The pond of bones begins to rattle. Even Mother’s
     throne collapses, her body disassembles. The ground
turns to quicksand as it trembles and swallows
     every socket, every thorn, every pebble. In a single
gulp the bed beneath the Smaller Ones swirls down
     a funnel. The earth has groaned like this before.
We know what to expect though it doesn’t help
     us guess which plate will lift its crust and which
will crumble. The dust is blinding. It separates us
     as we scramble. Unknowingly, some of us run

right into the opening and plummet. We hear
     no screams. We hear no cough though we see us
spitting ink—the gas unleashed has cooked our
     lungs. Slowly the collective gathers in the shadow
of the clouds. We must guide our shattered spirits
     to a shelter before the mists release their acid.
In our ears the ringing doesn’t stop. It will take
     a week and some of us will get the sickness—that
rabid urge to kill and tear apart what’s whole.
     We fear no second crack. We fear another purge.

We wrap our arms around our bodies, swaying back
     and forth—we’re motherless cradles, candle stubs
whose flames have melted down to callus. We are
     silent but for the piercing shrill inside our heads.
Cocooned in misery, we might have missed this
     spark of light entirely, but there it is, lifting heavy
chins from chests: a firefly—an actual firefly,
     beautiful bug from our fantasy game, a reality
here among the detritus of the world, rising from
     its dregs, a flicker, a flash, a wink of vital breath.

We try to catch the little star but it eludes our grasp.
     We let it be, it comes to rest upon a knee. Dare we
ask if this means the planet now spins in opposite
     direction? Does it begin to mend its ruptures, unclog
its river paths? The firefly fades but its ghost remains.
     No more dreams, no more questions. Sleep, tiny hope,
we do not know what threats or sorrows we’ll
     encounter next. Tomorrow is a story for those who
make it through the present chronicle—uncertainty,
     scarcity—we the ephemeral have inherited this earth.

From The Book of Ruin. Copyright © 2019 by Rigoberto González. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Four Way Books. 

I took my sky hammer &
pounded out a few choice
clouds, cirrus and I don’t know, nimbus
as in a god on earth
moving in space as a great auroral mist
a god who beholds the sparrows 
washing in the dusty gravel
of frankford avenue
giving me cause to rant or
giving me means to roll
ride with me in the shadowy afterworld
beyond the spider of a doubt
along a sidewalk littered w/ leaves
don’t be plain, said the cloud, find
the ornament that please you best
or elsewise, sugared in stars
go on and rail in a useless manner
against the inevitable dawntime
people of the dawn
come up drumming 
and beat on a pillow even
if a drum is not available
happy fortune, fortune has come round for you again
in this pocket world of a minor horned god 
I balanced my lunch 
in the arms of my ancestors
thomcord grapes and weeping cherries
they were my arms
lackadasic in the sky-sky-sky
holding their sky hammer
as if it were the baby buddha
and I thought, if there was a world beyond...
I could become one of those assholes 
who gets their sugar from fruit
and regard the one who points out my faults 
as a revealer of treasures
and regard the one who points out my faults 
as a revealer of treasures

Copyright © 2022 by Julian Talamantez Brolaski. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 9, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Translated by George Dimitri Selim

Satan came to me in my dream
desirous to dispute with me.
With his frightful horns and flaming eyes
he got close to me.
“Go away!” I said, “Beat it, damn you!
Don’t disturb my thoughts.”  

“I came to entertain you,” he said,
“with my knowledge, skill, and experience.
Answer me! Who are you?”

“One of the sages of the earth,” I said,
“Or haven’t you heard of my fame?
I have filled the world with poetry
Won’t you softly murmur my poems in hell?”

He burst out laughing
at my talk in surprise and scorn.
“Is there hope for wisdom on earth,
or for goodness from its evil people?
If people were just
they would exalt my value in their hearts.
When God created them,
He knew that they would disobey Him forever.
He built them hell,
and chose me to punish them and take revenge.
It’s because of them that He threw me in the abyss,
and I lost my might, authority, and power.
Between them and my Lord I was the victim.
Woe unto them!
The fire of hell did not frighten them,
nor did they learn from my fall.
They persisted in their doom,
disturbing God’s peace and mine,
and my patience.
Since they erected hell among themselves
my home is vacant of devils.
They all reside in people’s souls,
striving for evil and harm.
Don’t you see them
making servants of fuel and wind,
flying in space like birds,
hurling fire at mankind,
heedless of harm and destruction?
Don’t you see them on earth
surging and agitated like lions and leopards?
Don’t you see them
making the whales captives,
causing death to rage,
and the interior of the seas to tremble?
How could Moses think
that the Lord created man
– from the very beginning – in His image?
I die of shame
when they say that they are my followers.”

In the intensity of my anger
I struck Satan for despising men.
But when I woke up
and my eyes wandered over the newspaper,
and saw life a torrent of fire
in a hell of horrors and dangers, I said:
“Contentious though they might be
Satan’s words are true.”

From Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab-American Poetry (Interlink Books, 2000). Used with permission of the editors, Gregory Orfalea and Sharif Elmusa, and Interlink Books. 

A hallway full of shadeless lamps suddenly goes dark
Upon the simultaneous bursting of the globes.
Glass is everywhere, and so thin it forgets

To reflect even the tiny glimmer of your
Matchlight as you pull out your wish 

This is it. The immediacy of the final desire.

I know the dead I know where ghosts go
to feel at home in the float

And how they commune with the living
through the lightswitch 
or the smells of honeysuckles off 
the highway upstate
I say

But you don’t

Copyright © 2022 by Dana Jaye Cadman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 24, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated from the Japanese by William George Aston

The cry of the cicada
Gives us no sign
That presently it will die.

From A History of Japanese Literature (William Heinemann, 1899) by W. G. Aston. This poem is in the public domain.

There are gods in the market place. 
Did you know there were gods there? 
All, yes. Gods, gods,
There are gods everywhere.
I think the many like gods,
I think they like to pray and mourn. 
For a joy-song their prophets sing:
“A new God will soon be born!”
For a joy-song I would sing:
“Let every god be down-torn.”
But what is the world muttering?
Has she whispered it since life began? 
“Gods! I want none of your gods.
Look to yourself—Man.”

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain.

Come to me at the top of the world,
O Mine, before the years spill
Our rare love into Time’s cup
And give our will to Time’s will.

My wide basin is full of starlight,
My moon is lighted with new fire,
I have lit every sun in the firmament
With the hurting flame of my desire.

The worms there in the valley
Die—to forget death!
But here at the top of the world
I laugh under my breath.

There is pain here, and tears,
Bitter, terrible tears;
But the joys have warm mouth, and madness
Dances downwards with the years.

Come to me at the top of the world,
O Mine. The valley is deep,
The valley is full of the dying,
And with those that sleep.

But here wonderful winds blow
And the pines sing one song.
Come to me at the top of the world,
Come soon. I have waited too long.

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain.