The words became librarians, custodians of people
I looked for on the bridge.
I forgot my own face.
I read the book backwards, and
I painted your name in lace
(I drink only the milk of script as beer).
I dislocate all gallery aesthetics,
I carry keys for Baltimore and
Go where no one is my name.
I wish I could sculpt a healing street
from a blanket of guns. The way the sun drops
behind a one-armed cop & we default
to believing in voices. This is the trough of sleep
we draw from. Even gravity works at night.
If I pull your speech on the carpet of impossibility,
will you speak this immediate need for movement?
The immediate need of not drowning in public?
I will walk with the sharks of our pigments
if that's what inconclusive data requires,
until we leave rooms that hold us apart. 
What you see as a small minority, I see
as closer to liberatory. Nothing comes from the center
that doesn't break most everything in parts. 
I break bread with the handwriting of words.
Nothing of appearance is always an illusion.
Lend me your book when you finish
writing it. I’ll be the first to fill in its spaces.

Copyright © 2015 by Amy King. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 18, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets


This is the way water 
thinks about the desert.
The way the thought of water 
gives you something 
to stumble on. A ghost river.
A sentence trailing off
toward lower ground.
A finger pointing
at the rest of the show.

I wanted to read it. 
I wanted to write a poem 
and call it "Ephemeral Stream"
because you made of this 
imaginary creek
a hole so deep 
it looked like a green eye 
taking in the storm, 
a poem interrupted 
by forgiveness.

It's not over yet.
A dream can spend 
all night fighting off 
the morning. Let me
start again. A stream 
may be a branch or a beck, 
a crick or kill or lick,
a syke, a runnel. It pours 
through a corridor. The door 
is open. The keys
are on the dashboard. 

Copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Willis. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on January 2, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Although it no longer has a body
to cover out of a sense of decorum,

the ghost must still consider fashion—

must clothe its invisibility in something
if it is to “appear” in public.

Some traditional specters favor
the simple shroud—

a toga of ectoplasm
worn Isadora-Duncan-style
swirling around them.

While others opt for lightweight versions
of once familiar tee shirts and jeans.

Perhaps being thought-forms,
they can change their outfits instantly—

or if they were loved ones,
it is we who clothe them
like dolls from memory.
 

Copyright © 2015 by Elaine Equi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 6, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Soon she will be no more than a passing thought,
a pang, a timpani of wind in the chimes, bent spoons
hung from the eaves on a first night in a new house
on a street where no dog sings, no cat visits
a neighbor cat in the middle of the street, winding
and rubbing fur against fur, throwing sparks. 

Her atoms are out there, circling the earth, minus
her happiness, minus her grief, only her body’s
water atoms, her hair and bone and teeth atoms,
her fleshy atoms, her boozy atoms, her saltines
and cheese and tea, but not her piano concerto
atoms, her atoms of laughter and cruelty, her atoms
of lies and lilies along the driveway and her slippers,
Lord her slippers, where are they now?

Copyright © 2015 by Dorianne Laux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 4, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

She’s in the desert
releasing the ashes of her father,
the ashes of her child,
or the ashes of the world. She is not

what she observes. The rare spinystar.
It does not belong to her. Bright needle threading
a cloud through the sky. There’s sun enough,
there’s afterlife. Her own body, a pillar of ash.
I fall to pieces, she says. Faithless

nimbus, faithless thought. In my life,
I have lost two men. One by death,
inevitable. One

by error: a waste. He wept
from a northern state,
hunger too cold
for human knowledge.

Once I was a woman with nothing to say. 

Never did I say ash to ash.
Never has the desert woken me up.
I said
who releases whom?

Inevitably, all have known
what the desert knows. No one
will count the lupine when I’m gone.

No one looks to the sun
for meaning. For meat
I’ve done so much less.

Cattle in the far basin, sagebrush, sage. 

I live in the city where I loved that man.
The ash of him, the self’s argument.

Now and then, I think of his weeping,
how my body betrays me:
I am not done with releasing.

Copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 11, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

I wanted to be the one who thought of truck bed walls.
You locked yourself in the bathroom
so I couldn’t brush my teeth before bed.
Where is this going and will it be successful? I hate bullies.
She’s been everywhere she even heard
the shot that killed John Lennon.
From now on I’m sticking up
for myself. My notes and to-do’s have flowers.
I don’t want to die. I feel scared all the time.
What you looked like as a child is clear.
The way you run from the hot tub
and throw yourself in the pool.
When they were joining the EU.
I worry about mine.
Have you ever seen your own cervix?
You’re like a natural matzoh ball maker.
Why did I ever want to be in the couple
with the white walls three shoes and lots of art.
Scarves from museum shops.
I sat your kid on my counter
and we spilled food everywhere.
The nickname grandchildren give is the one you die with.
Everyone wanted to see a movie where the woman turns to stone.
They say Maria Falconetti never acted again.
The gym was impossible after I fell on my knee.
I walked up to you and cried.
Why do you treat your son better than your daughter.
Talk about something else like did anyone ever call you bro.

Copyright © 2013 by Farrah Field. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on July 31, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

I.

Months out from my bout, I return home
after training deltoids and biceps to push

past the letdown of exertion—to never
stop throwing punches. Our baby boy

bides time in L’s belly, two weeks late,
and she smiles, names me her gentle boxer

as I shadow my way down the hall
toward the shower. The next day,

after zero centimeters worth of progress,
she sends me back to the gym to spar,

to save my mind from running
the unnecessary laps. I spend round after

round risking and taking damage,
in search of that perfect left hook

to the body, that soft midsection crunch.
I land a few home and feel the accuracy

moving deeper than mechanics,
burying itself in the blue memory

below. Inside the ring I sweat out everything
but bob and weave, but balance and breath, bearing

each combination’s bad intent, until brutality
blossoms into something almost beautiful.

II.

And then it’s time—as in the dark, we’re in it:
maternity wing of the hospital, the lengthening
hours of our son’s slow arrival. As in the dark,
a contraction’s wave ends, the wash of pain receding,
and L leans back into the rocking chair, back
into the chasm of exhaustion, eyelids
locking her exit from the room. I squat before her
and wait, her body buoyed in the open sea of labor,
as in the dark. My gaze fixes on the map
of monitors, scanning that pixilated horizon
for the next contraction’s approach. When it does,
as in the dark, her eyes flare inside the room
once more, hands raising to clasp
behind my neck, as in the dark. I hear the moan
of her spirit bearing this being into light, and I lift
her loaded weight, place pressure
on her hips and say, give me everything,
darling, as in the dark. There is no word for the infinite
divide between my desire and my inability to rock
this boy’s burden from her, to rock her from the tides
of hurt he’s riding in on—this is all her. As from the dark,
as from the sea, another wave builds inside her,
and I send whispers across water, coaching her deeper
into the swallow of its force, calling it what we want,
calling it love or joy or peace, as in the dark, barely trusting
each moment that moves her further from this shore,
where I wait for her, to plant our son into these arms.

III.

When they tell us no more fluids. When they tell us time
has scorched the well of his arrival. When urgency cuts through

each gowned voice in the delivery room, the ghost in L’s face
says let them, and so we let them mine him by fire—with and through fire.

Restraints. No breath. Regional anesthesia. No breath. Nerve block.
Incision. Hemorrhage. And then he adds the sharp thunder of his cry

to the elements. They place him at the altar of her chest. With one hand
free to touch the curl and moisture of his hair, smoke clears from her smile.

IV.

In the nursery, this new kind of quiet
stretches itself inside the plastic, hospital-issued bassinet,

and I stare at my feet—
a sudden fear over the distance down

to them, over having no prayer for looking
into our son’s face, years from now, finding

it thinner, the flesh pulled tighter
around the cathedral of his skull,

the mind behind his eyes more
like ours, more tacked to the brittleness

of yesterday, days stacking into months,
memories like seeds spilled across another year.

What’s the ritual for forgiving ourselves
the mortal promise we set in motion,

pressed between the floral sheets,  
planting his life’s fabric into death’s seam?

From Revising the Storm (BOA Editions, 2014) by Geffrey Davis. Copyright © 2014 by Geffrey Davis. Used with permission of the author.