backless, 
this dress, so no one has to guess 
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store 
with all those keys glittering in the window, 
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old 
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers 
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly, 
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders. 
I want to walk like I’m the only 
woman on earth and I can have my pick. 
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm 
your worst fears about me, 
to show you how little I care about you 
or anything except what 
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment 
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body 
to carry me into this world, through 
the birth-cries and the love-cries too, 
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin, 
it’ll be the goddamned 
dress they bury me in.

From Tell Me by Kim Addonizio. Copyright © 2000 by Kim Addonizio. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. All rights reserved.

Anyone who makes tasty food has to be a good person,
            because think of all the love that goes into cooking:
salt and pepper, sprinkle a little extra cheese, and pop open a bottle

            of Syrah, or if we’re eating at my parents’ in Las Vegas,
we’re drinking Tsingtao beer, my father’s favorite, and he adds more
            bamboo shoots and straw mushrooms and baby corn,

and fun fact: When I was a baby, I’d eat only corn and carrot-flavored
            mush, and now, my dad adds more to the Buddha’s Delight,
a vegetarian dish from China, and I think about my aunt

            in Hong Kong, who, once a year, buys fish from restaurants,
only to release them back into the sea—eat tofu,
            save a life—but back to the dinner scene in Vegas,

my mom is making her Cantonese lobster, extra garlic and ginger,
            and I grew up licking lobster shells for their sauce,
I grew up waking up during summer vacations

            to my mother wearing a headband, warding off the grease
from cooking crabs and shrimps, heads intact, and there’s something, just something
            about my parents’ cooking that makes me feel

a little more like a Chinese girl, because I don’t live in Hong Kong,
            and unlike my cousins, my daily stop isn’t Bowring Street Station,
where I could pick up fresh mango cake before it’s sold out,

            or what about chocolate mousse cake in the shape of a bunny
or mini–dome cakes shaped like cows and pigs
            or cakes shaped like watermelons and shikwasa and citrus mikans,

and who wouldn’t want custard egg tarts or hot dogs
            wrapped in sweet bread or sesame balls, washing it all down
with cream soda, and I feel like that little Chinese girl

            in Kowloon again, getting picked up by my grandpa
after preschool, ready to go junk shopping, and I’d come home
            with shrimp crackers and a toy turtle aquarium and a snowman

painting and a dozen roses, and no, I don’t even like flowers anymore,
            but there’s something, just something about thrifting
with my grandpa now at age twenty-eight that makes me feel

            so Chinese Girl, the way he bargains in the stalls,
asking for the best, “How much for that Murakami-era Louis Vuitton belt?”
            or “What about this vintage Armani?”

and it’s like that look he gives me at dim sum, after the sampler
            of shumai and har gow and chicken feet and char siu bao comes,
and he tells me to eat everything, watches me chow down on

            Chinese ravioli, and that face of his freezes in the moment:
“Eat more, eat more, eat more. Are you happy?”
            And oh, Grandpa, I’m so happy I could eat forever.

Copyright © 2019 Dorothy Chan. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2019.

     1.   I ate eggs from a chafing dish while the baker reminded us: the only thing that will hurt you out here are your own bad decisions

     2.   I felt fettered then un-

     3.   I listened to the rain

     4.   I listened to the rain hitting the Carrier compressor, the gravel walk

     5.   I listened to the rain flattening the clover, I listened to the rain letting up and then it was ozone and drip

     6.   On the bench under the overhang in the rain I let myself pretend I was younger and childless, like the first time I arrived here

     7.   The first time I arrived here, I never thought I am small and luminous

     8.   The body, burdened and miraculous

     9.   The body as thin-nest boundary

     10.   I climbed into your body like a cave

     11.   I was frightened to walk in the dark

     12.   Late at night even my own movements became unknowable, magnified and rustling

     13.   The night cut by the moon, punctured by the whistle of the cargo train

     14.   There was only a hole, there was only forward and more forward

     15.   The inevitability of a scarred life, your pulse, stitches, this palace of breath

     16.   go on, go on / again, again / return, return

Copyright © 2019 by Erika Meitner. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 18, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

i’m confident that the absolute dregs of possibility for this society,
the sugary coffee mound at the bottom of this cup,
our last best hope that when our little bit of assigned plasma implodes 
it won’t go down as a green mark in the cosmic ledger,
lies in the moment when you say hello to a bus driver 
and they say it back—

when someone holds the door open for you 
and you do a little jog to meet them where they are—

walking my dog, i used to see this older man 
and whenever I said good morning, 
he replied ‘GREAT morning’—

in fact, all the creative ways our people greet each other
may be the icing on this flaming trash cake hurtling through the ether. 

when the clerk says how are you 
and i say ‘i’m blessed and highly favored’ 

i mean my toes have met sand, and wiggled in it, a lot. 
i mean i have laughed until i choked and a friend slapped my back.
i mean my niece wrote me a note: ‘you are so smart + intellajet’

i mean when we do go careening into the sun, 

i’ll miss crossing guards ushering the grown folks too, like ducklings 
and the lifeguards at the community pool and
men who yelled out the window that they’d fix the dent in my car, 
right now! it’d just take a second—

and actually everyone who tried to keep me alive, keep me afloat, 
and if not unblemished, suitably repaired.

