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Poem of the Day: Sonnet 18: Shall I compare...
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
   So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
   So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.



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Poem of the Day: Wade in the Water
One of the women greeted me.
I love you, she said. She didn't
Know me, but I believed her,
And a terrible new ache
Rolled over in my chest,
Like in a room where the drapes
Have been swept back. I love you,
I love you, as she continued
Down the hall past other strangers,
Each feeling pierced suddenly
By pillars of heavy light.
I love you, throughout
The performance, in every
Handclap, every stomp.
I love you in the rusted iron
Chains someone was made
To drag until love let them be
Unclasped and left empty
In the center of the ring.
I love you in the water
Where they pretended to wade,
Singing that old blood-deep song
That dragged us to those banks
And cast us in. I love you,
The angles of it scraping at
Each throat, shouldering past
The swirling dust motes
In those beams of light
That whatever we now knew
We could let ourselves feel, knew
To climb. O Woods—O Dogs                       
O Tree—O Gun—O Girl, run
O Miraculous Many Gone—
O Lord—O Lord—O Lord—
Is this love the trouble you promised?

Tracy K. Smith, "Wade in the Water" from Wade in the Water.  Copyright © 2018 by Tracy K. Smith.  Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press, www.graywolfpress.org.

Tracy K. Smith

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Poem of the Day: Dear Echo
In the likely event of galactic calamity — 
our sun’s hydrogen reserves fused through,
the star-turned-red-giant bloating
as do our corpses — you will require flames.
Between the solar shockwave and Earth’s
rattling — an opaque interval — you must
stare, but we people prior will have left
no crude fluid for ignition, for light,
having tapped this rock to gorge
our bellies to petroleum ache.
Perhaps you will have evolved — blood
supplemented with Edison and Tesla’s
currents, half your body fed by generators
that slow-cure your biomass or waste.
Maybe you will be self-luminous.

            But if you are still — like we,
like me — a mere meat-pod fated to watch
Mercury and Venus engulfed, surely
you hold designs for an interplanetary ark.
Anticipate humanity’s years spent
adrift in the dark liquor of space — lost
within hibernation and missing mother-
planet, further estranged from all
revelation of how we came to be.

From this unproven vantage point (inside
our history with no solid alpha), I claim to pity
your inherited task — to catalog the last
telluric pulse, close the case of man as now
known. But beneath my softened hide,
I’m envious. All of our missteps as shepherds,
all the graffiti eclipsing our souls, all of it
will cinder and you will view this erasure
from your Mars-bound barge. You will know
the phenomenon that is judgment, see it real-time
as prophets allegedly witnessed. Man will never
have beheld a clearer beacon to be reborn —

Source: Poetry February 2016

Kyle Dargan

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Poem of the Day: Pickpocket
Last night whistling I passed
by their alley, saw them in a
sidelong blink of light from
traffic, a speeding car, then
I went home. Dreamed of
gold skies, black money.  I
felt so stupid, to talk
about them feels stupid.  I’m
the sullen red Sun.
 
Bernadette leans from tenement
windows, sailors keep searching
world after world for
Bernadette, and her arms
are black, her outstretched
proffered palms all milky.
From them coins drop into
Pickpocket’s pockets freely.
 
Pickpocket’s face is pocked, his
arms are pocked.  I threw
his face in a lake to make it
ripple, he smokes a
cigar to an orange hot hole in
his face, a glow.  At night
the Sun’s a kid brought behind
the woodshed and abased.

Kevin Killian, "Pickpocket." Copyright © 2015 by Kevin Killian. Used by permission of the author for PoetryNow, a partnership between the Poetry Foundation and the WFMT Radio Network.

Source: PoetryNow(PoetryNow, 2015)

Kevin Killian

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Poem of the Day: Solstice Litany
      1
The Saturday morning meadowlark
came in from high up
with her song gliding into tall grass
still singing. How I'd like
to glide around singing in the summer
then to go south to where I already was
and find fields full of meadowlarks
in winter. But when walking my dog
I want four legs to keep up with her
as she thunders down the hill at top speed
then belly flops into the deep pond.
Lark or dog I crave the impossible.
I'm just human. All too human.


