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Poem of the Day: Rhymes for a Watertower
A town so flat a grave's a hill,
            A dusk the color of beer.
A row of schooldesks shadows fill,
            A row of houses near.

A courthouse spreading to its lawn,
            A bank clock's lingering heat.
A gleam of storefronts not quite gone,
            A courthouse in the street.

A different element, almost,
            A dry creek brimming black.
A light to lure the darkness close,
            A light to keep it back.

A time so still a heart's a sound,
            A moon the color of skin.
A pumpjack bowing to the ground,
            Again, again, again.

Christian Wiman, "Rhymes for a Watertower" from Hard Night. Copyright © 2005 by Christian Wiman.  Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Source: Hard Night(Copper Canyon Press, 2005)

Christian Wiman

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Poem of the Day: Botanical Fanaticism
My ancestors weren’t hippies, cotton
precluded fascination with flowers.
I don’t remember communes, I remember
ghettos. The riots were real, not
products of hallucinogens. Free love had
been at Redbones since black unemployment
and credit saturation.
 
The white women my mother cleaned
for didn’t notice she had changed. I guess
it was a small event, a resurrected African
jumping out the gap in her front teeth. I
guess it looked like a cockroach; that’s
what she was supposed to have, not dignity.
 
My mother just couldn’t get excited
about the Beatles, those mops she swilled
in ammonia everyday on their heads. Besides,
she didn’t work like a dog but like a woman;
they aren’t the same. The hair was growing long
for the same reasons Pinocchio’s nose did.
 
I can think only of a lesbian draping
crepe paper chains over my head to make a
black Rapunzel possible; that’s how a white
woman tried to lift my burdens. At the time
I didn’t reject her for being lesbian or
white but for both burdens. That was when
I didn’t want Ivory soap to be what
cleaned me, made me presentable to society.
All the suds I’d seen were white, they still
are but who cares? I’m more interested in
how soap dwindles in my hand, under the faucet.
 
I’m old enough to remember blocks
of ice, old enough or poor enough.
I remember chipping away at it, broken
glass all over the floor. Later in the
riots, the broken glass of looting tattled
how desperate people were to keep cool.
 
There are roses now in my mother’s yard.
Sometimes she cuts them, sets them in Pepsi
bottles throughout her rooms. She is,
I admit, being sentimental. Looting her
heart. My father who planted them is gone.
That mop in the corner
is his cane growing roots.
 

Thylias Moss, "Botanical Fanaticism" from Wannabe Hoochie Mama Gallery of Realities’ Red Dress Code.  Copyright © 2016 by Thylias Moss.  Reprinted by permission of Persea Books, www.perseabooks.com.

Source: Wannabe Hoochie Mama Gallery of Realities’ Red Dress Code(Persea Books, 2016)

Thylias Moss

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Poem of the Day: Seventeen Funerals
Seventeen suns rising in seventeen bedroom windows. Thirty-four eyes blooming open with the light of one more morning. Seventeen reflections in the bathroom mirror. Seventeen backpacks or briefcases stuffed with textbooks or lesson plans. Seventeen good mornings at kitchen breakfasts and seventeen goodbyes at front doors. Seventeen drives through palm-lined streets and miles of crammed highways to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at 5901 Pine Island Road. The first bell ringing-in one last school day on February fourteenth, 2018. Seventeen echoes of footsteps down hallways for five class periods: algebra, poetry, biology, art, history. Seventeen hands writing on whiteboards or taking notes at their desks until the first gunshot at 2:21pm. One AR-15 rifle in the hands of a nineteen year old mind turning hate for himself into hate for others, into one-hundred fifty bullets fired in six minutes through building number twelve. Seventeen dead carried down hallways they walked, past cases of trophies they won, flyers for clubs they belonged to, lockers they won’t open again. Seventeen Valentine’s Day dates broken and cards unopened. Seventeen bodies to identify, dozens of photo albums to page through and remember their lives. Seventeen caskets and burial garments to choose for them. Seventeen funerals to attend in twelve days. Seventeen graves dug and headstones placed—all marked with the same date of death. Seventeen names: Alyssa. Helena. Scott. Martin—seventeen absentees forever—Nicholas. Aaron. Jamie. Luke—seventeen closets to clear out—Christopher. Cara. Gina. Joaquin—seventeen empty beds—Alaina. Meadow. Alex. Carmen. Peter—seventeen reasons to rebel with the hope these will be the last seventeen to be taken by one of three-hundred-ninety-three-million guns in America.
Richard Blanco, “Seventeen Funerals.” Copyright © 2018 by Richard Blanco. Used by permission of the author for PoetryNow.

