People always tell me, “Don’t put the cart
before the horse,” which is curious
because I don’t have a horse.
Is this some new advancement in public shaming—
repeatedly drawing one’s attention
to that which one is currently not, and never
has been, in possession of?
If ever, I happen to obtain a Clydesdale,
then I’ll align, absolutely, it to its proper position
in relation to the cart, but I can’t
do that because all I have is the cart. 
One solitary cart—a little grief wagon that goes
precisely nowhere—along with, apparently, one
invisible horse, which does not pull,
does not haul, does not in any fashion
budge, impel or tow my disaster buggy
up the hill or down the road.
I’m not asking for much.  A more tender world
with less hatred strutting the streets.
Perhaps a downtick in state-sanctioned violence
against civilians.  Wind through the trees.
Water under the bridge. Kindness.
LOL, says the world. These things take time, says
the Office of Disappointment. Change cannot
be rushed, says the roundtable of my smartest friends.
Then, together, they say, The cart!
They say, The horse!
They say, Haven’t we told you already?
So my invisible horse remains
standing where it previously stood:
between hotdog stands and hallelujahs,
between the Nasdaq and the moon’s adumbral visage,
between the status quo and The Great Filter,
and I can see that it’s not his fault—being
invisible and not existing—
how he’s the product of both my imagination
and society’s failure of imagination.
Watch how I press my hand against his translucent flank.
How I hold two sugar cubes to his hypothetical mouth.
How I say I want to believe in him,
speaking softly into his missing ear.


Copyright © 2019 by Matthew Olzmann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 22, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

& each fish feels solid land before its gills
cease moving. I miss sex but can’t imagine 

dating. Glass shatters in patterns designed 
for a specific aftermath. What confession  

offers isn’t relief. From my bed, coverlet tucked 
under chin, I heard my father’s hand connect 

with my mother’s cheek. A fish slap requires 
actual fish-to-face contact. Windowpanes 

bust in shards. Car windshields spider & smash
into square chunks or mini blocks, so on impact 

they won’t decapitate or slash the face. A tank’s
ideal temperature for tropical fish is 75 to 80 degrees. 

I tried to learn how to stab the worm on the hook 
to bait the prey, but in the end I was only called 

a pussy. Tackle box tipped over, the red & white
striped sleek lure. Don’t they think of everything: 

claims to cover any minor loss, inspections to avert 
damage. Even so, at the health center, the multiple-choice

form omits the oval to fill in adopted so I leave 
the question blank. We’re here to consider my choices

in contraception, how to prevent an itchy rash down there 
& to discuss the definitions of sex & life. What’s hereditary 

gets lost to wonderland, elsewhere a consultant advises 
curators on predation, tells the team which fish to import 

for show-stopping colors & compatibility. But we know 
the inspector misses the crack, walks by the leak, & finally 

without pause someone sweeps & stuffs dozens of trash bags 
with glass & dead fish parts. We want what we want.

Copyright © 2023 by Sarah Audsley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 14, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

At an intersection of lanes within a cemetery,
a corner quartered, a cardinal quad, a cross, from
above, the one star in the gloaming
bright in its area—Was that a yes? It had been
a day of winking receptivity. I looked up
the word fend to see if its stave and manage
meanings had separate derivations. Haven’t.
Manage, is it, one does in the little city
of a cemetery, to stroll its arbors
completely and return to the gates?
Come to know its mounds and overhang
shag semantics and compare
what cannot be known of shade
and piano stone and serenity in
the rest of Boston. Sat right here with
a feuilleton once, wet and dry in the rain
reading, happy to feel on the page
an every now and then thump of life
and keep the thread of the narrative.
Fend is only short for defend, of course,
whereas I had expected a fennel frond
or a foil or something inner forest feeling.
Who meant it first as doing without others
who might have helped? Jackson, Thomas.
1627, in his Treatise of the Divine Essence
and Attributes: they do not direct their brood
in their motions but leave them to fend
for themselves. Not far in you find
a place from which to view the broken
families, on the knitted moss and natural
gravel beneath the juniper and fir.
I wonder who they were.

Copyright © 2014 by Brian Blanchfield. Originally published in A Several World (Nightboat Books, 2014). Used with the permission of the poet.

Up late scrolling
for distraction, love, hope,
I discovered skew dice.

