In my fantasy of fatherhood, in which I’m
your real father, not just the almost dad
arriving through random channels of divorce,
you and I don’t lie to one another—
shrugging each other off when words
get the best of us but coming
full circle with wan smiles.
When you hole up inside yourself,
headphones and computer screen
taking you away, I want to feel in ten years
that if I’m still alive you’ll still look
at me with that same wary expectancy,
your surreptitious cool-eyed appraisal
debating if my love for you is real.
Am I destined to be those shark-faced waves
that my death will one day make you enter?
You and your mother make such a self-sufficient pair—
in thrift stores looking for your prom dress,
what father could stand up to your unsparing eyes
gauging with such erotic calculation
your figure in the mirror? Back of it all, when I
indulge my second sight, all I see are dead zones:
no grandchildren, no evenings at the beach, no bonfires
in a future that allows one glass of wine
per shot of insulin. Will we both agree
that I love you, always, no matter
my love’s flawed, aging partiality?
My occupation now is to help you be alone.
Originally published in Station Zed (Graywolf Press, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Thomas Sleigh. Used with the permission of the poet.
what I really mean. He paints my name across the floral bed sheet and ties the bottom corners to my ankles. Then he paints another for himself. We walk into town and play the shadow game, saying Oh! I’m sorry for stepping on your shadow! and Please be careful! My shadow is caught in the wheels of your shopping cart. It's all very polite. Our shadows get dirty just like anyone’s, so we take them to the Laundromat—the one with the 1996 Olympics themed pinball machine— and watch our shadows warm against each other. We bring the shadow game home and (this is my favorite part) when we stretch our shadows across the bed, we get so tangled my husband grips his own wrist, certain it’s my wrist, and kisses it.
Copyright © 2018 by Paige Lewis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 6, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I was following the little dog through the skinny trees.
I was just collecting water glasses.
I was filling them at the well and carrying them back, one by one,
trying not to drop a single drop.
I was wearing the same shirt as the day before and the day before that
And the day before that.
Asking all my ghosts to join me on the dance floor.
Let’s Twist, let’s shimmy.
While the room waltzes, I will Watusi.
I was Jimmy Switchblade.
I was the Three Cherries Gang.
I was the tallest cigarette in the pack
I was black jacket black collared collar up. I was actually yellow shirt lost.
I was laying in the dirt and piling it on. I believed if I kept trying to bury myself
then maybe I could talk to some other world.
I just got dirty.
My belly was heavy.
For months, I barely moved.
After she left I barely moved.
I watched the sun go down, and while waiting for it to return I slept
–dreaming of the bicycle but I did not know what the bicycle was.
I thought, What a strange horse that fish is—do I kill it or ride it?
How do I do either of those?
Instead, I baptized myself with bath water, rode the airplanes like they were church.
Hoped the chains could not climb this high.
Staring out the windows, I made a list of my body parts that no longer worked,
folded it into an envelope,
hoping my mother or a former lover would one day come across it.
That list is a poem not a list.
So is this one.
I rode the airplanes
until they brought me 530 miles from the room I was born inside of.
My fists back then were not so much smaller than they are now, simply tighter.
I have been shrinking more and more with every month.
The South it is my beautiful bed.
One day bury me in it.
Till then I will touch it from time to time.
Carry me inside its wet wet heat–
I sweat when I walk.
When I walk I see my dreams come closer.
What I thought was a horse or a fish was really a girl on a bicycle.
She had small fingers but reached them towards me.
I neither killed nor rode her.
All I did was make a hand.
All I did was get wet.
All I did was shake my body like a library in an earthquake.
I spilled books like holy water.
My rooms were a mess.
The ceiling came in closer to read all that I was–a thousand years of spines,
a pale suit stitched from a riverbank. Bags of the heaviest dust. Splinters
on my tongue from licking the roofs of so many cathedrals–
I had worked so hard for my sorrow.
So I asked my boss for the night off.
Caught another plane.
Rode it to a dance in Chicago.
I combed my hair, slicked down with pomade. Put my shiniest belt buckle on.
I saw Suzie on the dance floor.
She put a quarter in the jukebox and grabbed me like a police man
asked What you do Ace?
I told her I work at a malt shop. And sometimes I bury things.
But I ain’t too good at that. I ain’t always too good at that I told her.
She looked at me like we had prayed on the same cliff.
She told me she didn’t believe in God anymore.
I told her I still did.
Her and I, we have prayed on the same cliff.
She held me like a handcuff.
I swallowed keys.
I danced with Suzie all night long.
I’m still waiting for the sun to come up.
I don’t care if it never does.
I am warm enough.
From The Feather Room (Write Bloody Publishing, 2011) by Anis Mojgani. Copyright © 2011 by Anis Mojgani. Used with the permission of the author.
I like being with you all night with closed eyes.
What luck—here you are
along the stars!
I did a road trip
all over my mind and heart
there you were
kneeling by the roadside
with your little toolkit
Give me a world, you have taken the world I was.
Copyright © 2020 by Anne Carson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 10, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles
and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together for the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse
it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I’m telling you about it
From The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara by Frank O’Hara, copyright © 1971 by Maureen Granville-Smith, Administratrix of the Estate of Frank O’Hara, copyright renewed 1999 by Maureen O’Hara Granville-Smith and Donald Allen. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.