but I won’t feel too sad about it,
becoming a star 

Copyright © 2024 by Eve L. Ewing. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 6, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

i stand before you to say 
that today i walked home
& caught the light through
the fence & it was so golden
i wanted to cry & i lifted 
my right hand to say thank
you god for the sun thank 
you god for a chain link fence
& all the shoes that fit into
the chain link fence so that
we might get lifted god thank
you & i just wanted to dance
& it feels good to have food
in your belly & it feels good
to be home even when home
is the space between metal
shapes & still we are golden
& a man who wore the walk
of hard grounds & lost days
came toward me in the street
& said ‘girl what a beautiful 
day’ & i said yes, testify
& i walked on & from some
place a horn rose, an organ,
a voice, a chorus, here to tell
you that we are not dead
we are not dead we are not
dead we are not dead we are
not dead we are not dead 
we are not dead we are not
dead 
yet

Copyright © 2022 by Eve L. Ewing. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 28, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

for you
i trace
the
letters
of my
name
in the
air
with my
pinky
like a
gold
necklace
like a
signature
on a
grain
of rice
in a
little jar
eve
the night
before
like a
dusk
like
the end
of things beloved

Copyright © 2017 Eve L. Ewing. “The Discount Mega Mall (in memoriam)” originally appeared in Electric Arches (Haymarket Books, 2017). Used with permission of the author.

 

i come from the fire city / fire came and licked up our houses, lapped them up like they were nothing / drank them like the last dribbling water from a concrete fountain / the spigot is too hot to touch with your lips be careful / fire kissed us and laughed / and even now the rust climbs the walls, red ivy / iron fire and the brick blossoms florid / red like stolen lipstick ground down to a small flat earth / stand on any corner of the fire city, look west to death / the red sun eats the bungalows / the fire city children watch with their fingers in their mouths / to savor the flaming hots or hot flamins or hot crunchy curls or hot chips / they open the fire hydrants in the fire city and lay dollar store boats in the gutters / warrior funeral pyres unlit

Copyright © 2017 Eve L. Ewing. “I come from the fire city.” originally appeared in Electric Arches (Haymarket Books, 2017). Used with permission of the author.

 

dear reader, with our heels digging into the good 
mud at a swamp’s edge, you might tell me something 
about the dandelion & how it is not a flower itself 
but a plant made up of several small flowers at its crown 
& lord knows I have been called by what I look like 
more than I have been called by what I actually am & 
I wish to return the favor for the purpose of this 
exercise. which, too, is an attempt at fashioning 
something pretty out of seeds refusing to make anything 
worthwhile of their burial. size me up & skip whatever semantics arrive 
to the tongue first. say: that boy he look like a hollowed-out grandfather 
clock. he look like a million-dollar god with a two-cent 
heaven. like all it takes is one kiss & before morning, 
you could scatter his whole mind across a field.

Copyright © 2018 by Hanif Abdurraqib. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

I am taken with the hot animal
of my skin, grateful to swing my limbs

and have them move as I intend, though
my knee, though my shoulder, though something
is torn or tearing. Today, a dozen squid, dead

on the harbor beach: one mostly buried,
one with skin empty as a shell and hollow

feeling, and, though the tentacles look soft,
I do not touch them. I imagine they
were startled to find themselves in the sun.

I imagine the tide simply went out
without them. I imagine they cannot

feel the black flies charting the raised hills
of their eyes. I write my name in the sand:
Donika Kelly. I watch eighteen seagulls

skim the sandbar and lift low in the sky.
I pick up a pebble that looks like a green egg.

To the ditch lily I say I am in love.
To the Jeep parked haphazardly on the narrow
street I am in love. To the roses, white

petals rimmed brown, to the yellow lined
pavement, to the house trimmed in gold I am

in love. I shout with the rough calculus
of walking. Just let me find my way back,
let me move like a tide come in.

Copyright © 2017 by Donika Kelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

My chest is earth

I meant to write my chest is warm
but earth will do
                                      to exhume a heart

      Beat

I meant to write
breathe

                        Did you know I was alive the whole time

I was alive in the ground but torpor

                    But torpor

Slowed beat

My chest filled like a jar with dirt

I mean

      dearth

For slow months at rest in the hole

I’d made in myself

                    A frozen ground

      A ground in thaw

I mean

                    Spring is coming

I mean

                I push the wet dirt with my mandible

I mean jaw

          Jaw

                    Y’all

I know I am not a nymph in exhumation

    but would you please explain

              this half-remembered light

Originally published in Sewanee Review, Fall 2017. Copyright © 2017 by Donika Kelly. Used with the permission of the poet.

it’s the numerous letters the magnolias make
as they open—one, then another, and then
a letter i don’t quite know yet—that makes any wounded
heart seem more wounded and, despite its chances,
not worth the time. i thought i’d be used to it
by now. i stood in the greening field, i famously
like to recount, and waved my arms
so i could, at last, be claimed, be carried away.
but nothing good descended. no avian form,
no cloud, just a swarm of blue things:
flung twilight, withdrawal, an opal blame.
 

sure, i’ve been lonely before, i always say, but not
like this. you have to survive the bad season
to make it to the season of reversals, the magnolias
leading the fray. though that’s not
what we call it, at least not where i’m from
where there is a single, impenetrable era
that begins just as soon as it ends.

Copyright © 2022 by Bernard Ferguson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 12, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.