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Poem of the Day: American History
Those four black girls blown up
in that Alabama church
remind me of five hundred
middle passage blacks,
in a net, under water
in Charleston harbor
so redcoats wouldn't find them.
Can't find what you can't see
can you?

Michael S. Harper, "American History" from Songlines in Michaeltree: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 2000 by Michael S. Harper. Reprinted with the permission of University of Illinois Press, www.press.uillinois.edu/poetry/poetry.html.

Source: Songlines in Michaeltree: New and Collected Poems(University of Illinois Press, 2000)

Michael S. Harper

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Poem of the Day: Precious Lord
1

Not sweet sixteen not even sweet sixteen and she’s moaning
not even sixteen years old and she’s moaning
not even sweet sixteen and she’s moaning the words
moaning out the words to “Precious Lord”
she says “ain’t no harm to moan” and she’s moaning
it’s Aretha in the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit in 1956
words moaned out so that she becomes denuded
no more little black dress she has nothing to hide
no more little black dress she has nothing left to hide.
 
Thomas Dorsey wrote the words wrote the words and the music
Thomas Dorsey wrote the words and the music for “Precious Lord”
Thomas Dorsey aka Georgia Tom wrote other songs
one of the other songs “Deep Moaning Blues”
Thomas Dorsey: “I like the long moaning groaning tone”
Georgia Tom moaned “Deep Moaning Blues” with Ma Rainey
Georgia Tom and Ma Rainey moan they moan and groan
their moaning and groaning make you see
moaning and groaning you’re made to see they have  nothing.
 

     2

The first time Mahalia does it as one interconnected phrase
she does it as three in one three words in one phrase
three in one: “take-en-n—my-ah-aah—ha-an-nd”
Mahalia does it in the same year in 1956 the same year as Aretha
same but different the second time it is more aggressive
it’s more aggressive: “take-ake my-ah han-and”
Mahalia was a big fine woman Mahalia was denuded
she sang “Precious Lord” at the funeral of Martin Luther King
Aretha sang “Precious Lord” at the funeral of Mahalia.
 
Thomas Dorsey met Mahalia met her for the first time in 1928
it was in 1928 that Georgia Tom moaned with Ma Rainey
he moaned with Ma Rainey he moaned and he groaned with Ma Rainey
he met Mahalia and he taught her how to moan
“you teach them how to say their words in a moanful way”
to say their words how to say his words
Mahalia was a big fine woman Mahalia was denuded
Dorsey knew the heavier the voice the better the singer
Dorsey knew as any teacher knows the heavier the better.
 

     3

Al Green has a softened voice he has a voice made softened
he was made to sing softened by Willie Mitchell in 1972
softened and softened and softened
Al Green became Rev. Al Green of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in 1980
a tabernacle is a fixed or movable habitation
habitation where you stay together with the lord
Al Green has a softened voice he has a voice made softened
he was made to sing softened on “Let’s Stay Together”
in 1982 he was made to sing softened on “Precious Lord.”
 
Photograph of Thomas Dorsey photograph of a smooth operator
photograph of Georgia Tom photo of a smooth operator
the photo smoothed out retouched softened
one side of the face completely light one side of the face all dark
one side merges into the light smoothed out softened
one side merges into the dark smoothed out made softened
in the photograph a smooth operator is lighting a cigarette
slender fingers hold a matchbox hold a match
slender fingers hold a softened flame against the softened dark.


     4
 
“Lead me” sing “lead me” they move with a repetitive rhythm
Dom Mocquereau: “rhythm is the ordering of the movement”
repetitive rhythm orders them to move on “lead”
they move with all their weight on “lead” it sounds like “feed”
it’s the Soul Stirrers it’s the most rhythmic music you ever heard
repetitive rhythm it sounds like “feed me”
S.R. Crain tenor A.L. Johnson baritone J.J. Farley bass
Edmond Jabès: “can we be healed by repetition?”
the Soul Stirrers move with a repetitive rhythm sing “feed me.”
 
Thomas Dorsey came to Chicago came looking for deliverance
Georgia Tom came in 1916 the Soul Stirrers in 1937
to get deliverance you have to wait on the movements of providence
he played piano he sang at buffet flats at rent parties
he was a smooth player and he sang softly
a smooth player they called him “the whispering piano player”
the most popular dance at the parties was the slow drag
he learned how to drag easy how to sing softly
how to drag easy how to wait on the movements of providence.

 
     5

Soul Stirrers move with a repetitive rhythm sing “feed me”
repetitive rhythm orders them to sing “feed me”
R.H. Harris sings lead he sings the essential word
R.H. Harris taught Sam Cooke and Sam Cooke taught Johnny Taylor
Johnny Taylor “Who’s Making Love” 1968
R.H. Harris: “they got a touch of me even if they don’t know me”
what they got a touch of touch of tongue love
R.H. Harris taught them to study the essential word
the word brings it to a picture it’s the lord making love.
 
Thomas Dorsey wrote the words wrote the words and the music
Thomas Dorsey wrote the words wrote the essential word
wrote “precious” not “blessed” the essential word is “precious”
this was to be enshrined as a moment of epiphany
moment when he wrote the better-sounding word
moment of épiphanie epiphania epiphano epiphaneia epiphanies
moment of epiphany essential word shining picture
Dorsey: “that thing like something hit me and went all over me”
that thing must be that same thing went all over him.
 

     6

Clara Ward’s real nasal her nasality makes her a real moaner
she moans the three in one three words in one word
she moans so that one word becomes three
one becomes three: “thru-uuu-uah”
double-clutches just like Aretha: “thru-ah thru-uuu-uah the night”
sounds just like Aretha because Aretha sounds just like her
Aretha followed Clara Ward note for moaning note
denuded Aretha followed denuded Clara
and did Aretha follow her to the lord to the lord to the light.
 
Thomas Dorsey was invited to Philadelphia by Gertrude Ward
Mrs. Gertrude Mae Murphy Ward the mother of Clara
in 1931 Mrs. Ward was told in a vision was told to go and to sing
Dorsey was invited to teach the Wards how to sing
how to say his words in a moanful way
Dorsey liked the long moaning groaning tone
Mrs. Ward was told in a vision a vision from the lord
Dorsey taught Clara and Clara taught Aretha
how to say his words in a moanful way all through the night.
 

     7

Sounds like “feed me” doesn’t sound like the Soul Stirrers
it’s not the Soul Stirrers it’s the Kings of Harmony
the Kings of Harmony with Carey Bradley on lead
Carey Bradley was taught by Silas Steele the first hard lead
Silas Steele sang lead for the Blue Jay Singers
those singers recorded the first quartet version of a Dorsey song
Silas Steele sang hard with a repetitive rhythm
question is can we be healed by repetition
over “feed me” Carey Bradley sings hard: “take-ah my hand.”
 
Blue Jay Singers the first quartet to record a Dorsey song
in 1931 those singers recorded “If You See My Saviour”
those singers: “if you see my saviour tell him that you saw me”
in 1931 Georgia Tom recorded “Please Mr. Blues”
Georgia Tom recorded in 1931 with Tampa Red
Georgia Tom and Tampa Red recorded a low moaning blues
“Please Mr. Blues” is a deep low-down moaning blues
those singers: “please be careful handle me like a child”
if you saw their saviour you would see Mr. Blues.
 

     8

Brother Joe May has a big voice has a big and loud voice
Brother Joe May the thunderbolt of the Middle West
the way he sang “pra-aaa-aaa-aaa-shus” is like thunder
he was taught to sing “pra-aaa-aaa-aaa-shus” by Mother Smith
he was taught to sing by Mother Willie Mae Ford Smith
she was called Mother he called her Mother
Mother Smith: “the lord just anoints me while I’m singing”
when you’re anointed something goes all over you
must be that same thng went all over her went all over her son.
 
Mrs. Willie May introduced “If You See My Saviour” in 1930
this was before she was called Mother
twenty years before Brother Joe May sang “pra-aaa-aaa-aaa-shus”
in 1930 in Chicago at the National Baptist Convention
during the morning devotions at the convention
she sang “you saw me” during the morning devotions
in 1930 in Chicago Georgia Tom recorded “She Can Love So Good”
in 1931 in Chicago Georgia Tom recorded “Please Mr. Blues”
if you saw her you’d see Mr. Blues loving her so good.
 

