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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: The Lyric In A Time of War
Let my music be found wanting
in comparison
to yours (as it must)

let me be found loving
(as you were)
extravagantly the beautiful

let me find you
and the song (forever)
between us

in these terrible times

Eloise Klein Healy, “The Lyric In A Time of War” from The Islands Project. Copyright © 2007 by Eloise Klein Healy. Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.

Source: The Islands Project(Red Hen Press, 2007)

Eloise Klein Healy

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Poem of the Day: The Mortician in San Francisco
This may sound queer,
but in 1985 I held the delicate hands
of Dan White:
I prepared him for burial; by then, Harvey Milk
was made monument—no, myth—by the years
since he was shot.
I remember when Harvey was shot:
twenty, and I knew I was queer.
Those were the years,
Levi’s and leather jackets holding hands
on Castro Street, cheering for Harvey Milk—
elected on the same day as Dan White.
I often wonder about Supervisor White,
who fatally shot
Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Milk,
who was one of us, a Castro queer.
May 21, 1979: a jury hands
down the sentence, seven years—
in truth, five years—
for ex-cop, ex-fireman Dan White,
for the blood on his hands;
when he confessed that he had shot
the mayor and the queer,
a few men in blue cheered. And Harvey Milk?
Why cry over spilled milk,
some wondered, semi-privately, for years—
it meant “one less queer.”
The jurors turned to White.
If just the mayor had been shot,
Dan might have had trouble on his hands—
but the twelve who held his life in their hands
maybe didn’t mind the death of Harvey Milk;
maybe, the second murder offered him a shot
at serving only a few years.
In the end, he committed suicide, this Dan White.
And he was made presentable by a queer.

Randall Mann, "The Mortician in San Francisco" from Breakfast with Thom Gunn. Copyright © 2009 by Randall Mann.  Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.

Source: Breakfast with Thom Gunn(The University of Chicago Press, 2009)

Randall Mann

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Poem of the Day: Ramadan
You wanted to be so hungry, you would break into branches,
and have to choose between the starving month’s

nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-third evenings.
The liturgy begins to echo itself and why does it matter?

If the ground-water is too scarce one can stretch nets
into the air and harvest the fog.

Hunger opens you to illiteracy,
thirst makes clear the starving pattern,

the thick night is so quiet, the spinning spider pauses,
the angel stops whispering for a moment—

The secret night could already be over,
you will have to listen very carefully—

You are never going to know which night’s mouth is sacredly reciting
and which night’s recitation is secretly mere wind—

Kazim Ali, “Ramadan” from The Fortieth Day. Copyright © 2008 by Kazim Ali. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.

Source: The Fortieth Day(BOA Editions Ltd., 2008)

Kazim Ali

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Poem of the Day: Bleecker Street, Summer
Summer for prose and lemons, for nakedness and languor,
for the eternal idleness of the imagined return,
for rare flutes and bare feet, and the August bedroom
of tangled sheets and the Sunday salt, ah violin!

When I press summer dusks together, it is
a month of street accordions and sprinklers
laying the dust, small shadows running from me.

It is music opening and closing, Italia mia, on Bleecker,
ciao, Antonio, and the water-cries of children
tearing the rose-coloured sky in streams of paper;
it is dusk in the nostrils and the smell of water
down littered streets that lead you to no water,
and gathering islands and lemons in the mind.

There is the Hudson, like the sea aflame.
I would undress you in the summer heat,
and laugh and dry your damp flesh if you came.

Derek Walcott, "Bleecker Street, Summer" from Collected Poems 1948-1984. Copyright © 1986 by Derek Walcott. 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: Collected Poems 1948-1984(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1986)

Derek Walcott

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Poem of the Day: Miscegenation
In 1965 my parents broke two laws of Mississippi;
they went to Ohio to marry, returned to Mississippi.
They crossed the river into Cincinnati, a city whose name
begins with a sound like sin, the sound of wrong—mis in Mississippi.
A year later they moved to Canada, followed a route the same
as slaves, the train slicing the white glaze of winter, leaving Mississippi.
Faulkner’s Joe Christmas was born in winter, like Jesus, given his name
for the day he was left at the orphanage, his race unknown in Mississippi.
My father was reading War and Peace when he gave me my name.
I was born near Easter, 1966, in Mississippi.
When I turned 33 my father said, It’s your Jesus year—you’re the same
age he was when he died. It was spring, the hills green in Mississippi.
I know more than Joe Christmas did. Natasha is a Russian name—
though I’m not; it means Christmas child, even in Mississippi.

Natasha Trethewey, “Miscegenation” from Native Guard. Copyright © 2007 by Natasha Trethewey. Reprinted by permission of Natasha Trethewey.

Source: Native Guard(Mariner Books, 2007)

Natasha Trethewey

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Poem of the Day: City of Grace
City of Grace, you open,
you part your curtains
and smile like a hostess
when we call your name,
you tender what any traveler needs,
a call to ease, a balm,
a kindness, whatever storm.
You take us in. City of Grace
and Benevolence, you say
you know what solace means,
burned so often they called you
Chimneyville, and now
you can't forget,
you've written it in bronze
outside the City Hall
the War made a hospital
for the Yankee
and for your Rebel sons,
like the one who is always dying
outside the Capitol.
City of Fame,
you hold him still, laurel
on your crown, fan
making a hand of wind
to soothe his face
and fill the eagle's wings
spread above to promise,
Virtute et armis, to say again
just how far you'll go.
City of Remembrance,
you keep so well, you show us
where Welty lived,
the house still there, how she skated
to the library, through
the Capitol, the book
now cast and open in her hands.
Tell me now, City of Embrace,
of the newsreels' children
rounded from their march,
flags gathered, the children
trucked to the fairground cages,
the ones who peer out
through the chicken wire.
City of Richard Wright
and Ross Barnett, tell me
not just where the Governor pled
I love Mississippi, I love her people,
her customs, but where the writer
went to school, a short walk
from here, thinking it was not
until one wanted the world to be different
that one would look at the world
with will and emotion, and tell me,
then, where Medgar Evers lived,
whom you remember
with a post office and a stamp
and an airport, though
when I've asked you've turned
to someone else and said
Can you help this man find his friend?

Ambivalent City, you know the way,
but you let me find it, the statue,
the library, miles away,
the Boulevard, and then the house,
the plaque that tells us
this is where he lived, perfect
as a photograph, as a movie,
only the color's unreal,
or too real, the green piercing,
the hose uncoiled as if someone
might return to water the lawn.
Neighbors cruise, panning
like cameras as I stand
where he must have stood
choosing the house with no front door,
where Beckwith must have stood,
who drove the town asking everyone
where Evers lived, where
he marked his man.
There is nowhere else to stand.
A city is a kind of memory,
and if you stay too long
the shape of someone else
will hold you there
until day repeats its failure
and the streetlights wake
and yawn all color from the dusk
and the house becomes a photograph
of itself and the small wings
unfold from the fabric of night,
from all the magnolias' ears
and the broad stretch of the reservoir
and the river you can smell
as they gather into pearls
the stars' historic light,
the eyes' whose looking stays
long after the pupils
have burned away. Fireflies
fall back into the grass,
and the mayflies clasp each other
in a kind of halo. City of Ghosts,
you can't abandon your history,
and it won't abandon you.
You watch each other,
you call each other's names.
The sidewalks, the driveways
gleam like quarried moon,
and each open hand repeats
the ambient light as the crickets
fill with heat and raise again
the street's last breath:
Turn me loose.

Jake Adam York, "City of Grace" from Persons Unknown. Copyright © 2010 by Jake Adam York.  Reprinted by permission of Southern Illinois University Press.