Source: PoetryNow(2018)

Richard Blanco

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Poem of the Day: The Architecture of a Love Poem
Love's balustrade, love's balcony
             a few iron words that can be seen anywhere still
in grocery lists, in laundry hung between two objects,
             an e-mail, in an apology, in a thought about the weather
these rusty words, these rusting gates
              before a breath, Standing in the cold morning
on a cold blue stairs, with a curlicue of coffee
              you look at the word Love written on the
side of the Pharmacy in cherry-vanilla flavored cursive
              because this is where a love poem once stood,
what I am saying right now is secretly built over
              a love poem, the fossils of a cupola,
pink buildings with red hyphens and dashes
              and three red dots, You, second person pink
with shutters you could open with a fingernail
              like in an advent calendar to see sticker scenes
of apartments inside: a radiator, a bare arm,
              two cups by themselves on a table
The mind of the attic still persists up there
              meditative water
and the chairs talking quietly to one another
              It's now pink rubble, rhyming bricks, and an illicit balcony
the heart had such a fancy elevator
              that it started to look like a bird cage
and once in a lemon-scented fog
               near springtime-fresh trees, I heard two people say,
"Yellow kiss-shaped flowers, telephone flowers,
              are falling from my mouth now"
Now, it's a set of blue and white checkered apartment buildings
              math problems that are eight stories high
a long division jutting as pollution into the sky
              laundry, cooking spills, gasoline shirts
commas, theories or arguments of boyfriends & girlfriends
              boyfriends & boyfriends, girlfriends & girlfriends,
all hanging out of the window that you opened.

 

Alexandria Peary, "The Architecture of a Love Poem" from Fall Foliage Called Bathers & Dancers. Copyright © 2008 by Alexandria Peary.  Reprinted by permission of Backwaters Press.

Source: Fall Foliage Called Bathers & Dancers(Backwaters Press, 2008)

Alexandria Peary

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Poem of the Day: Feeling the draft
We were young and it was an accomplishment
to have a body. No one said this. No one
said much beyond “throw me that sky” or
“can the lake sleep over?” The lake could not.
The lake was sent home and I ate too many
beets, went around with beet-blood tongue
worrying about my draft card-burning brother
going to war. Other brothers became holes
at first base at war, then a few holes
Harleying back from war in their always
it seemed green jackets with pockets galore
and flaps for I wondered bullets, I wondered
how to worship these giants. None of them
wanted to talk to me or anyone it seemed
but the river or certain un-helmeted curves
at high speed, I had my body
and flung it over branches and fences
toward my coming sullenness as the gravity
of girls’ hips began and my brother
marched off to march against the war.
I watched different masses of bodies on tv,
people saying no to the jungle with grenades
and people saying no to the grenades with signs
and my father saying no to all of them
with the grinding of his teeth he spoke with.
I’d pedal after the nos up and down a hill
like it was somehow a rosary, somehow my body
was a prayer I could chant by letting it loose
with others like me milling around
the everything below five feet tall
that was ours, the everything below
the adult line of sight that was ours
to hold as long as we could: a year,
a summer. Until the quarterback came back
without . . . well, without. When the next Adonis
stepped up to throw the bomb.



Source: Poetry October 2010

Bob Hicok

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Poem of the Day: Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
his hand and pen
he will be good but
god knows When




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Poem of the Day: Intimate Detail
Late summer, late afternoon, my work
interrupted by bees who claim my tea,
even my pen looks flower-good to them.
I warn a delivery man that my bees,
who all summer have been tame as cows,
now grow frantic, aggressive, difficult to shoo
from the house. I blame the second blooms
come out in hot colors, defiant vibrancy—
unexpected from cottage cosmos, nicotianna,
and bean vine. But those bees know, I’m told
by the interested delivery man, they have only
so many days to go. He sighs at sweetness untasted.

Still warm in the day, we inspect the bees.
This kind stranger knows them in intimate detail.
He can name the ones I think of as shopping ladies.
Their fur coats ruffed up, yellow packages tucked
beneath their wings, so weighted with their finds
they ascend in slow circles, sometimes drop, while
other bees whirl madly, dance the blossoms, ravish
broadly so the whole bed bends and bounces alive.

He asks if I have kids, I say not yet. He has five,
all boys. He calls the honeybees his girls although
he tells me they’re ungendered workers
who never produce offspring. Some hour drops,
the bees shut off. In the long, cool slant of sun,
spent flowers fold into cups. He asks me if I’ve ever
seen a Solitary Bee where it sleeps. I say I’ve not.
The nearest bud’s a long-throated peach hollyhock.
He cradles it in his palm, holds it up so I spy
the intimacy of the sleeping bee. Little life safe in a petal,
little girl, your few furious buzzings as you stir
stay with me all winter, remind me of my work undone.

Heid E. Erdrich, “Intimate Detail” from The Mother’s Tongue. Copyright © 2005 by Heid E. Erdich. Reprinted by permission of Salt Publishing.

Source: The Mother’s Tongue(Salt Publishing, 2005)

Heid E. Erdrich

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Poem of the Day: Snow on the Desert
“Each ray of sunshine is seven minutes old,”   
Serge told me in New York one December night.

“So when I look at the sky, I see the past?”   
“Yes, Yes," he said. “especially on a clear day.”

On January 19, 1987,
as I very early in the morning
drove my sister to Tucson International,

suddenly on Alvernon and 22nd Street   
the sliding doors of the fog were opened,

and the snow, which had fallen all night, now   
sun-dazzled, blinded us, the earth whitened

out, as if by cocaine, the desert’s plants,   
its mineral-hard colors extinguished,   
wine frozen in the veins of the cactus.

                     *   *   *

The Desert Smells Like Rain: in it I read:   
The syrup from which sacred wine is made

is extracted from the saguaros each   
summer. The Papagos place it in jars,

where the last of it softens, then darkens   
into a color of blood though it tastes

strangely sweet, almost white, like a dry wine.   
As I tell Sameetah this, we are still

seven miles away. “And you know the flowers   
of the saguaros bloom only at night?”

We are driving slowly, the road is glass.   
“Imagine where we are was a sea once.

Just imagine!” The sky is relentlessly   
sapphire, and the past is happening quickly:

the saguaros have opened themselves, stretched   
out their arms to rays millions of years old,

in each ray a secret of the planet’s   
origin, the rays hurting each cactus

into memory, a human memory
for they are human, the Papagos say:

not only because they have arms and veins   
and secrets. But because they too are a tribe,

vulnerable to massacre. “It is like
the end, perhaps the beginning of the world,”

Sameetah says, staring at their snow-sleeved   
arms. And we are driving by the ocean

that evaporated here, by its shores,
the past now happening so quickly that each

stoplight hurts us into memory, the sky   
taking rapid notes on us as we turn

at Tucson Boulevard and drive into   
the airport, and I realize that the earth

is thawing from longing into longing and   
that we are being forgotten by those arms.

                     *   *   *

At the airport I stared after her plane   
till the window was

                      again a mirror.
As I drove back to the foothills, the fog

shut its doors behind me on Alvernon,   
and I breathed the dried seas

                      the earth had lost,
their forsaken shores. And I remembered

another moment that refers only   
to itself:

                      in New Delhi one night
as Begum Akhtar sang, the lights went out.

It was perhaps during the Bangladesh War,   
perhaps there were sirens,

                      air-raid warnings.
But the audience, hushed, did not stir.

The microphone was dead, but she went on   
singing, and her voice

                      was coming from far   
away, as if she had already died.

And just before the lights did flood her   
again, melting the frost

                      of her diamond
into rays, it was, like this turning dark

of fog, a moment when only a lost sea   
can be heard, a time

                      to recollect
every shadow, everything the earth was losing,

a time to think of everything the earth   
and I had lost, of all

                      that I would lose,   
of all that I was losing.