      2
I was nineteen and mentally
infirm when I saw the prophet Isaiah.
The hem of his robe was as wide
as the horizon and his trunk and face
were thousands of feet up in the air.
Maybe he appeared because I had read him
so much and opened too many ancient doors.
I was cooking my life in a cracked clay
pot that was leaking. I had found
secrets I didn't deserve to know.
When the battle for the mind is finally
over it's late June, green and raining.

      3
A violent windstorm the night before
the solstice. The house creaked and yawned.
I thought the morning might bring a bald earth,
bald as a man's bald head but not shiny.
But dawn was fine with a few downed trees,
the yellow rosebush splendidly intact.
The grass was all there dotted with Black
Angus cattle. The grass is indestructible
except to fire but now it's too green to burn.
What did the cattle do in this storm?
They stood with their butts toward the wind,
erect Buddhists waiting for nothing in particular.
I was in bed cringing at gusts,
imagining the contents of earth all blowing
north and piled up where the wind stopped,
the pile sky-high. No one can climb it.
A gopher comes out of a hole as if nothing happened.
 
      4
The sun should be a couple of million miles
closer today. It wouldn't hurt anything
and anyway this cold rainy June is hard
on me and the nesting birds. My own nest
is stupidly uncomfortable, the chair
of many years. The old windows don't keep
the weather out, the wet wind whipping
my hair. A very old robin drops dead
on the lawn, a first for me. Millions
of birds die but we never see it—they like
privacy in this holy, fatal moment or so
I think. We can't tell each other when we die.
Others must carry the message to and fro.
"He's gone," they'll say. While writing an average poem
destined to disappear among the millions of poems
written now by mortally average poets.

      5
Solstice at the cabin deep in the forest.
The full moon shines in the river, there are pale
green northern lights. A huge thunderstorm
comes slowly from the west. Lightning strikes
a nearby tamarack bursting into flame.
I go into the cabin feeling unworthy.
At dawn the tree is still smoldering
in this place the gods touched earth.

Jim Harrison, "Solstice Litany" from Dead Man’s Float. Copyright © 2016 by Jim Harrison. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: Dead Man's Float(Copper Canyon Press, 2016)

Jim Harrison

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Poem of the Day: Perhaps the World Ends Here
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

"Perhaps the World Ends Here" from The Woman Who Fell From the Sky by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., www.wwnorton.com.

Source: The Woman Who Fell From the Sky(W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1994)

Joy Harjo

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Poem of the Day: Turning Forty
At times it's like there is a small planet
inside me. And on this planet,
there are many small wars, yet none
big enough to make a real difference.
The major countries—mind and heart—have
called a truce for now. If this planet had a ruler,
no one remembers him well. All
decisions are made by committee.
Yet there are a few pictures of the old dictator—
how youthful he looked on his big horse,
how bright his eyes.
He was ready to conquer the world.

Reprinted from Cooweescoowee by permission of the author, whose most recent book is Paradise Refunded (Backwaters Press, 1998). Poem copyright © 2004 by Kevin Griffith.

Source: Cooweescoowee(2004)

Kevin Griffith

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Poem of the Day: The Lake in Central Park
It should have a woman's name,
something to tell us how the green skirt of land
                                           has bound its hips.
When the day lowers its vermilion tapestry over the west ridge,
the water has the sound of leaves shaken in a sack,
and the child's voice that you have heard below
                                                          sings of the sea.

By slow movements of the earth's crust,
or is it that her hip bones have been shaped
by a fault of engineering?
Some coquetry cycles this blue edge,
a spring ready to come forth to correct
                                    love's mathematics.

Saturday rises immaculately.
The water's jade edge plays against corn-colored
picnic baskets, rose and lemon bottles, red balloons,
dancers in purple tights, a roan mare out of its field.
It is not the moment to think of Bahia
and the gray mother with her water explanation.
Not far from here, the city, a mass of swift water
in its own depression, licks its sores.

Still, I would be eased by reasons.
Sand dunes in drifts.
Lava cuts its own bed at a mountain base.
Blindness enters where the light refuses to go.
In Loch Lomond, the water flowers with algae
and a small life has taken the name of a star.

You will hear my star-slow heart
empty itself with a light-swift pitch
where the water thins to a silence.
And the woman who will not be named
screams in the birth of her fading away.