Source: Persons Unknown(Southern Illinois University Press, 2010)

Jake Adam York

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Poem of the Day: Duncan
When in his twenties a poetry's full strength
Burst into voice as an unstopping flood,
He let the divine prompting (come at length)
Rushingly bear him any way it would
And went on writing while the Ferry turned
From San Francisco, back from Berkeley too,
And back again, and back again. He learned
You add to, you don't cancel what you do.

Between the notebook-margins his pen travelled,
His own lines carrying him in a new mode
To ports in which past purposes unravelled.
So that, as on the Ferry Line he rode,
Whatever his first plans that night had been,
The energy that rose from their confusion
Became the changing passage lived within
While the pen wrote, and looked beyond conclusion.

Forty years later, and both kidneys gone;
Every eight hours, home dialysis;
The habit of his restlessness stayed on
Exhausting him with his responsiveness.
After the circulations of one day
In which he taught a three-hour seminar
Then gave a reading clear across the Bay,
And while returning from it to the car

With plunging hovering tread tired and unsteady
Down Wheeler steps, he faltered and he fell
—Fell he said later, as if I stood ready,
"Into the strong arms of Thom Gunn."
                                                      Well well,
The image comic, as I might have known,
And generous, but it turned things round to myth:
He fell across the white steps there alone,
Though it was me indeed that he was with.

I hadn't caught him, hadn't seen in time,
And picked him up where he had softly dropped,
A pillow full of feathers. Was it a rime
He later sought, in which he might adopt
The role of H.D., broken-hipped and old,
Who, as she moved off from the reading-stand,
Had stumbled on the platform but was held
And steadied by another poet's hand?

He was now a posthumous poet, I have said
(For since his illness he had not composed),
In sight of a conclusion, whose great dread
Was closure,
                  his life soon to be enclosed
Like the sparrow's flight above the feasting friends,
Briefly revealed where its breast caught their light,
Beneath the long roof, between open ends,
Themselves the margins of unchanging night.

Thom Gunn, “Duncan” from Boss Cupid. Copyright © 2000 by Thom Gunn. 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: Boss Cupid(Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2000)

Thom Gunn

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Poem of the Day: Prayer
I want a god
as my accomplice
who spends nights
in houses
of ill repute
and gets up late
on Saturdays

a god
who whistles
through the streets
and trembles
before the lips
of his lover

a god
who waits in line
at the entrance
of movie houses
and likes to drink
café au lait

a god
who spits
blood from
tuberculosis and
doesn’t even have
enough for bus fare

a god
by the billy club
of a policeman
at a demonstration

a god
who pisses
out of fear
before the flaring
of torture

a god
who hurts
to the last
bone and
bites the air
in pain

a jobless god
a striking god
a hungry god
a fugitive god
an exiled god
an enraged god

a god
who longs
from jail
for a change
in the order
of things

I want a
more godlike

Francisco X. Alarcón, “Prayer,” translated by Francisco Aragón, from From the Other Side of Night/Del otro lado de la noche. Copyright © 2002 by Francisco X. Alarcón. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.

Source: From the Other Side of Night/Del otro lado de la noche(University of Arizona Press, 2002)

Francisco X. Alarcón

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Poem of the Day: Biography of LeBron as Ohio
When is a poem one word? Even at 17 he was Baraka
           on the court, Coltrane gold toned, a kind of running riff,
more than boy-child, man-child, he was one word like Prince.
            How back in those drunken days when I still
ran in bars & played schoolyard ball
            & wagered fives & tens, me & my colleague
the psych-prof drove across Eastern Ohio
             just to see this kid from powerhouse St. Vincent,
grown out of rust-belt-bent-rims, tripped
            with the hype & hope & hip hop
blaring from his headphones, all rubber soled
            & grit as the city which birthed him.
We watched him rise that night scoring over 35,
            drove back across the quiet cut cornfields
& small towns of Ohio, back to the places
            where we slept knowing that Jesus had been reborn, black
& beautiful with a sweatband crown rimming his brow.
            He was so much more than flipping burgers & fries,
more than 12-hour shifts at the steel plant in Cleveland.
            More than the shut-down mill in Youngstown.
More than that kid selling meth in Ashtabula.
            He was every kid, every street, every silo, he was white
& black & brown & migrant kids working farms.
            He was the prince of stutter-step & pause. He was the new
King. We knew he was coming back the day after he left
            his house in Bath Township. He never sold it.
Someone fed his fish for years. Perhaps our hope? Fuck Miami.
Leave Wade to wade through the Hurricane rain. LeBron is
remembering that woman washing the linoleum floor, that man
          punching his punch card. He drives a Camaro, the cool kid
Ohio car driving through any Main Street. He is the toll-taker, &
            he is the ticket out.
He keeps index cards documenting
            his opponents’ moves. One leans forward before he drives.
One always swipes with his left hand. The details like a preacher
            studying the gospel. He studies the game like a
mathematician conjugating equations, but when he moves he is a
a conductor passing the ball like a baton. He is a burst of cinders
            at the mill. He is a chorus of children calling his name.
            The blistered hands of man stacking boxes
in Sandusky, the long wait for work in Lorain.
A sapling bends
            & reaches in all directions
before it becomes a tree. A ball is a key to a lock.
            A ball is the opposite of Glock.
America who sings your praises,
           while tying the rope, everyone waiting for Caesar to fall,
back-stabbing media hype city betrayed
            by white people with racist signs.
            I watch the kids play ball
in the Heights, witness this they say. We will rise. I watched
            LeBron arrive & leave, I walked, I gave up drinking
as he went off & won a ring. The children’s chorus calls out sing
            brother, sing. Everything is black. Storm clouds gather
out on Lake Erie. But the old flower-hatted women
            at the Baptist church are heading out praise cards,
registering teenagers to vote. To turn a few words into a sentence.
He is a glossary of jam, & yes he is corporate
            chugging down green bubbly Sprite, running in Beats head
phones, he is Dunkin his donut, he is Nike, witness, ripped.
            On a spring day in Akron a
            chorus of children is chanting his name on the court by the
chain-link fence. He is forged steel, turning his skinny body into
            muscle, years of nights lifting, chiseling, cutting, studying.
Watching the tape. To make a new kind of sentence. He is passing
            out T-shirts, this long hot bloody summer he was returned
to the rusted rim along the big lake. He is stutter-step. He is
            spinning wheel. He has a cool new hat. He is speaking of dead
black children. He is giving his time. To make the crowd
            sway like wind through a field of corn.
            Does LeBron think of dying?
            Does the grape think of dying as it withers on the vine by
the lake? Or does it dream of the wine it will become?
He is wearing a shirt that says I Can’t Breathe.
They said he was arrogant. I said he was just Ohio.
            He married his high school sweetheart. Bravado laid out
on the court. No back down, he is Biggie with a basketball inside
            of a mic, no ballistics, just ballet. He is Miles Davis cool,
quietly cerebral, turning his back, tossing up
            chalk like blue smoke, blue notes, blues. He is Akron,
Columbus, he is heart & Heat turned to lake effect blizzards,
            freighters frozen in ice, looking for work & no money to eat.
He is Ashtabula & Toledo. He is carrying so many across the
            river, up through Marietta.
            The grapevines are ripe in Geneva.
            He returns, Man-child, Man-strong, Man-smart, Man-
mountain, Mansfield to East Akron, minus into Man, or should we
            say Mamma raised? Single mother fed, shy child, quiet child
who grew, who suffered & taught his body to sing, his
            mother worked how many shifts, doing this, doing that,
never gave up for her son. He is third shift at the rubber
            plant in winter, he is farm hands & auto parts piecework
& long nights the men at the bar, eyes on the television.
            The lake tonight is black as newly laid asphalt.
There are no ellipses. He is turning paragraphs
            into chapters. Long ago the hoop Gods made this deal
at the crossroads, Old Scratch is flipping the pages
            of his program & waiting high in the stands—to belong to a
place most people would call
            nowhere, to show the world how tough we truly are,
twelve-hour shifts at the Rubber plant in Akron. How he is, how
            he is a part of this asphalt court we call Ohio, & how we
suffer, & how we shine.

Sean Thomas Dougherty, "Biography of LeBron as Ohio" from The Second O of Sorrow.  Copyright © 2018 by Sean Thomas Dougherty.  Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.

Sean Thomas Dougherty

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Poem of the Day: More Than Enough
The first lily of June opens its red mouth.
All over the sand road where we walk
multiflora rose climbs trees cascading
white or pink blossoms, simple, intense
the scene drifting like colored mist.

The arrowhead is spreading its creamy
clumps of flower and the blackberries
are blooming in the thickets. Season of
joy for the bee. The green will never
again be so green, so purely and lushly

new, grass lifting its wheaty seedheads
into the wind. Rich fresh wine
of June, we stagger into you smeared
with pollen, overcome as the turtle
laying her eggs in roadside sand.

Marge Piercy's latest book of poetry is Colors Passing Through Us (Knopf, 2003); her new novel Sex Wars (Morrow/Harper Collins) will be out in December. Poem copyright © 2003 by Marge Piercy and reprinted from The Paterson Literary Review with permission of the author.

Source: Colors Passing Through Us(Alfred A. Knopf, 2003)

Marge Piercy

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Poem of the Day: On Swearing
In Normandy, at Point Du Hoc,
where some Rangers died,
Dad pointed to an old man
20 feet closer to the edge than us,
asking if I could see
the medal the man held
like a rosary.
As we approached the cliff
the man’s swearing, each bulleted
syllable, sifted back
toward us in the ocean wind.
I turned away,
but my shoulder was held still
by my father’s hand,
and I looked up at him
as he looked at the man.

Poem copyright © 2007 by Gary Dop. Reprinted from “Whistling Shade,” Summer, 2007, by permission of Gary Dop.

Gary Dop

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Poem of the Day: A Poem on the Assassination of...
Trees are never felled . . . in summer . . . Not when the fruit . . .   
is yet to be borne . . . Never before the promise . . . is fulfilled . . .   
Not when their cooling shade . . . has yet to comfort . . .

Yet there are those . . . unheeding of nature . . . indifferent to   
ecology . . . ignorant of need . . . who . . . with ax and sharpened   
saw . . . would . . . in boots . . . step forth damaging . . .

Not the tree . . . for it falls . . . But those who would . . . in
summer’s heat . . . or winter’s cold . . . contemplate . . . the   
beauty . . .

Nikki Giovanni, “A Poem on the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy” from Those Who Ride the Night Winds. Copyright © 1983 by Nikki Giovanni. Used with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: The Collected Poems of Nikki Giovanni(2003)

Nikki Giovanni

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Poem of the Day: Nobody Knows
We had to imagine you even then, Ramon, your star lost,
a glimpse to die for,
all the kids galloping to Westside Park
where your gang was supposed to meet in open warfare
those bitter skinny boys from Toonerville,
well-armed, Lupe said.
And when we got there, nothing, no armies, no chucos
with long tails and zip guns, just the grass
with its stunned look, as though it never really wanted all that light.
City grass doesn't want much of anything,
it's not out there trembling with desire,
minds its own business, leeching slowly upward from busted pipe.
And now nobody knows what you really wanted, Ramon,
when the needle spun true north,
or why that final rush of light, flat stare of lawn
as you staggered by, seared your own throat shut.
Tonight, I'm getting to the smallest place I know,
dusk coming on slow,
the moon half full of shade,
so still it almost doesn't want to move,
whispers a phrase to particles of blue.
Same moon you knew with its white mind watching,
same moon you walked beneath and were gone.

Marsha de la O, "Nobody Knows" from Antidote For Night. Copyright © 2015 by Marsha de la O.  Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. .