     9

Way past sixteen way past sweet sixteen and she’s moaning
she says “when I don’t feel like singing I moan”
it’s Sister Rosetta Tharpe at The Hot Club de France in 1966
Sister Rosetta had dyed her hair red played a hollow-body jazz guitar
Sister Rosetta has a resonating vibrato
she moans “ho-oo-oo-oo-meh” with a resonating vibrato
she moans out “ho-oo-oo-oo-meh” becomes resonant
“when I don’t feel like singing I moan”
she becomes completely resonant she has nothing left to hide.
 
Thomas Dorsey wrote the words wrote the words and the music
Thomas Dorsey wrote the words and the music for “Precious Lord”
the song is an answer song to another song
answer to George Nelson Allen’s “Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?”
George Nelson Allen thought the answer was no
a cross for everyone “there’s a cross for everyone”
Thomas Dorsey thought the answer was no
“see you got to be susceptible for whatever comes in the ear”
he got Sister Rosetta to be susceptible got everyone susceptible.

John Taggart, “Precious Lord” from Is Music: Selected Poems. Copyright © 2010 by John Taggart. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Source: Is Music: Selected Poems(Copper Canyon Press, 2010)

John Taggart

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Poem of the Day: The Bones of August
      i.

Not to go backward,
           not to watch the women
peddling in reverse past the church,

                     the priest in his black habit
       receding from the chapel door.

Not to go backward,
           the bones of August
becoming the bones of March,

                     branch of dogwood
      picked clean by frost.

Not to say Yes
           when asked the question
all women wait to hear,

                        Are you anything
      like your mother?

Not to be photographed in her dress
           like a saint
carrying the instrument of her martyrdom,

                     Agnes, and her try
      of breasts—

or to throw the bouquet into the grave
            where Bartholomew hides
with his bloody knife.

                       Not to burn
       half the house down—

and build half the house up.
           Not to forgive
the bad child

                      when even the bad house
       is forgiven. Not to care,

not to carry the bones of August
            into September, foiled with redness
and nothing to squander

                     but the buds of spring
        dormant in their boughs.

Not to ask, Did you
           love her? and leave
the answer in the ground,

                     where everything difficult
       is buried.


      ii.

Attend the dead,
           then welcome the bride—
backward, as Jews do,

                      reading Hebrew,
      right to left.

First the mourning,
          then the celebration.
Backward, taking off

                      the beautiful face
      of forgetting,

two names with the same face—
          all this time
a woman waiting inside me

                     to marry.
        Invisible, impermanent,

windmill girl in her cage
           of breath,
insect girl in her element:

                     impenetrable shell,
     putting on

the beautiful face of forgetting—
             Fury        Sybil      Isis
one of us

                        wakes in her
       graveyard of guilt,

filamentary as fiber optics,
           one of us sleeps on
in the temple, lulled

                        by the metronomic
      pulse of longing—

Did you love her? Are you anything?
             That other girls is dead.
That other girl is dead.

                         What else can be said
        about that other girl?


      iii.

Same as mine,
          skin of her hands
laid over the ivory bones,

                       dark map
       of the body—          Yes—

it was dark,
          but I was darker
on the inside.

                      When she was young
      she was “a great beauty,”

in the same sense
          that “a roomful of adults”
is rarely ever.

                      I was never
      like her, flattered

like a map
           under glass,
slender as an axle

                     in a turbine—
      enigma relic:

feet of steel, legs of wood,
           cabinet of curiosity.
Even her reflection

                       in a spoon
       was beautiful.


      iv.

Labor into longing:
           wild enthusiasm
of the dynamo engine

                    working in reverse—
     more power

in the leaf of a flower
          than the paw of a bear.
Is it necessary

                      to remember
      absolutely everything?

Golden hour on the birch-
          brailled bark,
weathered barn stacked

                      with malignant logs,
      sweet mulch

of aether /ore
           in the morning air.
We hung drapes

                       over the mirrors,
     they were flowered, too—

her bouquet a cabbage,
           assembled by a florist
from 120 roses

                     Incandescent light
       flattened their petals,

made lace of their thorns.
          Uncanny—nothing in nature
so rigid,

                   nothing more harmful
     than her rare affection.


      v.