Agha Shahid Ali, "Snow on the Desert" from A Nostalgist's Map of America.  Copyright © 1991 by Agha Shahid Ali.  Used by the permission of the author and W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Source: A Nostalgist's Map of America(W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1992)

Agha Shahid Ali

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Poem of the Day: Mailboxes in Late Winter
It’s a motley lot. A few still stand
at attention like sentries at the ends
of their driveways, but more lean
askance as if they’d just received a blow
to the head, and in fact they’ve received
many, all winter, from jets of wet snow
shooting off the curved, tapered blade
of the plow. Some look wobbly, cocked
at oddball angles or slumping forlornly
on precariously listing posts. One box
bows steeply forward, as if in disgrace, its door
lolling sideways, unhinged. Others are dented,
battered, streaked with rust, bandaged in duct tape,
crisscrossed with clothesline or bungee cords.
A few lie abashed in remnants of the very snow
that knocked them from their perches.
Another is wedged in the crook of a tree
like a birdhouse, its post shattered nearby.
I almost feel sorry for them, worn out
by the long winter, off-kilter, not knowing
what hit them, trying to hold themselves
together, as they wait for news from spring.



Poem copyright ©2012 by Jeffrey Harrison, whose most recent book of poems is Incomplete Knowledge, Four Way Books, 2006. Poem reprinted from Southwest Review, Vol. 97, no. 1, 2012, by permission of Jeffrey Harrison and the publisher.

Jeffrey Harrison

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Poem of the Day: From the Unwritten Letters of...
 
                                                                              (February, 1841)

Melinda, I've been preparing to write.
That peculiar girl named Molly, 
who has a bit of liberty in the house,
has said she'll find some paper.
I have practiced mixing charred wood with water
and have managed to shave a twig
so one end nearly resembles a nib,
but tonight Lila got caught up
under the good Doctor's whip
for such a little offense. I am frightened.
Doctor Jackson brought in a new troop of slaves today.
A boy of thirteen among them had the welted cheek
that speaks of a driver's dissatisfaction.
Lila put a poultice on to ease the swelling,
but Jackson wants the boy to understand his place
and thinks a scar will help. Lila's back
and neck and arms have thirty new wounds
to replace the one she thought to heal.
Melinda, how is Jacob? Ever yours,




                                                                    (February, 1841)

Do you ever start at night believing
I might be dead? I leave my body
sometimes, Melinda. Is that all dying is?
Remember how I'd scold you
when the stew was thin, believing
I needed a thick stock to forge muscle
for all the work I had ahead?
Your stew would make me big again, Melinda.
Sometimes we have to trap, skin and roast
possum, rabbit, snake and squirrel.
Except for that, I have swallowed naught
but salt pork and coarse meal in all my days
away from you. But I work just fine.
Ever your beloved husband,




                                                                    (March, 1841)

What a herd of slaves Jackson brought in last month.
No sooner had their strength returned
after the long march to the farm from Lynchburg
but they began to plot another run.
We didn't know they'd planned to leave
until they were already gone a day.
All manner of neighborhood men
came around to tip Jackson's whiskey
and help him on the hunt, though
all they brought back for their trouble
were two bodies. One dead,
one fighting off living. That boy
I told you about, Ben with the slashed cheek?
At the stony fork of the river
Doc Jackson found his body, cut up,
twisted as if it had fought long
under water, a dead hand pointing
in the direction his netted sister and the "damned
lost lot of niggers" had run. I guess
he was too obstinate even for the water
to hold down easily. Jackson used Ben
like a scarecrow, his shirt hooked on a pole,
his body meant to warn us from the road.
Lila's still not certain that the girl will live.
Until tomorrow, I am ever your Joe.




                                                                    (December, 1843)

William is the name Smythe matched
to my description when he shipped me
from his Wilmington slave pen
to the Richmond consigner Jackson
bought me from. So I am William,
though it took more than one whipping
for me to remember it. There is a woman
keeps the kitchen here prefers we call her Auntie.
She's been called so many names
she "most forgets" which one means her.
I trust Jacob is getting on in school
just fine. I was, at his age, learning
to carry myself with the pride of a Freeman.
It's been many years since I've been able
to answer to any person calling me
that name. And Jacob? Can he remember
his father? Please hug him for me,
Melinda. I am ever your husband,




                                                                    (November, 1845)

