We move within the snow-chromed world: Like-animal. Like-deer. An alphabet. Along a street white as lamplight into the winter, walking—: like language, a new text. I touch her with the eyes of my skin.
The way I read any beloved—: from the ramus of the left jaw down to the cuneiform of the right foot. She isn’t so much what she is—: and becomes herself only when added to the space where she isn’t. What is touch—: not the touch not the hand but the white heat it floats through.
I count her my desires, mark her—: hoofprints across the frozen page. Four strokes of dusk. Carbon black, Lamp black, Bone black, Hide glue—: I am the alchemist of ink. She answers me, Quicksilver,
and the noise of her boots upon the snow is the weight of a night bird bending the meteor-blue branch fruiting white flames of cotton. Each of her steps, an allograph—: bird, flexed limb, perfect line of vertebrae, the glyph of my pelvis.
When I put my teeth to her wrist, the world goes everywhere white. Not sound but the dizzying nautilus of what is both the palm and the ear. I invented her hand in this texture—: a grapheme.
In me, a feeling—: white blossom with a red-sided icosahedron inside the velveteen car of a gold train vibrating the violet tunnel of my throat on its way to a dimmed station in my chest—: twenty seats of desire, and I am sitting in each one.
I burn on the silver sparks of her breath moving out of her body. The miracle. No. The power and the glory glory glory of her—: she breathes. Out—: Out—: twenty red seats of desire, I break every one. A series of waves against hammer anvil stirrup—: a vibration of light I can hold with my mouth.
From Postcolonial Love Poem (Graywolf Press, 2020) by Natalie Diaz. Copyright © 2020 by Natalie Diaz. Used with permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, graywolfpress.org.
10. Here on my knees I look for the single animal: you left
ravaged at the edge of a meadow
9. Is everything accounted for? The fingers dipped
beneath the torso—to keep this body bright
8. Every breath we are desperate to take
sounds as if a war lost against a country of promise
7. Discarded halos: the light you remember
in your head—you feed on what is crushed between the teeth
6. America declares these dreams I have every night be re-
dreamed & pressed into names
5. Upended petals of qém’es
abandoned like torn butterfly wings—we’é I pray
4. I pray that nobody
ever hears us
3. An eye gone
bloodshot: I tear through the crisp apple of your throat & find—
2. myself: this—a boy beside a boy. An eyelash
fallen at the base of a valley, our dark bones bursting in-
1. to bloom. I stare into your beloved face & enter: yes,
yes, this nation, under god, its black sky we lay our nightmares to
0. where I am your animal: my Lamb—now eat
Copyright © 2019 by Michael Wasson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 1, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Our world goes nowhere except its own elsewhere
What kind of sentence is that?
No one is responding, but everyone is vibrating with address
All of us stationed before the same absence
Like glass sheets; we see right through us to the air
Real life is Elsewhere
It is right Here
The bald child
Is a failed clairvoyant
But he can peer through walls to teeth and other things: soap
Mathias kisses Lucy’s Head
Someone shoots my book, shoots it straight through
I allow a relation
Between addiction and adore
Copyright © 2019 by Julie Carr. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 21, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
I tore from a limb fruit that had lost its green.
My hands were warmed by the heat of an apple
Fire red and humming.
I bit sweet power to the core.
How can I say what it was like?
The taste! The taste undid my eyes
And led me far from the gardens planted for a child
To wildernesses deeper than any master’s call.
Now these cool hands guide what they once caressed;
Lips forget what they have kissed.
My eyes now pool their light
Better the summit to see.
I would do it all over again:
Be the harbor and set the sail,
Loose the breeze and harness the gale,
Cherish the harvest of what I have been.
Better the summit to scale.
Better the summit to be.
From Five Poems (Rainmaker Editions, 2002) by Toni Morrison with silhouettes by Kara Walker. Used with permission from The Believer Magazine.
A reprieve: the subsiding of a storm. The withered leaves in the cracks
of the city’s cobblestones, the owl slams its head again and again
against the glass doors of the new coffee shop.
A chipped gimcrack inside my palm, a needle searching for a thimble:
because I know the names of every street in this city,
I resist nomenclatures.
A truce, a never-ending interim: the subsiding of a storm.
A locust drags a bullock cart across the tramline.
I see you standing
in the far end of the alley,
almost invisible: crouching behind the abandoned alabaster cherubs.
You are carving a constellation out of the bones, stolen from an incomplete
museum. An incomplete museum, an abandoned excavation site,
a notebook with nothing but inkstains:
yet, when translated, this is an illuminating picture.
Where in this symmetry of blue-ink grief to look
for pronouns that would house my loud dissipations?
Copyright © 2019 Nandini Dhar. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2019.
In some other life, I can hear you
breathing: a pale sound like running
fingers through tangled hair. I dreamt
again of swimming in the quarry
& surfaced here when you called for me
in a voice only my sleeping self could
know. Now the dapple of the aspen
respires on the wall & the shades cut
its song a staff of light. Leave me—
that me—in bed with the woman
who said all the sounds for pleasure
were made with vowels I couldn’t
hear. Keep me instead with this small sun
that sips at the sky blue hem of our sheets
then dips & reappears: a drowsy penny
in the belt of Venus, your aureole nodding
slow & copper as it bobs against cotton
in cornflower or clay. What a waste
the groan of the mattress must be
when you backstroke into me & pull
the night up over our heads. Your eyes
are two moons I float beneath & my lungs
fill with a wet hum your hips return.
It’s Sunday—or so you say with both hands
on my chest—& hot breath is the only hymn
whose refrain we can recall. And then you
reach for me like I could’ve been another
man. You make me sing without a sound.
Copyright © 2019 by Meg Day. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 1, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
When my partner asks me for a self-
portrait, I tell them:
Just out of high school
I worked as a statue
of liberty. I wore blue velvet
and danced along an off-
shoot of route 6. Mascot
for freedom—I advertised
a tax agency. I had come
out that year.
down their windows,
threw lit cigarettes, trash, pennies.
I have always been one for retaliation.
So I threw the torch.
My partner and I research the back-
yard tree with purple droppings
until we discover
she’s a true princess.
Royal green blood with roots
the size of bodies.
This princess is invasive.
She garden-snakes under
our home and upheaves
what we thought we knew
of ourselves. And god,
isn’t it terrible to gender
even a tree. Isn’t it terrible
that she reminds us of what
we’ve named our bodies’
shortcomings. A flower
concaved as cunt
seems, right now, like a betrayal
we will never forgive.
I dream that my partner leaves me
for eight years in the Coast Guard,
a kraken stings the surface
of this dark blue nightmare.
Split this dream in half and it becomes
four years and I still don’t know
how to swim. None of this is real.
But god, my partner loves the water,
enough even, for me to get in.
When my partner turns their hands
into window blinds, they smooth
my aging forehead with this new
type of shade, they call my skin
into perfect order with their skin.
I tell my partner I will be polite
only when I like what I see
through them. They understand
that this world is hell
bent beyond repair.
there is a peace.
Inside one another
neither of us remembers gender—the meaning
of her or hers. She is lost
to space. He was never
that great to begin with.
We even misplaced the meaning of girl.
If we knew where it had been left,
we still wouldn’t go get it.
Today I am the age
of an arsenal
Between my partner’s legs
I speak the whole
alphabet. They stop me
when I’m close
to what feels right.
At the end of the day
all we have is this ritual
of love, and that, I think,
will be enough
to live forever.
Copyright © 2018 Kayleb Rae Candrilli. This poem originally appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review. Used with permission of the author.