You go outside and the trees don’t know
You’re black. The lilacs will chatter and break
Themselves real bloom, real boon,
No matter your gender. You matter.
Who in you is most material, so
You matter. Your afro gone touch the sky.
Come up from the ground looking extra fly,
Come up from the ground looking extra, fly,
I will touch the sky. I—open my mouth,
And my whole life falls out.

Copyright © 2020 by Rickey Laurentiis. Originally published with the Shelter in Poems initiative on

echoes of a hate crime, remembering Matthew Shepard

People are made of paper, love affairs, 

             anything that tears easily. 

 A pregnant woman stands under the lunar eclipse,  

              carves a swirl into a tree, 

 her baby is born with this same mark on his thigh. 

 It’s just like the earth to come between the sun and the moon  

              and cause this kind of mystery. 

Point at a rainbow, and it will plummet and slice your finger off. 

Use your lips instead, to show others what you are looking at. 

Don’t stand on high rocks or they will push you into the sky, 

           and you will be pressed like a flower in a book. 

People are made from rain showers, hatred, smears of spit, 

             anything that might evaporate instantly. 

That night, the moon was a true blood red,  

not the pale rust of this moon, this morning. 

             An entire human body coated red with blood,  

                except where a path of tears washed through. 

Don’t stare at the moon  

          or it will follow you persistently like a stray cat you have fed. 

Don’t hold out your hands when the sun is shining,  

           or you will burn continually with possibility. 

People are made of buckets of sand, sequins of clay, desire,  

           anything that washes away easily. 

Don’t inhale too deeply, the scent of fallen leaves  

pasted to the forest floor after a fresh rain, 

            or you will be repeatedly stepped on. 

Don’t count the seeds in a mound of bear scat  

            or just as many clouds will split open above your head. 

From Not into the Blossoms and Not into the Air (Parlor Press, 2019). Copyright © 2019 by Parlor Press. Used by permission.

“All life is built from song”
   In youth’s young morn I sang;
And from a top-near hill
   The echo broke and rang.

The years with pinions swift
   To youth’s high noon made flight,
“All life is built from song”
   I sang amid the fight.

To life’s sun-setting years,
   My feet have come—Alas!
And through its hopes and fears
   Again I shall not pass.

The lusty song my youth
   With high-heart ardor sang
Is but a tinkling sound—
   A cymbal’s empty clang.

And now I sing, my Dear,
   With wisdom’s wiser heart,
“All life is built from love,
   And song is but a part.”

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 27, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

I’ve just written six
or seven short poems
in about half an hour,
in a cabin
on a pond
with raindrops.
Maybe I should
just sit here
for a while, let
some time pass
so my wife will think
I’ve been working hard.

See that?
Some time just went past
but so quietly
you might have missed it.
Then it morphed
into the sky.
Look, another one!
It came out
of my wristwatch
and slipped away.

Copyright © 2017 by Ron Padgett. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 9, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.