In the promotional video
you see only a mathematician’s hands,
like the hands of god,

picking up the dice one at a time,
turning them over and over 
before returning them 

to the hard wood table,
where each lands with something 
between a whoosh and silence,

face up, face down,
some faces lying on their side,
as at other archaeological sites.

I bought a set of the patented dice,
each with its own logic and truth 
and aleatory uncertainty—

at home alone I rolled them
across my dining table
to pass the time, 

and time with its own logic
passed. Dear god.
I haven’t been touched in so long.

Copyright © 2022 by Catherine Barnett. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 29, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Consider this an elegy with silo and fever. 
Call it barn and gravel and gone. Grasses’ obeisance  

in the wake of a pick-up, sun searing the leaves 
green to gold in the season’s time-elapse. 

Where does it go, the Sunday angle of sunlight 
once only yours, wide and open as a window? 

Here’s what I remember: the flaking mural 
on the brick wall of neighborhood grocery, saying 

Food for the Revolution for twenty-five years. 
Stacked landscapes in my rearview, blank as a calendar 

until a bend in the road brought the Blue Ridge;
the pocked metronome of tennis balls outside 

while I harnessed what I had lost and missed 
in minor-key pentameter. So what, my mentor 

talked back to his tercets in draft after draft: 
so what so what so what. “This essay is accurate 

but never ignited,” the Derridean scrawled 
in red ink when I was writing about Bishop writing, 

I can scarcely wait for the day of my imprisonment. 
Her keen eye ever cast on the homely unheimlich. 

Call this a road story about the slow burn of foliage, 
about containment, what conspires against arrival. 

Astonish us, Diaghilev said to Cocteau, 
but all I ever wanted was to consider,

its roots in the auguries of our shifting stars.

Copyright © 2023 by Debra Allbery. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 11, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

When the pickup truck, with its side mirror,
almost took out my arm, the driver’s grin

reflected back; it was just a horror

show that was never going to happen,
don’t protest, don’t bother with the police

for my benefit, he gave me a smile—

he too was startled, redness in his face—
when I thought I was going, a short while,

to get myself killed: it wasn’t anger

when he bared his teeth, as if to caution
calm down, all good, no one died, ni[ght, neighbor]—

no sense getting all pissed, the commotion

of the past is the past; I was so dim,
he never saw me—of course, I saw him.

Copyright © 2020 by Tommye Blount. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 19, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets. 

Nesting, the turtle seems to be crying even though she is simply secreting
her salt. Her dozens bud limbs inside amniotic pillows

as she leaves every egg in a cup of sand the size of her body,
shaped like a tilting teardrop — and both cryings

are mentioned by scientists. My niece Eve is startle-eyed when you feed her
avocado and when you feed her sweet potato. She lives mouth first:

she would eat  the sidewalk and piano, the symmetrical petals of the Bradford pear,
as if she could learn which parts of the world are made and how,

and yesterday she put her mouth on the image of her own face
in the mirror. Larkin says what will survive of us is love,

but the scientists say that the end of the decay-chain is lead and uranium and after that,
plastics. Just now the zooplankton are swallowing micro pearls of plastic

and the sea is  aflame with waste caught in the moon’s light.
Here is the darkening hour and here, the shore, as she droplets her eggs,

bright as ping pong balls, into the sand.  She can’t find the spot.
The beach is saltined with lights, neoned with spectacular

globes of light, a dozen moons instead of the one moon. Still, she lets them go
and one month later, tiny turtles hatch. They seem groggy,

carrying their houses of bone and cartilage to the ocean,
scrambling toward the horizon alongside the earth’s magnetic field.

Less than one percent of the hatchlings make it past
the seagulls and crabs, so Noah spent a summer dashing them to the water.

But my poem is not about the moment when a bird dove and bore
into the underflesh and into Noah’s memory.

My poem is about how we are gathered around Eve
in the kitchen as she eats a fruit she has never tried before

and each newness in the world
stops the world’s ending in its tracks.

Copyright © 2016 Nomi Stone. “Anthropocene” originally appeared in Plume. Used with permission of the author.


The world, how greenesses
pop up. I’d forgotten. To be

found millions of years later,
mountains of bones ground down.

The tiniest with the largest.
You rise to the top

from the Great Rift
to meet me again.

Copyright © 2015 by Martha Rhodes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 17, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.