Jay Wright, “The Lake in Central Park” from Transfigurations: Collected Poems (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000). Copyright © 2000 by Jay Wright. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Transfigurations: Collected Poems(Louisiana State University Press, 2000)

Jay Wright

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Poem of the Day: White Spine
Liar, I thought, kneeling with the others,
how can He love me and hate what I am?
The dome of St. Peter's shone yellowish
gold, like butter and eggs. My God, I prayed
anyhow, as if made in the image
and likeness of Him. Nearby, a handsome
priest looked at me like a stone; I looked back,
not desiring to go it alone.
The college of cardinals wore punitive red.
The white spine waved to me from his white throne.
Being in a place not my own, much less
myself, I climbed out, a beast in a crib.
Somewhere a terrorist rolled a cigarette.
Reason, not faith, would change him.

Henri Cole, "White Spine" from The Visible Man. Copyright © 1998 by Henri Cole. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved.

Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source: Pierce the Skin: Selected Poems, 1982-2007(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010)

Henri Cole

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Poem of the Day: The Gift
To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.

Li-Young Lee, “The Gift” from Rose. Copyright ©1986 by Li-Young Lee. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.

Source: Rose(BOA Editions Ltd., 1986)

Li-Young Lee

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Poem of the Day: Movement Song
I have studied the tight curls on the back of your neck   
moving away from me
beyond anger or failure
your face in the evening schools of longing
through mornings of wish and ripen
we were always saying goodbye
in the blood in the bone over coffee
before dashing for elevators going
in opposite directions
without goodbyes.

Do not remember me as a bridge nor a roof   
as the maker of legends
nor as a trap
door to that world
where black and white clericals
hang on the edge of beauty in five oclock elevators   
twitching their shoulders to avoid other flesh   
and now
there is someone to speak for them   
moving away from me into tomorrows   
morning of wish and ripen
your goodbye is a promise of lightning   
in the last angels hand
unwelcome and warning
the sands have run out against us   
we were rewarded by journeys
away from each other
into desire
into mornings alone
where excuse and endurance mingle   
conceiving decision.
Do not remember me
as disaster
nor as the keeper of secrets
I am a fellow rider in the cattle cars
watching
you move slowly out of my bed   
saying we cannot waste time
only ourselves.

Audre Lorde, “Movement Song” from From a Land Where Other People Live. Copyright © 1973 by Audre Lorde. Reprinted with the permission of the Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency

Source: The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde(W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1997)

Audre Lorde

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Poem of the Day: flag
When the kids in my class ask why
I am not allowed to pledge to the flag
I tell them It's against my religion but don't say,
I am in the world but not of the world. This,
they would not understand.
Even though my mother's not a Jehovah's Witness,
she makes us follow their rules and
leave the classroom when the pledge is being said.

Every morning, I walk out with Gina and Alina
the two other Witnesses in my class.
Sometimes, Gina says,
Maybe we should pray for the kids inside
who don't know that God said
"No other idols before me." That our God
is a jealous God.
Gina is a true believer. Her Bible open
during reading time. But Alina and I walk through
our roles as Witnesses as though this is the part
we've been given in a play
and once offstage, we run free, sing
"America the Beautiful" and "The Star-Spangled Banner"
far away from our families—knowing every word.

Alina and I want
more than anything to walk back into our classroom
press our hands against our hearts. Say,
"I pledge allegiance . . ." loud
without our jealous God looking down on us.
     Without our parents finding out.
Without our mothers' voices
in our heads saying, You are different.
Chosen.
Good.

When the pledge is over, we walk single file
back into the classroom, take our separate seats
Alina and I far away from Gina. But Gina
always looks back at us—as if to say,
I'm watching you. As if to say,
I know.

Jacqueline Woodson, "flag" from Brown Girl Dreaming. Copyright © 2014 by Jacqueline Woodson. Used by permission of Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

Source: Brown Girl Dreaming(Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014)

Jacqueline Woodson

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Poem of the Day: The Elephant
How to explain my heroic courtesy? I feel
          that my body was inflated by a mischievous boy.

Once I was the size of a falcon, the size of a lion,
          once I was not the elephant I find I am.