Source: Antidote for Night(BOA Editions Ltd., 2015)

Marsha De La O

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Poem of the Day: Dear Gaybashers
The night we got bashed we told Rusty how
they drove up, yelled QUEER, threw a hot dog, sped off.

Rusty: Now, is that gaybashing? Or
are they just calling you queer? Good point.

Josey pitied the fools: who buys a perfectly good pack of wieners
and drives around San Francisco chucking them at gays?

And who speeds off? Missing the point, the pleasure of the bash?
Dear bashers, you should have seen the hot dog hit my neck,

the scarf Josey sewed from antique silk kimonos: so gay. You
missed laughing at us, us confused, your raw hot dog on the ground.

Josey and Rusty and Bob make fun of the gaybashers, and I
wash my scarf in the sink. I use Woolite. We worry

about insurance, interest rates. Not hot dogs thrown from F-150s,
homophobic freaks. After the bashing, we used the ATM

in the sex shop next to Annie's Social Club, smiled at the kind
owner, his handlebar mustache. Astrud Gilberto sang tall and tan

and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema... and the dildos
gleamed from the walls, a hundred cheerful colors. In San Francisco

it rains hot dogs, pity-the-fool. Ass-sized penguins, cock after cock in
azure acrylic, butterscotch glass, anyone's flesh-tone, chrome.

Jill McDonough, "Dear Gaybashers" from Where You Live. Copyright © 2012 by Jill McDonough.  Reprinted by permission of Salt Publishing.

Source: Where You Live(Salt Publishing, 2012)

Jill McDonough

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Poem of the Day: Contemplations at the Virgin...
Que será, el café of this holy, incorporated place,
the wild steam of scorched espresso cakes rising
like mirages from the aromatic waste, waving
over the coffee-glossed lips of these faces

assembled for a standing breakfast of nostalgia,
of tastes that swirl with the delicacy of memories
in these forty-cent cups of brown sugar histories,
in the swirling froth of café-con-leche, que será,

what have they seen that they cannot forget—
the broad-leaf waves of tabaco and plantains
the clay dust of red and nameless mountains,
que será, that this morning I too am a speck;

I am the brilliant guitar of a tropical morning
speaking Spanish and ribboning through potions
of waist-high steam and green cane oceans,
que será, drums vanishing and returning,

the African gods that rule a rhythmic land
playing their music: bongó, bembé, conga;
que será, that cast the spells of this rumba,
this wild birthright, this tropical dance

with the palms of this exotic confusion;
que será, that I too should be a question,
que será, what have I seen, what do I know—
culture of café and loss, this place I call home.
Richard Blanco, "Contemplations at the Virgin de la Caridad Cafeteria, Inc." from City of a Hundred Fires. Copyright © 1998 by Richard Blanco.  Reprinted by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: City of a Hundred Fires(University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998)

Richard Blanco

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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
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: Analysis of Baseball
It’s about                    Ball fits
the ball,                      mitt, but
the bat,                       not all                 
and the mitt.             the time.
Ball hits                      Sometimes
bat, or it                     ball gets hit
hits mitt.                    (pow) when bat
Bat doesn’t                meets it,
hit ball,                       and sails
bat meets it.              to a place
Ball bounces             where mitt
off bat, flies               has to quit
air, or thuds              in disgrace.
ground (dud)            That’s about
or it                             the bases
fits mitt.                     loaded,
                                     about 40,000
Bat waits                    fans exploded.
for ball
to mate.                     It’s about
Ball hates                  the ball,
to take bat’s              the bat,
bait. Ball                    the mitt,
flirts, bat’s                 the bases
late, don’t                   and the fans.
keep the date.           It’s done
Ball goes in                on a diamond,
(thwack) to mitt,      and for fun.
and goes out              It’s about
(thwack) back           home, and it’s
to mitt.                       about run.

May Swenson, “Analysis of Baseball” from New and Selected Things Taking Place (Boston: Atlantic/Little Brown, 1978). Copyright © 1978 by May Swenson. Reprinted with the permission of The Literary Estate of May Swenson.

