I now replace desire
Instead of saying, I want you, I say,
there is meaning between us.
Meaning can swim, has taken lessons from the river
of itself. Desire is air. One puncture
above a black lake and she lies flat.
I now replace intensity with meaning.
One is a black hole of boundless appetite, a false womb,
another is a sentence.
My therapist says children need a “father” for language
and a “mother” for everything else.
She doesn’t get that it’s all language. There is no else.
Else is a fiction of life, and a fact of death.
That night, we don’t touch.
We ruin nothing.
We get bagels in the morning before you leave on a train,
and I smoke a skinny cigarette and think
I look glam, like an Italian diva.
You make a joke at my expense, which is not a joke, really,
but a way to say I know you.
I don’t feed on you. Instead, I watch you
like a faraway tree.
Desire loves the what if, the if only, the maybe in another lifetime.
She loves a parallel universe. Or seven.
Meaning knows its minerals,
knows which volcanic magma belongs
to which volcanic fleet.
Knows the earth has parents. That a person is raised.
It’s the real flirtation, to say, you are not a meal.
To say, I want you
Copyright © 2023 by Megan Fernandes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 13, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
The sound of quiet. The sky
deeper from the top, like tea.
In the absence
of anything else, my own
breathing became obscene.
I heard the beating
of bats’ wings before
the air troubled above
my head, turned to look
and saw them gone.
On the surface of the black
lake, a swan and the moon
still. I knew this was
a perfect moment.
Which would only hurt me
to remember and never
live again. My God. How lucky to have lived
a life I would die for.
Copyright © 2023 by Leila Chatti. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Grotz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 12, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
The light retreats and is generous again.
No you to speak of, anywhere—neither in vicinity nor distance,
so I look at the blue water, the snowy egret, the lace of its feathers
shaking in the wind, the lake—no, I am lying.
There are no egrets here, no water. Most of the time,
my mind gnaws on such ridiculous fictions.
My phone notes littered with lines like Beauty will not save you.
Or: mouthwash, yogurt, cilantro.
A hummingbird zips past me, its luminescent plumage
disturbing my vision like a tiny dorsal fin.
But what I want does not appear. Instead, I find the redwoods and pines,
figs that have fallen and burst open on the pavement,
announcing that sickly sweet smell,
the sweetness of grief, my prayer for what is gone.
You are so dramatic, I say to the reflection on my phone,
then order the collected novels of Jean Rhys.
She, too, was humiliated by her body, that it wanted
such stupid, simple things: food and cherry wine, to touch someone.
On my daily walk, I steal Meyer lemons from my neighbors’ yard,
a small pomegranate. Instead of eating them,
I observe their casual rot on the kitchen counter,
this theatre of good things turning into something else.
Copyright © 2021 by Aria Aber. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 19, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
Love me stupid.
Love me terrible.
And when I am no
mountain but rather
a monsoon of imperfect
thunder love me. When
I am blue in my face
from swallowing myself
yet wearing my best heart
even if my best heart
is a century of hunger
an angry mule breathing
hard or perhaps even
hopeful. A small sun.
Little & bright.
Copyright © 2019 by Anis Mojgani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 14, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
for the young who ask, “How did you learn to like yourself?”
There are glaciers, imposing, yet shrinking.
There is the iris, violet sky cradling shards of sun.
The white Bengal tiger, snow and black ink.
Infinite reasons I could give for gladness,
though none may salve the wound from which
your question arises, how to be glad to be alive?
Stitch your heart’s fissure: recall family, friends,
a slap, cigarette burn, the rod, something smashed
down, or welled up in your darkened pupil.
Turn outward: two A.M. streets, the creeps in cars,
the chaos of human folly delivered by calm,
coiffed news anchors. The wound is within you
and not. The answer within you and not.
Want, comfort, desire, love ought not be wounds.
We pine for them from our first wail,
what you must give and take, till no voice is left.
Copyright © 2023 by Johnson Cheu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 21, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
The windshield’s dirty, the squirter stuff’s all gone, so
we drive on together into a sun-gray pane of grime
and dust. My son
puts the passenger seat back as far as it will go, closes
his eyes. I crack my window open for a bit
of fresher air. It’s so
incredibly fresh out there.
in ditches. Black mirrors with our passing
reflected in them, I suppose, but I’d
have to pull over and kneel down at the side
of the road to know.
The day ahead—
for this, the radio
doesn’t need to be played.
The house we used to live in
in a snapshot, in which
it yellows in another family’s scrapbook.
And a man on a bicycle
rides beside us
for a long time, very swiftly, until finally
he can’t keep up—
but before he slips
behind us, he salutes us
with his left hand—
that every single second—
that every prisoner on death row—
that every name on every tombstone—
that everywhere we go—
that every day, like this one, will
be like every other, having never been, never
thank you. And, oh—
I almost forgot to say it: amen.
Copyright © 2020 by Laura Kasischke. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
What can I tell her over breakfast when she says
her son suffers from madness, and because there
is no mental health, he has ended up in jail,
and she is relieved, because at least he might
be safe there or he might get to see the doctor.
We are eating egg-white omelets; we are counting
carbs. We are buttoning ourselves in our clean dresses
and high-heeled shoes in order to bring home the bacon,
doing what we need to do and “It is what it is.”
Her granddaughter and daughter are living with her
in the one bedroom. Nights, the daughter lounges by
the pool, looking at her phone, while she teaches the child
to plant seeds in a flower bed she feels bad she does not own.
She tells she cried in the car coming here; she did not know
me then. She thought we would be talking to each other
the whole time about what we are selling, what
the other might buy, but somehow we left that behind
over the toast with the tiny pots of strawberry jam.
Who can explain all this luxury, all this despair?
Or how we all hold our secret shames so close
and gloss our lips with “Cinnamon Fire” as if that were
some legitimate form of protection. Cinnamon Fire!
She just turned fifty. I tell her wait ten years—you
won’t know more, but you will get closer to forgiving,
because it is all happening on a wheel that spins
so fast. Why not stop to look at the pink flowers
you’ve planted with your granddaughter? Why not feel
your bare toes in the good wet earth? We play with the crusts
on our plates. The waitress takes the coffee away. We
are strangers again, each carrying our lonely fear
our children won’t find their way, wishing for them
some inner logic—sacred trust of earth and self, that exists
for each of us so far within, so far under the skin, we
can’t even begin to say what it is made of; it merely is,
poised between love and grief: the blue space we call wonder,
which is merely the dew on the grass, the shadow the sun
makes as it rolls over the vast skin of the Earth.
Copyright © 2023 by Sheila Black. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 28, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.