How many live on our alley in Philadelphia?
There, this room might accommodate
a bed and two chairs, but here we are three men,
two women, some potions, and a girl. We sleep
in turns. Marlo often walks the woods at night,
his eye out on the traps for all of us.   'Dolphus steals sleep
in the smithing shop and steals everything else
before dawn. Just last week, we bore the tread
of a muzzled goat and two hens he brought in
from a neighbor's farm. Our field sweat adds stench
to the store of bones, feathers, brews, and herbs
Lila claims can cure the women on this place.
Sadie, who Lila never tried to stop herself from bearing,
sleeps with her body wedged behind the door.
Molly swings it in her side each night when she turns up
to sleep after Miss Amy's laudanum takes and again
when she races the conch call to the house in the morning.
Even Lena, who had a well-built cabin of her own
when she lived on the place, pushed four babies off her tit
to make room for the Doctor and for Miss Amy's boy.
I wonder, Melinda, are your wages enough,
since I went away, to satisfy the rent? Yours in tribulation,




                                                                    (December, 1847)

The Doctor's had his eye on Molly
since he caught her listening
while the tutor drilled his son on Greek.
She says the boy translates slowly.
On a war now, his spoiled tongue
has spent two days flogging
some warrior's impenetrable shield.
Molly showed me yesterday
what a heart looks like. Traced it
in the dirt that is my bed, my stool,
my desk, my cabin floor. I miss you, Melinda.
I miss feeling the little skip your heart took sometimes,
though I know the pinch that came along with the stutter
pained you.   Molly is a smart girl,
though brutal in her zeal. She's quicker
than a butcher to find cause to wield a knife.
I am certain the Doctor will lapse in his vigilance 
soon enough. Then I will chance to capture
on the page one of these letters. May God be good
and grant so large a prayer. Yours,




                                                                    (January, 1848)

We are like to lose another hand
unless 'Dolphus can recover
from the flogging he took
over a missing pair of cufflinks.
The girl who was brought home
with Ben's body was quickly well enough
to work, and she had less skin on her bones
than Doctor Jackson left on 'Dolphus.
Perhaps there is some little hope
for Lila's husband. Molly is afraid
to sneak me any of the Doctor's paper.
Molly, who can be as bad as 'Dolphus
about purloining pretty, useful things.
I doubted she was earnest in her fear,
but now I see what she, born here,
must have always known. A man
whose livelihood depends on stealing
the toil of other people's bodies
must keep a keen eye on his own
most dear and precious things.
 
Camille Dungy, "From the Unwritten Letters of Joseph Freeman" from Suck on the Marrow. Copyright © 2010 by Camille Dungy.  Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.

Source: Suck on the Marrow(Red Hen Press, 2010)

Camille T. Dungy

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Poem of the Day: What Marked Tom?
Did a slave song at a master’s bidding
mark Tom while asleep in Charity's womb?
The whole plantation would be called to sing
and dance in Master Epps’ large parlor room—
after work sprung from dawn and dragged past dusk,
after children auctioned to parts unknown,
after funerals and whippings. Thus
was the whim of the patriarch. No groans
allowed, just high steppin’ celebration,
grins all around, gritted or sincere.
Charity threw feet, hips, arms into motion
to please the tyrant piano. Was it here
Tom learned how music can prove the master?
While he spun in a womb of slavish laughter?

Tyehimba Jess, "What Marked Tom?" from OLIO.  Copyright © 2016 by Tyehimba Jess.  Reprinted by permission of the author and Wave Books.

Source: OLIO(Wave Books, 2016)

Tyehimba Jess

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Poem of the Day: And Day Brought Back My Night
It was so simple: you came back to me
And I was happy. Nothing seemed to matter
But that. That you had gone away from me
And lived for days with him—it didn’t matter.
That I had been left to care for our old dog
And house alone—couldn’t have mattered less!
On all this, you and I and our happy dog
Agreed. We slept. The world was worriless.

I woke in the morning, brimming with old joys
Till the fact-checker showed up, late, for work
And started in: Item: it’s years, not days.
Item: you had no dog. Item: she isn’t back,
In fact, she just remarried. And oh yes, item: you
Left her, remember? I did? I did. (I do.)

“And Day Brought Back My Night” from Weighing Light by Geoffrey Brock, copyright © 2005 by Geoffrey Brock, by permission of Ivan R. Dee, Publisher.