Source: New and Selected Things Taking Place(Little Brown and Company, 1978)

May Swenson

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Poem of the Day: What For
At six I lived for spells:
how a few Hawaiian words could call
up the rain, could hymn like the sea
in the long swirl of chambers
curling in the nautilus of a shell,
how Amida’s ballads of the Buddhaland
in the drone of the priest’s liturgy
could conjure money from the poor
and give them nothing but mantras,
the strange syllables that healed desire.

I lived for stories about the war
my grandfather told over hana cards,
slapping them down on the mats
with a sharp Japanese kiai.

I lived for songs my grandmother sang
stirring curry into a thick stew,
weaving a calligraphy of Kannon’s love
into grass mats and straw sandals.

I lived for the red volcano dirt
staining my toes, the salt residue
of surf and sea wind in my hair,
the arc of a flat stone skipping
in the hollow trough of a wave.

I lived in a child’s world, waited
for my father to drag himself home,
dusted with blasts of sand, powdered
and the strange ash of raw cement,
his deafness made worse by the clang
of pneumatic drills, sore in his bones
from the buckings of a jackhammer.

He’d hand me a scarred lunchpail,
let me unlace the hightop G.I. boots,
call him the new name I’d invented
that day in school, write it for him
on his newspaper. He’d rub my face
with hands that felt like gravel roads,
tell me to move, go play, an then he’d
walk to the laundry sink to scrub,
rinse the dirt of his long day
from a face brown and grained as koa wood.

I wanted to take away the pain
in his legs, the swelling in his joints,
give him back his hearing,
clear and rare as crystal chimes,
the fins of glass that wrinkled
and sparked the air with their sound.

I wanted to heal the sores that work
and war had sent to him,
let him play catch in the backyard
with me, tossing a tennis ball
past papaya trees without the shoulders
of pain shrugging back his arms.

I wanted to become a doctor of pure magic,
to string a necklace of sweet words
fragrant as pine needles and plumeria,
fragrant as the bread my mother baked,
place it like a lei of cowrie shells
and pikake flowers around my father’s neck,
and chant him a blessing, a sutra.

Garrett Hongo, “What For” from Yellow Light. Copyright © 1982 by Garrett Hongo. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Yellow Light(Wesleyan University Press, 1982)

Garrett Hongo

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Poem of the Day: Rock Me, Mercy
The river stones are listening
because we have something to say.
The trees lean closer today.
The singing in the electrical woods
has gone dumb. It looks like rain
because it is too warm to snow.
Guardian angels, wherever you're hiding,
we know you can't be everywhere at once.
Have you corralled all the pretty wild
horses? The memory of ants asleep
in daylilies, roses, holly, & larkspur.
The magpies gaze at us, still
waiting. River stones are listening.
But all we can say now is,
Mercy, please, rock me.

Yusef Komunyakaa, "Rock Me, Mercy" from The Emperor of Water Clocks. Copyright © 2015 by Yusef Komunyakaa.  Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Source: The Emperor of Water(Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2015)

Yusef Komunyakaa

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Poem of the Day: The semantics of flowers on...
Historians will tell you my uncle
wouldn't have called it World War II
or the Great War plus One or Tombstone

over My Head. All of this language
came later. He and his buddies
knew it as get my ass outta here

or fucking trench foot and of course
sex please now. Petunias are an apology
for ignorance, my confidence

that saying high-density bombing
or chunks of brain in cold coffee
even suggests the athleticism

of his flinch or how casually
he picked the pieces out.
Geraniums symbolize the secrets

life kept from him, the wonder
of variable-speed drill and how
the sky would have changed had he lived

to shout it’s a girl. My hands
enter dirt easily, a premonition.
I sit back on my uncle’s stomach

exactly like I never did, he was
a picture to me, was my father
looking across a field at wheat

laying down to wind. For a while,
Tyrants’ War and War of World Freedom
and Anti-Nazi War skirmished

for linguistic domination. If
my uncle called it anything
but too many holes in too many bodies

no flower can say. I plant marigolds
because they came cheap and who knows
what the earth’s in the mood to eat.