My pelt sags, and my master scolds me for a botched
          trick. I practiced it all night in my tent, so I was

somewhat sleepy. People connect me with sadness
          and, often, rationality. Randall Jarrell compared me

to Wallace Stevens, the American poet. I can see it
          in the lumbering tercets, but in my mind

I am more like Eliot, a man of Europe, a man
          of cultivation. Anyone so ceremonious suffers   

breakdowns. I do not like the spectacular experiments
          with balance, the high-wire act and cones.

We elephants are images of humility, as when we
          undertake our melancholy migrations to die.

Did you know, though, that elephants were taught
          to write the Greek alphabet with their hooves?

Worn out by suffering, we lie on our great backs,
          tossing grass up to heaven—as a distraction, not a prayer.

That’s not humility you see on our long final journeys:
          it’s procrastination. It hurts my heavy body to lie down.

Dan Chiasson, "The Elephant" from Natural History. Copyright © 2005 by Dan Chiasson.  Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Source: Natural History(Alfred A. Knopf, 2005)

Dan Chiasson

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Poem of the Day: A Poem for Pulse
Last night, I went to a gay bar
with a man I love a little.
After dinner, we had a drink.
We sat in the far-back of the big backyard
and he asked, What will we do when this place closes?
I don't think it's going anywhere any time soon, I said,
though the crowd was slow for a Saturday,
and he said—Yes, but one day. Where will we go?
He walked me the half-block home
and kissed me goodnight on my stoop—
properly: not too quick, close enough
our stomachs pressed together
in a second sort of kiss.
I live next to a bar that's not a gay bar
—we just call those bars, I guess—
and because it is popular
and because I live on a busy street,
there are always people who aren't queer people
on the sidewalk on weekend nights.
Just people, I guess.
They were there last night.
As I kissed this man I was aware of them watching
and of myself wondering whether or not they were just.
But I didn't let myself feel scared, I kissed him
exactly as I wanted to, as I would have without an audience,
because I decided many years ago to refuse this fear—
an act of resistance. I left
the idea of hate out on the stoop and went inside,
to sleep, early and drunk and happy.
While I slept, a man went to a gay club
with two guns and killed forty-nine people.
Today in an interview, his father said he had been disturbed
recently by the sight of two men kissing.
What a strange power to be cursed with:
for the proof of men's desire to move men to violence.
What's a single kiss? I've had kisses
no one has ever known about, so many
kisses without consequence—
but there is a place you can't outrun,
whoever you are.
There will be a time when.
It might be a bullet, suddenly.
The sound of it. Many.
One man, two guns, fifty dead—
Two men kissing. Last night
I can't get away from, imagining it, them,
the people there to dance and laugh and drink,
who didn't believe they'd die, who couldn't have.
How else can you have a good time?
How else can you live?
There must have been two men kissing
for the first time last night, and for the last,
and two women, too, and two people who were neither.
Brown people, which cannot be a coincidence in this country
which is a racist country, which is gun country.
Today I'm thinking of the Bernie Boston photograph
Flower Power, of the Vietnam protestor placing carnations
in the rifles of the National Guard,
and wishing for a gesture as queer and simple.
The protester in the photo was gay, you know,
he went by Hibiscus and died of AIDS,
which I am also thinking about today because
(the government's response to) AIDS was a hate crime.
Now we have a president who names us,
the big and imperfectly lettered us, and here we are
getting kissed on stoops, getting married some of us,
some of us getting killed.
We must love one another whether or not we die.
Love can't block a bullet
but neither can it be shot down,
and love is, for the most part, what makes us—
in Orlando and in Brooklyn and in Kabul.
We will be everywhere, always;
there's nowhere else for us, or you, to go.
Anywhere you run in this world, love will be there to greet you.
Around any corner, there might be two men. Kissing.
 

Jameson Fitzpatrick, "A Poem for Pulse" from Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence.  Copyright © 2017 by Jameson Fitzpatrick.  Reprinted by permission of Jameson Fitzpatrick.

Jameson Fitzpatrick

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Poem of the Day: Famous
The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,   
which knew it would inherit the earth   
before anybody said so.   

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds   
watching him from the birdhouse.   

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.   

The idea you carry close to your bosom   
is famous to your bosom.   

The boot is famous to the earth,   
more famous than the dress shoe,   
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it   
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.   

I want to be famous to shuffling men   
who smile while crossing streets,   
sticky children in grocery lines,   
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,   
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,   
but because it never forgot what it could do.

Naomi  Shihab Nye, "Famous" from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, copyright © 1995.  Used with permission of Far Corner Books.

Source: Words Under the Words: Selected Poems(Far Corner Books, 1995)

Naomi Shihab Nye

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Poem of the Day: Lonely Eagles
Being black in America
was the Original Catch,
so no one was surprised
by 22:
The segregated airstrips,
separate camps.
They did the jobs
they’d been trained to do.
 
Black ground crews kept them in the air;
black flight surgeons kept them alive;
the whole Group removed their headgear
when another pilot died.
 
They were known by their names:
“Ace” and “Lucky,”
“Sky-hawk Johnny,” “Mr. Death.”
And by their positions and planes.
Red Leader to Yellow Wing-man,
do you copy?
 
If you could find a fresh egg
you bought it and hid it
in your dopp-kit or your boot
until you could eat it alone.
On the night before a mission
you gave a buddy
your hiding-places
as solemnly
as a man dictating
his will.
There’s a chocolate bar
in my Bible;
my whiskey bottle
is inside my bedroll.
 
In beat-up Flying Tigers
that had seen action in Burma,
they shot down three German jets.
They were the only outfit
in the American Air Corps
to sink a destroyer
with fighter planes.
Fighter planes with names
like “By Request.”
Sometimes the radios
didn’t even work.
 
They called themselves
“Hell from Heaven.”
This Spookwaffe.
My father’s old friends.
 
It was always
maximum effort:
A whole squadron
of brother-men
raced across the tarmac
and mounted their planes.
 
            My tent-mate was a guy named Starks.
            The funny thing about me and Starks
            was that my air mattress leaked,
            and Starks’ didn’t.
            Every time we went up,
            I gave my mattress to Starks
            and put his on my cot.
 
            One day we were strafing a train.
            Strafing’s bad news:
            you have to fly so low and slow
            you’re a pretty clear target.
            My other wing-man and I
            exhausted our ammunition and got out.
            I recognized Starks
            by his red tail
            and his rudder’s trim-tabs.
            He couldn’t pull up his nose.
            He dived into the train
            and bought the farm.
 
            I found his chocolate,
            three eggs, and a full fifth
            of his hoarded-up whiskey.
            I used his mattress
            for the rest of my tour.
 
            It still bothers me, sometimes:
            I was sleeping
            on his breath.

Marilyn Nelson, “Lonely Eagles” from The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1997 by Marilyn Nelson. Reprinted by permission of Marilyn Nelson.

Source: The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems(Louisiana State University Press, 1997)

Marilyn Nelson

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Poem of the Day: At the Beach
Looking at the photograph is somehow not
unbearable: My friends, two dead, one low
on T-cells, his white T-shirt an X-ray
screen for the virus, which I imagine
as a single, swimming paisley, a sardine
with serrated fins and a neon spine.

I’m on a train, thinking about my friends
and watching two women talk in sign language.
I feel the energy and heft their talk
generates, the weight of their words in the air
the same heft as your presence in this picture,
boys, the volume of late summer air at the beach.

Did you tea-dance that day? Write poems
in the sunlight? Vamp with strangers? There is
sun under your skin like the gold Sula
found beneath Ajax’s black. I calibrate
the weight of your beautiful bones, the weight
of your elbow, Melvin,

                                  on Darrell’s brown shoulder.

“At the Beach” by Elizabeth Alexander. From Body of Life, published by Tia Chucha Press. Copyright 1996 Elizabeth Alexander. Used by permission of the author.