Source: Poetry August 2004

Geoffrey Brock

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Poem of the Day: Declaration
He has
 
              sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people
 
He has plundered our
 
                                           ravaged our
 
                                                                         destroyed the lives of our
 
taking away our­

                                  abolishing our most valuable

and altering fundamentally the Forms of our

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for
Redress in the most humble terms:
 
                                                                Our repeated
Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.
 
We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration
and settlement here.
 
                                    —taken Captive
                                              
                                                                    on the high Seas
 
                                                                                                     to bear—
 
Tracy K. Smith, "Declaration" 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: February
Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

Margaret Atwood, “February” from Morning in the Burned House. Copyright © 1995 by Margaret Atwood. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: Morning in the Burned House(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1995)

Margaret Atwood

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Poem of the Day: Dew
None are more familiar with dew
         than professional footballers. From early
grades they are used to running through
         practice drills and hurling their burly
frames through rucks while the moist chaff
         of wet grass under the winter lights
softens their fall, accustoms the half-
         back to the slippery ball and writes
green cuneiform on wet sandshoes.
         And they fear it in the morning,
kicking off the dew in the ‘twos’
         because they ignored a coach’s warning.
Half their lives are spent in clouds
         of condensation or the cold heat
of a winter sun where even the crowds
         seem like droplets on the concrete
rose of the stadium. In the final days
         of their season , sweat-spangled on the eve
of their triumph, the ball on a string and their plays
         honed, even the doubters believe.
And the last day is, once again,
         already an aftermath: the ground’s been shaved
and sucked dry by the noon sun
         and the paddock has become a paved
and bristled hell for those who will
         collide with it and pinion flesh on
earth, earth on flesh and spill
         blood for the sake of the game. Possession
is the law; all are possessed.
         And when the crowd melts into the dry
darkness, after that great red football’s
         booted between the uprights of the sky-
scrapers and gone, the sky bawls
         cheerless little drops for the victors
and decks the oval with the losers’ jewels.

David Musgrave, "Dew" audio from Open Water, 2007, Audio CD, River Road Press, 2007; text from Phantom Limb, John Leonard Press, 2010: by permission of River Road Press and the poet. Copyright © 2007, 2010 by David Musgrave.

Source: Open Water(River Road Press, 2007)

David Musgrave

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Poem of the Day: The Groundhog
In June, amid the golden fields,
I saw a groundhog lying dead.
Dead lay he; my senses shook,
And mind outshot our naked frailty.
There lowly in the vigorous summer
His form began its senseless change,
And made my senses waver dim
Seeing nature ferocious in him.
Inspecting close his maggots’ might
And seething cauldron of his being,
Half with loathing, half with a strange love,
I poked him with an angry stick.
The fever arose, became a flame
And Vigour circumscribed the skies,
Immense energy in the sun,
And through my frame a sunless trembling.
My stick had done nor good nor harm.
Then stood I silent in the day
Watching the object, as before;
And kept my reverence for knowledge
Trying for control, to be still,
To quell the passion of the blood;
Until I had bent down on my knees
Praying for joy in the sight of decay.
And so I left; and I returned
In Autumn strict of eye, to see
The sap gone out of the groundhog,
But the bony sodden hulk remained.
But the year had lost its meaning,
And in intellectual chains
I lost both love and loathing,
Mured up in the wall of wisdom.
Another summer took the fields again
Massive and burning, full of life,
But when I chanced upon the spot
There was only a little hair left,
And bones bleaching in the sunlight
Beautiful as architecture;
I watched them like a geometer,
And cut a walking stick from a birch.
It has been three years, now.
There is no sign of the groundhog.
I stood there in the whirling summer,
My hand capped a withered heart,
And thought of China and of Greece,
Of Alexander in his tent;
Of Montaigne in his tower,
Of Saint Theresa in her wild lament.

Richard Eberhart, “The Groundhog” from Collected Poems, 1930-1986. Copyright © 1960, 1976, 1987 by Richard Eberhart. Used by the permission of Oxford University Press, USA.