“The semantics of flowers on Memorial Day” from Insomnia Diary by Bob Hicok © 2004. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: Insomnia Diary(University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004)

Bob Hicok

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Poem of the Day: Culture and the Universe
Two nights ago
in the canyon darkness,
only the half-moon and stars,
only mere men.
Prayer, faith, love,
                       We are measured
by vastness beyond ourselves.
Dark is light.
Stone is rising.

I don’t know
if humankind understands
culture: the act
of being human
is not easy knowledge.

With painted wooden sticks
and feathers, we journey
into the canyon toward stone,
a massive presence
in midwinter.

We stop.
                       Lean into me.
                       The universe
sings in quiet meditation.

We are wordless:
                       I am in you.

Without knowing why
culture needs our knowledge,
we are one self in the canyon.
                                                                    And the stone wall
I lean upon spins me
wordless and silent
to the reach of stars
and to the heavens within.

It’s not humankind after all
nor is it culture
that limits us.
It is the vastness
we do not enter.
It is the stars
we do not let own us.

Simon Ortiz, “Culture and the Universe” from Out There Somewhere. Copyright © 2002 by Simon Ortiz. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.

Source: Out There Somewhere(University of Arizona Press, 2002)

Simon J. Ortiz

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Poem of the Day: May
In May’s gaud gown and ruby reckoning
the old saw wind repeats a colder thing.
Says, you are the bluest body I ever seen.
Says, dance that skeletal startle the way I might.
Radius, ulna, a catalogue of flex.
What do you think you’re grabbing
with those gray hands? What do you think
you’re hunting, cat-mouth creeling
in the mouseless dawn? Pink as meat
in the butcher’s tender grip, white as
the opal of a thigh you smut the lie on.
In May’s red ruse and smattered ravishings
you one, you two, you three your cruder schemes,
you blanch black lurk and blood the pallid bone
and hum scald need where the body says I am
and the rose sighs Touch me, I am dying
in the pleatpetal purring of mouthweathered May.

Karen Volkman, “May” from Spar. Copyright © 2002 by Karen Volkman. Reprinted by permission of University of Iowa Press.

Source: Spar(University of Iowa Press, 2002)

Karen Volkman

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Poem of the Day: Devouring the Light, 1968
The day they killed Martin
we could not return to New York City
our visiting senior class stuck in Huntsville
streets blazed with suffering in that small
Alabama town
in the dull shroud of morning
the whole world went crazy
devouring whatever light
that lit our half-cracked windows.

Source: Poetry June 2017

Cheryl Boyce-Taylor

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Poem of the Day: from The Bridge: To Brooklyn...
How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest
The seagull’s wings shall dip and pivot him,
Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
Over the chained bay waters Liberty—

Then, with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes   
As apparitional as sails that cross
Some page of figures to be filed away;
—Till elevators drop us from our day ...

I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen;

And Thee, across the harbor, silver paced
As though the sun took step of thee yet left
Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,—
Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!

Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft
A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,
Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
A jest falls from the speechless caravan.

Down Wall, from girder into street noon leaks,
A rip-tooth of the sky’s acetylene;
All afternoon the cloud flown derricks turn ...
Thy cables breathe the North Atlantic still.

And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,
Thy guerdon ... Accolade thou dost bestow
Of anonymity time cannot raise:
Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show.

O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet’s pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover’s cry,

Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path—condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.

Under thy shadow by the piers I waited
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
The City’s fiery parcels all undone,
Already snow submerges an iron year ...

O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies’ dreaming sod,         
Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God.
Hart Crane, "To Brooklyn Bridge" from The Complete Poems of Hart Crane, edited by Marc SImon. Copyright © 1933, 1958, 1966 by Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1986 by Marc Simon. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing.

Source: The Complete Poems of Hart Crane(Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2001)

Hart Crane

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