Source: Poetry February 1994

Elizabeth Alexander

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Poem of the Day: Saturday Afternoon
Into my backyard’s six fat squares of concrete rigged with clothesline,   
Charlie the Cop swung gunnysacks convulsed with Jersey chickens.   
From the open view of other yards, unfolded down the block,   
neighbor women watched ours boil tub water; the barechested men,   
laying out knives and cleavers, fumbled the animals into daylight,   
in the middle of my world, my certain place, not stump roots   
on the cold Atlantic floor of mountains I’d imagined,   
one week every summer, from the hot Wildwood boardwalk.   
But just then Charlie lifted me above his head, saying   
“O Billy Boy you've never in your life seen this! Want it?”
The ground gone, steep drag of thinned air, chicken squawk
tingling in my ears with dim human voices. Charlie threw me in the sea.   
The underplace, swallowing my heart, opened like a horn of plenty,   
blood channels lit blue and red like pinball arteries, flesh-motes,   
mucus, sinew, pulsing viscera bits dripping from clothesline.   
Missile tracks horned across the ceiling. In the ribcage,   
stooped beggars crowded, kicking spongy gouts of something;   
deeper in the tunnel, toward the tail, in files winding out of sight,   
shaved heads, men and women in pajamas. Spear carriers paced the walls.   
Into my vaulted space came words not really words: shades, images   
with a worldly shape of meaning, but beyond me, aloof and hysterical.   
The silence wrapped me like a prickly woolen sleeve knit   
by my women’s voices, shouting, out there, unrecoverable, dense,   
while their horny hands plucked and the sweaty men teased,   
stuffing tacky down inside their headscarves. Inside,
blood cells combed my walls, unfinished patterns seeped through   
as picturegrams that glided across the whale’s belly. A still life   
with ginger jar and pomegranates. A flayed, ripening Christ.
An Ohio puddler stirring pigiron mash, whose back is the same one   
in Giotto’s Gethsemane that stays the hand slicing off a soldier’s ear.   
Mercury, my heart, the sickening beautiful shiftingness of things.   
Kettles steamed, tin basins quivered with guts, my dear hell’s bloodglyphs   
in things, in me. I’d not be whole in and of the world again.   
Quills cracked when Charlie put me down. In my backyard, in my head,   
women sang under a pier to the unformed sea, an unvoiced song   
I’d heard inside the monster, breezing now through clotheslines.   
Men scrubbed their hands at the spigot, the women sighing.   
Flies left charcoal scrawls on the air and grazed old stains;   
they lighted on my arms, not waiting, but constant, my familiars,   
until their manic newsiness went away. Then, in that twilight,   
slow, shadowless lightning bugs appeared, going on and off.

W. S. Di Piero, “Saturday Afternoon” from Shadows Burning. Copyright © 1995 by W. S. Di Piero. Reprinted with the permission of TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, http://nupress.northwestern.edu.

Source: Shadows Burning(TriQuarterly Books, 1995)

W. S. Di Piero

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Poem of the Day: There is no Frigate like a...
There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –

Emily Dickinson, "There is no Frigate like a Book" from (02138: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, )

Source: The Poems of Emily Dickinson Edited by R. W. Franklin(Harvard University Press, 1999)

Emily Dickinson

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Poem of the Day: The Uniform
Of the sleeves, I remember their weight, like wet wool,
on my arms, and the empty ends which hung past my hands.
Of the body of the shirt, I remember the large buttons
and larger buttonholes, which made a rack of wheels
down my chest and could not be quickly unbuttoned.
Of the collar, I remember its thickness without starch,
by which it lay against my clavicle without moving.
Of my trousers, the same—heavy, bulky, slow to give
for a leg, a crowded feeling, a molasses to walk in.
Of my boots, I remember the brittle soles, of a material
that had not been made love to by any natural substance,
and the laces: ropes to make prisoners of my feet.
Of the helmet, I remember the webbed, inner liner,
a brittle plastic underwear on which wobbled
the crushing steel pot then strapped at the chin.
Of the mortar, I remember the mortar plate,
heavy enough to kill by weight, which I carried by rope.
Of the machine gun, I remember the way it fit
behind my head and across my shoulder blades
as I carried it, or, to be precise, as it rode me.
Of tactics, I remember the likelihood of shooting
the wrong man, the weight of the rifle bolt, the difficulty
of loading while prone, the shock of noise.
For earplugs, some used cigarette filters or toilet paper.
I don’t hear well now, for a man of my age,
and the doctor says my ears were damaged and asks
if I was in the Army, and of course I was but then
a wounded eardrum wasn’t much in the scheme.

Marvin Bell, “The Uniform” from Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000. Copyright © 2000 by Marvin Bell. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org

Source: Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000(Copper Canyon Press, 2000)

Marvin Bell

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