who hurt you here by the river
at the supermarket who hurt you
who saw you hurting who hurt
you who saw you hurting who
turned around and walked away
exit exit we must exit but how i have no
advice no direction but up and over and
swerve swerve the metal circle rusted and
dissolved on the side of the road it was left
after construction de stabilize meaning
and reinvent history but only if history
oppressed you six women naked in a hot
tub and we won't leave this house in the
country six women naked in a hot tub
we end it together so we can begin it
again we begin it was a different
rhythm we don't forget our fear we
were never afraid in the woods even
though we knew what was in the woods
we looking in the dirt
for something we all
putting our hands in the
dirt a gesture we saw
before somewhere on
someone she didn't
speak we didn't speak
to each other the forest
lit our hands a gesture
erase ignore separate
they say they tell us
they tell us to be an
individual that we can
be individuals we
cannot be individuals
Copyright © 2021 by LA Warman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 17, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
A panther sprang at the feet
Of the young deer in the gray wood.
It was the lady who had sworn
To love him,
That rose, wraithlike
From the flow of his blood.
He swooned with her devotions.
There was never one
More jolly and boyish
Than he was, in the great beginning.
Once his slippers were fastened
He settled down
Like a worn jaguar
Weary with staring through bars.
The caresses that were poured
Over his person
Staled on him.
Love had grown rancid.
Have you emptied the garbage
Never can worship
The smell of hams and hocks
Issuing from the smokehouse.
The odours of the street
That bear entertaining.
There is at least
The tincture of virility
This poem is in the public domain, and originally appeared in Others for 1919; An Anthology of the New Verse (Nicholas L. Brown, 1920).
I once made a diorama from a shoebox
for a man I loved. I was never a crafty person,
but found tiny items at an art store and did my best
to display the beginning bud of our little love,
a scene recreating our first kiss in his basement
apartment, origin story of an eight-year marriage.
In the dollhouse section, I bought a small ceiling fan.
Recreated his black leather couch, even found miniscule
soda cans for the cardboard counters that I cut and glued.
People get weird about divorce. Think it’s contagious.
Think it dirty. I don’t need to make it holy, but it purifies—
It’s clear. Sometimes the science is simple. Sometimes
people love each other but don’t need each other
anymore. Though, I think the tenderness can stay
(if you want it too). I forgive and keep forgiving,
mostly myself. People still ask, what happened?
I know you want a reason, a caution to avoid, but
life rarely tumbles out a cheat sheet. Sometimes
nobody is the monster. I keep seeing him for the first
time at the restaurant off of West End where we met
and worked and giggled at the micros. I keep seeing
his crooked smile and open server book fanned with cash
before we would discover and enter another world
and come back barreling to this one, astronauts
for the better and for the worse, but still spectacular
as we burned back inside this atmosphere to live
separate lives inside other shadow boxes we cannot see.
I remember I said I hate you once when we were driving
back to Nashville, our last long distance. I didn’t mean it.
I said it to hurt him, and it did. I regret that I was capable
of causing pain. I think it’s important to implicate
the self. The knife shouldn’t exit the cake clean.
There is still some residue, some proof of puncture,
some scars you graze to remember the risk.
Copyright © 2021 by Tiana Clark. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 14, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
after Wanda Coleman
Ms. Birdsong what a beautiful last
Ms. Birdsong are you the head of your
Ms. Birdsong your total today comes to
Ms. Birdsong your insurance will only cover
Ms. Birdsong can you please step out of
Ms. Birdsong your test results are back and
Ms. Birdsong I am going to refer you
Ms. Birdsong thanks for your recent donation but
Ms. Birdsong you have been randomly selected for
Ms. Birdsong unfortunately you were not chosen
Ms. Birdsong I am calling about your past due
Ms. Birdsong do you really have a Ph.—
Destiny what a beautiful first
Destiny are you related to someone
Destiny I can’t remember if that’s a wig but
Destiny if you’re not too busy I
Destiny you are never on time for
Destiny I’m not ready for a serious
Destiny I really need to ask if
Destiny this time I promise I
Destiny well I’m sorry if you felt like
Destiny don’t hold your breath because
[Destiny, they will kill you and say you—]
Destiny when will you be coming
Copyright © 2021 by Destiny O. Birdsong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 5, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.
There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.
I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.
And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
you breathe differently down here.
I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed
the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.
This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he
whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass
We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
our names do not appear.
From Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972 by Adrienne Rich. Copyright © 1973 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Reprinted by permission of the author and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright 1973 by Adrienne Rich.
The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn, As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on, Afar o’er life’s turrets and vales does it roam In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home. The heart of a woman falls back with the night, And enters some alien cage in its plight, And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.
This poem is in the public domain.