Source: Collected Poems, 1930-1986(Oxford University Press, 1987)

Richard Eberhart

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Poem of the Day: The New Religion
The body is a nation I have not known.
The pure joy of air: the moment between leaping
from a cliff into the wall of blue below. Like that.
Or to feel the rub of tired lungs against skin-
covered bone, like a hand against the rough of bark.
Like that. “The body is a savage,” I said.
For years I said that: the body is a savage.
As if this safety of the mind were virtue
not cowardice. For years I have snubbed
the dark rub of it, said, “I am better, Lord,
I am better,” but sometimes, in an unguarded
moment of sun, I remember the cowdung-scent
of my childhood skin thick with dirt and sweat
and the screaming grass.
But this distance I keep is not divine,
for what was Christ if not God’s desire
to smell his own armpit? And when I
see him, I know he will smile,
fingers glued to his nose, and say, “Next time
I will send you down as a dog
to taste this pure hunger.”

Chris Abani, “The New Religion” from Hands Washing Water. Copyright © 2006 by Chris Abani. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Source: Hands Washing Water(Copper Canyon Press, 2006)

Chris Abani

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Poem of the Day: Romanticism 101
Then I realized I hadn’t secured the boat.
Then I realized my friend had lied to me.
Then I realized my dog was gone
no matter how much I called in the rain.
All was change.
Then I realized I was surrounded by aliens
disguised as orthodontists having a convention
at the hotel breakfast bar.
Then I could see into the life of things,
that systems seek only to reproduce
the conditions of their own reproduction.
If I had to pick between shadows
and essences, I’d pick shadows.
They’re better dancers.
They always sing their telegrams.
Their old gods do not die.
Then I realized the very futility was salvation
in this greeny entanglement of  breaths.
Yeah, as if.
Then I realized even when you catch the mechanism,
the trick still works.
Then I came to in Texas
and realized rockabilly would never go away.
Then I realized I’d been drugged.
We were all chasing nothing
which left no choice but to intensify the chase.
I came to handcuffed and gagged.
I came to intubated and packed in some kind of foam.
This too is how ash moves through water.
And all this time the side doors unlocked.
Then I realized repetition could be an ending.
Then I realized repetition could be an ending.

Source: Poetry July/August 2014

Dean Young

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Poem of the Day: Not Fade Away
Half of the Beatles have fallen
and half are yet to fall.
Keith Moon has set. Hank Williams
hasn’t answered yet.

Children sing for Alex Chilton.
Whitney Houston’s left the Hilton.
Hendrix, Guru, Bonham, Janis.
They have a tendency to vanish.

Bolan, Bell, and Boon by car.
How I wonder where they are.
Hell is now Jeff Hanneman’s.
Adam Yauch and three Ramones.

[This space held in reserve
for Zimmerman and Osterberg,
for Bruce and Neil and Keith,
that sere and yellow leaf.]

Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings,
Stinson, Sterling, Otis Redding.
Johnny Thunders and Joe Strummer,
Ronnie Dio, Donna Summer.

Randy Rhoads and Kurt Cobain,
Patsy Cline and Ronnie Lane.
Poly Styrene, Teena Marie.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Source: Poetry January 2014

Michael Robbins

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Poem of the Day: Good-by and Keep Cold
This saying good-by on the edge of the dark
And the cold to an orchard so young in the bark
Reminds me of all that can happen to harm
An orchard away at the end of the farm
All winter, cut off by a hill from the house.
I don't want it girdled by rabbit and mouse,
I don't want it dreamily nibbled for browse
By deer, and I don't want it budded by grouse.
(If certain it wouldn't be idle to call
I'd summon grouse, rabbit, and deer to the wall
And warn them away with a stick for a gun.)
I don't want it stirred by the heat of the sun.
(We made it secure against being, I hope,
By setting it out on a northerly slope.)
No orchard's the worse for the wintriest storm;
But one thing about it, it mustn't get warm.
"How often already you've had to be told,
Keep cold, young orchard. Good-by and keep cold.
Dread fifty above more than fifty below."
I have to be gone for a season or so.
My business awhile is with different trees,
Less carefully nourished, less fruitful than these,
And such as is done to their wood with an ax—
Maples and birches and tamaracks.
I wish I could promise to lie in the night
And think of an orchard's arboreal plight
When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)
Its heart sinks lower under the sod.
But something has to be left to God.

Robert Frost, "Good-by and Keep Cold" from New Hampshire. Copyright © 1923 by Robert Frost. Reprinted by permission of Public Domain.

Robert Frost

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