August: honeymoon at Niagara,
           water shut off—
bad luck.

                      Two bodies,
      a man’s and a woman’s

found face-
           down in the mud
at the bottom of the gorge.

                     Neglected
     on the cliffs above,

Tesla’s alternating current station,
            powerless
in its pure machinery,

                     honeyed, lunar magnets
     waiting in their sockets

for the current to resume.
           Enough about friction:
this is about two bodies

                     at the end of America,
      repelling each other

under the polar rush of water,
          generating their own distance
over time. Is it history

                      or home
       that hurts us more?

Did she look into the gorge
            as into his face
when she said Yes

                      to see the downpour,
         even when it was damned?


      vi.

Nothing in me wasted,
           a use for grief, even.
I wore it on my left hand.

                       I was married to it.
       I planted myself

in the dirt:
          alphabets grew up
from the bones of my feet.

                    I drowned my heart
      in the lake.

Black hole, such vanity—
           navigating the ear canals
like so many gondoliers

                      trolling the watery streets
        looking for someone

to sing to. Beautiful
           fisherman who fished
my heart out of its lake—

                      I did not die. I revived.
      I wore her face on my fingers

when I dug up my joy
           up from the ground, singing:
Oh wooden coffin, woman’s body,

                         boulder at home
      in its stone skin.


      vii.

Yes, then, to all of it: to the drowned
            sea urchins, porcupines spined,
and the black-brain

                      coral that sleeps
         on the ocean’s floor,

ruinously blue. Yes
           to the vultures that roost
above the waterfall,

                       that don’t
       surrender their nests

at our dissolution,
          and to the bones that do.
To remember is to open

                      one door
      after another

all along
          the white corridor
to say Yes when asked,

                        Are you anything?
      Did she love you?

To go forward
            is to surrender
the necklace of tears she gave me—

                     this failed body
     with my name on it.
 

Robin Ekiss, “The Bones of August” from The Mansion of Happiness. Copyright © 2009 by Robin Ekiss. Reprinted by permission of The University of Georgia Press.

Source: The Mansion of Happiness(University of Georgia Press, 2009)

Robin Ekiss

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Poem of the Day: Two Pigeons
They’ve perched for hours
on that window-ledge, scarcely   
moving. Beak to beak,

a matched set, they differ   
almost imperceptibly—
like salt and pepper shakers.

It’s an event when they tuck   
(simultaneously) their pinpoint   
heads into lavender vests

of fat. But reminiscent   
of clock hands blandly   
turning because they must

have turned—somehow, they’ve   
taken on the grave,   
small-eyed aspect of monks

hooded in conferences
so intimate nothing need
be said. If some are chuckling

in the park, earning
their bread, these are content   
to let the dark engulf them—

it’s all the human   
imagination can fathom,   
how single-mindedly

mindless two silhouettes   
stand in a window thick   
as milk glass. They appear

never to have fed on   
anything else when they stir   
all of a sudden to peck

savagely, for love
or hygiene, at the grimy   
feathers of the other;

but when they resume   
their places, the shift   
is one only a painter

or a barber (prodding a chin   
back into position)   
would be likely to notice.

Mary Jo Salter, “Two Pigeons” from Henry Purcell in Japan (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984). Copyright © 1984 by Mary Jo Salter. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Henry Purcell in Japan(1984)

Mary Jo Salter

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Poem of the Day: All It Is
The flexible arc
described by treetop leaves
when breathing currents ripple
a branch to one,
then the other side.
Or the level, quickened swell
that follows a gust over wetlands
home to a million reeds.

Any terrain you find arises from all
that came before: succeeding
event horizons from earlier eras
brought forward by today's considered
impetus to lift the way it looks,
lightly, freely
out toward whatever senses you are there—
breathed into completion, a sphere,
into all it is.
 

Alfred Corn, "All It Is" from Unions. Copyright © 2014 by Alfred Corn.  Reprinted by permission of Barrow Street Press.

Source: Unions(Barrow Street Press, 2014)

Alfred Corn

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Poem of the Day: “Although the wind ...”
Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.

Izumi Shikibu, “Although the wind ... ,” translated by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani, from The Ink Dark Moon. Copyright © 1990 by Jane Hirshfield. Reprinted with the permission of Vintage Classics and Jane Hirshfield.

Source: The Ink Dark Moon(Vintage Books, 1990)

Izumi Shikibu

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Poem of the Day: Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou, "Still I Rise" from And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems.  Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.  Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Source: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou(1994)

Maya Angelou

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Poem of the Day: Hip Hop Analogies
If you be the needle
                 I be the LP.
If you be the buffed wall,
                 I be the Krylon.
If you be the backspin,
                 I be the break.
If you be the head nod,
                 I be the bass line.
If you be a Phillie,
                 I be the razor.
If you be microphone,
                 then I be palm.
If you be cipher,
                 then I be beatbox.
If you be hands thrown up,
                 then I be yes, yes, y’all.
If you be throwback,
                 then I be remix.
If you be footwork,
                 then I be uprock.
If you be turntable,
                 then I be crossfader.
If you be downtown C train,
                 then I be southbound Red Line.
If you be shell toes,
                 then I be hoodie.
If you be freestyle,
                 then I be piece book.
If you be Sharpie,
                 then I be tag.

If you be boy,
                 then I be girl
                 who wants to
                 sync samples
                 into classic.

Source: Poetry April 2015

Tara Betts

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Poem of the Day: A Display of Mackerel
They lie in parallel rows,
on ice, head to tail,
each a foot of luminosity

barred with black bands,
which divide the scales’
radiant sections

like seams of lead
in a Tiffany window.
Iridescent, watery

prismatics: think abalone,
the wildly rainbowed
mirror of a soapbubble sphere,

think sun on gasoline.
Splendor, and splendor,
and not a one in any way

distinguished from the other
—nothing about them
of individuality. Instead

they’re all exact expressions
of the one soul,
each a perfect fulfilment

of heaven’s template,
mackerel essence. As if,
after a lifetime arriving

at this enameling, the jeweler’s
made uncountable examples,
each as intricate

in its oily fabulation
as the one before
Suppose we could iridesce,

like these, and lose ourselves
entirely in the universe
of shimmer—would you want

to be yourself only,
unduplicatable, doomed
to be lost? They’d prefer,

plainly, to be flashing participants,
multitudinous. Even now
they seem to be bolting

forward, heedless of stasis.
They don’t care they’re dead
and nearly frozen,

just as, presumably,
they didn’t care that they were living:
all, all for all,

the rainbowed school
and its acres of brilliant classrooms,
in which no verb is singular,

or every one is. How happy they seem,
even on ice, to be together, selfless,
which is the price of gleaming.

Mark Doty, "A Display of Mackerel" from Atlantis, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 1995 by Mark Doty.  Reprinted by permission of Mark Doty.

Source: Atlantis: Poems(HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1995)

Mark Doty

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Poem of the Day: The Whitsun Weddings
That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
    Not till about
One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense   
Of being in a hurry gone. We ran
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence   
The river’s level drifting breadth began,
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet.

All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept   
    For miles inland,
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.   
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and   
Canals with floatings of industrial froth;   
A hothouse flashed uniquely: hedges dipped   
And rose: and now and then a smell of grass   
Displaced the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth   
Until the next town, new and nondescript,   
Approached with acres of dismantled cars.

At first, I didn’t notice what a noise
    The weddings made
Each station that we stopped at: sun destroys   
The interest of what’s happening in the shade,
And down the long cool platforms whoops and skirls   
I took for porters larking with the mails,   
And went on reading. Once we started, though,   
We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls   
In parodies of fashion, heels and veils,   
All posed irresolutely, watching us go,

As if out on the end of an event
    Waving goodbye
To something that survived it. Struck, I leant   
More promptly out next time, more curiously,   
And saw it all again in different terms:   
The fathers with broad belts under their suits   
And seamy foreheads; mothers loud and fat;   
An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms,   
The nylon gloves and jewellery-substitutes,   
The lemons, mauves, and olive-ochres that

Marked off the girls unreally from the rest.   
    Yes, from cafés
And banquet-halls up yards, and bunting-dressed   
Coach-party annexes, the wedding-days   
Were coming to an end. All down the line
Fresh couples climbed aboard: the rest stood round;
The last confetti and advice were thrown,
And, as we moved, each face seemed to define   
Just what it saw departing: children frowned   
At something dull; fathers had never known

Success so huge and wholly farcical;
    The women shared
The secret like a happy funeral;
While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared   
At a religious wounding. Free at last,
And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.   
Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast   
Long shadows over major roads, and for
Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem

Just long enough to settle hats and say
    I nearly died,
A dozen marriages got under way.
They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
—An Odeon went past, a cooling tower,   
And someone running up to bowl—and none   
Thought of the others they would never meet   
Or how their lives would all contain this hour.   
I thought of London spread out in the sun,   
Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:

There we were aimed. And as we raced across   
    Bright knots of rail
Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss   
Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail   
Travelling coincidence; and what it held   
Stood ready to be loosed with all the power   
That being changed can give. We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower   
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.

Philip Larkin, "The Whitsun Weddings " from Whitsun Weddings. Copyright © Estate of Philip Larkin.  Reprinted by permission of Faber and Faber, Ltd.

Source: Collected Poems(Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)

Philip Larkin

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Poem of the Day: “A kiss on the forehead”
A kiss on the forehead—erases misery.
I kiss your forehead.

A kiss on the eyes—lifts sleeplessness.
I kiss your eyes.

A kiss on the lips—is a drink of water.
I kiss your lips.

A kiss on the forehead—erases memory.


1917
 

Source: Poetry March 2012

Marina Tsvetaeva

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Poem of the Day: The Icehouse in Summer
A door sunk in a hillside, with a bolt
thick as the boy’s arm, and behind that door
the walls of ice, melting a blue, faint light,
an air of cedar branches, sawdust, fern:
decaying seasons keeping from decay.

A summer guest, the boy had never seen
(a servant told him of it) how the lake
froze three foot thick, how farmers came with teams,
with axe and saw, to cut great blocks of ice,
translucid, marbled, glittering in the sun,
load them on sleds and drag them up the hill
to be manhandled down the narrow path
and set in courses for the summer’s keeping,
the kitchen uses and luxuriousness
of the great houses. And he heard how once
a team and driver drowned in the break of spring:
the man’s cry melting from the ice that summer
frightened the sherbet-eaters off the terrace.

Dust of the cedar, lost and evergreen
among the slowly blunting water walls
where the blade edge melted and the steel saw’s bite
was rounded out, and the horse and rider drowned
in the red sea’s blood, I was the silly child
who dreamed that riderless cry, and saw the guests
run from a ghostly wall, so long before
the winter house fell with the summer house,
and the houses, Egypt, the great houses, had an end.

Howard Nemerov, “The Icehouse in Summer” from The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1977). Copyright © 1977 by Howard Nemerov. Reprinted with the permission of Margaret Nemerov.

Source: The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov(The University of Chicago Press, 1977)

Howard Nemerov

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Poem of the Day: First Thought
best thought, you had taught
me — a river runs through it,
the foot of the soul standing
stubbornly in the freeze, all
the shards of ice crumpling up
the banks, what survives
in the ignorance. Play it away.
Be ceremony. Be a lit candle
to what blows you. Outside,
the sun gives a favorite present,
mountain nests in ironic meadows,
otter takes off her shoes, the small
hands of her feet reaching, reaching; still,
far away people are dying. Crisp
one dollar bills fold another life.
You taught me to care in the moment,
carve day into light, or something,
moving in the west that doesn't destroy
us. Look again, in the coming summer,
the cruelest month alive still eats up
the hours. Regret is an uneven hand,
a rough palm at the cheek — tender
and calloused. I drink another glass
of water, turn on the tap
for what grows, for you,
for what lasts, for the last
and the first found thought of you.

Lorna Dee Cervantes, "First Thought" from Sueño. Copyright © 2013 by Lorna Dee Cervantes.  Reprinted by permission of Wings Press.

Source: Sueño(Wings Press, 2013)

Lorna Dee Cervantes

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Poem of the Day: No One Goes to Paris in August
A Montparnasse August
with view of the Cimetière. A yard of bones.

We wake to it. Close curtains to it.
Wake to its lanes. Rows of coffin-stones in varying light.

Walking here. Late with shade low, low, long.
We’re passing through, just passing through
neat aisles of gray mausoleums.

(From Paris. Send this postcard. This one.
Calm water lilies. Water lilies.
Nothing colorless.)

It’s morning. Baudelaire’s tomb.
Tree limbs casting shadow west.

This, a lot of time under a looming sky.
Nobody has time like this.
(Time to go to Le Mandarin for coffee
every day. We’re not complaining.
They bring the milk separate.
Watch the passersby on Saint-Germain.)

Nothing to ponder. This is the plight.
Pause by Pigeon in bed with his wife —
both fully dressed.

Pink flowers, pink flowers,
just beneath de Beauvoir’s name.
When she lived she lived two doors down.
Went south in August.

All of us smell of heat all the time.
We are the living. Oh dear!
There are the dead ones there.
Their thoughts more familiar, though.
Lives finished, nearly clear.
And they make it possible for us to go on living
as we do in their blue shade.

Clarence Major, "No One Goes to Paris in August" from Waiting for Sweet Betty. Copyright © 2002 by Clarence Major. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townshend, WA 98368-0271, coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: Waiting for Sweet Betty(Copper Canyon Press, 2002)

Clarence Major

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Poem of the Day: The Bachelor Watches “The...
I sit on the couch & witness my life
projected on a screen — I am white
w/a chiseled, dimpled chin & no lips.
I’m a farmer who lives alone in a loft
& not a lowly office worker who lives
w/a roommate in an apartment where
dust balls decorate the floors & walls
& the ceiling rings w/children’s feet
running back & forth like baby bulls.
I am crazy enough to be a contestant
on a show where I’m contractually obligated
to propose to a woman who believes
in a heteronormative, patriarchal
idea of what a family should be.
At the end of every episode, I offer
roses to those I wish to make out w/more
& take out on prepackaged romantic dates
I could never afford on my bachelor budget.
For example: a date in a castle, a glass
slipper prop, a clock winding its way
down to midnight. My date & I sip
champagne, chat & eat, then we dance
to a live orchestra led by a maestro
who wishes he were dead. A giant screen appears
& plays a clip of a live-action Cinderella movie
w/Prince Charming played by an actor
I’ve seen slaughter & behead a soldier
like clipping the head off a rose.
In real life, my dates consist of dinner
at Burger King where we dine on chicken
fries & don paper crowns for a royal feel.
On another show date, I take two women into South
Dakota where we fly over the heads of white
slave owners carved into a sacred Native mountain.
At the end of the date, I offer no roses to either
woman & abandon them on a canopied bed
in the middle of the Badlands & take off
in a helicopter to provide the cameras
an aerial view of wilderness & despair.
At the end of the show, I find myself proposing
to a fertility nurse in a barn made to look
like a chapel & not the place where I raised
my first horse, fucked my first goat. Here,
I will milk the cows for our future offspring
to drink straight from the teat like I did as a kid.
The show ends & I rise from the couch
& walk into the kitchen. On bended knee,
I reach for a bottle of beer deep
in the back of the fridge, pop the top
like a question & take a swig, cold
& crisp once it hits my full lips.

Source: Poetry September 2017

Jacob Saenz

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Poem of the Day: August Morning
It’s ripe, the melon
by our sink. Yellow,
bee-bitten, soft, it perfumes
the house too sweetly.
At five I wake, the air
mournful in its quiet.
My wife’s eyes swim calmly
under their lids, her mouth and jaw
relaxed, different.
What is happening in the silence
of this house? Curtains
hang heavily from their rods.
Ficus leaves tremble
at my footsteps. Yet
the colors outside are perfect--
orange geranium, blue lobelia.
I wander from room to room
like a man in a museum:
wife, children, books, flowers,
melon. Such still air. Soon
the mid-morning breeze will float in
like tepid water, then hot.
How do I start this day,
I who am unsure
of how my life has happened
or how to proceed
amid this warm and steady sweetness?

Poem copyright © by Albert Garcia from his latest book “Skunk Talk” (Bear Starr Press, 2005) and originally published in “Poetry East,” No. 44. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Albert Garcia

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Poem of the Day: A Position at the University

I think I know what sort of person I am. But then I think, But this stranger will imagine me quite otherwise when he or she hears this or that to my credit, for instance that I have a position at the university: the fact that I have a position at the university will appear to mean that I must be the sort of person who has a position at the university. But then I have to admit, with surprise, that, after all, it is true that I have a position at the university. And if it is true, then perhaps I really am the sort of person you imagine when you hear that a person has a position at the university. But, on the other hand, I know I am not the sort of person I imagine when I hear that a person has a position at the university. Then I see what the problem is: when others describe me this way, they appear to describe me completely, whereas in fact they do not describe me completely, and a complete description of me would include truths that seem quite incompatible with the fact that I have a position at the university.

Lydia Davis, “A Position at the University” from Almost No Memory, published by Picador. Copyright © 1997 by Lydia Davis. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC, http://us.macmillan.com/fsg.

Source: Almost No Memory(Picador, 1997)

Lydia Davis

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Poem of the Day: Hard Rock Returns to Prison...
Hard Rock / was / “known not to take no shit
From nobody,” and he had the scars to prove it:
Split purple lips, lumbed ears, welts above
His yellow eyes, and one long scar that cut
Across his temple and plowed through a thick
Canopy of kinky hair.

The WORD / was / that Hard Rock wasn’t a mean nigger
Anymore, that the doctors had bored a hole in his head,
Cut out part of his brain, and shot electricity
Through the rest. When they brought Hard Rock back,
Handcuffed and chained, he was turned loose,
Like a freshly gelded stallion, to try his new status.
And we all waited and watched, like a herd of sheep,
To see if the WORD was true.

As we waited we wrapped ourselves in the cloak
Of his exploits: “Man, the last time, it took eight
Screws to put him in the Hole.” “Yeah, remember when he
Smacked the captain with his dinner tray?” “He set
The record for time in the Hole—67 straight days!”
“Ol Hard Rock! man, that’s one crazy nigger.”
And then the jewel of a myth that Hard Rock had once bit
A screw on the thumb and poisoned him with syphilitic spit.

The testing came, to see if Hard Rock was really tame.
A hillbilly called him a black son of a bitch
And didn’t lose his teeth, a screw who knew Hard Rock
From before shook him down and barked in his face.
And Hard Rock did nothing. Just grinned and looked silly,
His eyes empty like knot holes in a fence.

And even after we discovered that it took Hard Rock
Exactly 3 minutes to tell you his first name,
We told ourselves that he had just wised up,
Was being cool; but we could not fool ourselves for long,
And we turned away, our eyes on the ground. Crushed.
He had been our Destroyer, the doer of things
We dreamed of doing but could not bring ourselves to do,
The fears of years, like a biting whip,
Had cut deep bloody grooves
Across our backs.

“Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane” from The Essential Etheridge Knight, by Etheridge Knight, © 1986. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: The Essential Etheridge Knight(University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986)

Etheridge Knight

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Poem of the Day: First Kiss
Afterwards you had that drunk, drugged look
my daughter used to get, when she had let go
of my nipple, her mouth gone slack and her eyes   
turned vague and filmy, as though behind them   
the milk was rising up to fill her
whole head, that would loll on the small
white stalk of her neck so I would have to hold her   
closer, amazed at the sheer power
of satiety, which was nothing like the needing
to be fed, the wild flailing and crying until she fastened   
herself to me and made the seal tight
between us, and sucked, drawing the liquid down   
and out of my body; no, this was the crowning
moment, this giving of herself, knowing
she could show me how helpless
she was—that’s what I saw, that night when you   
pulled your mouth from mine and
leaned back against a chain-link fence,
in front of a burned-out church: a man
who was going to be that vulnerable,
that easy and impossible to hurt.

Kim Addonizio, “First Kiss” from What Is This Thing Called Love. Copyright © 2004 by Kim Addonizio. Reprinted with the permission of W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., www.nortonpoets.com.

Source: What Is This Thing Called Love(W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 2004)

Kim Addonizio

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