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Poem of the Day: They Sit Together on the Porch
They sit together on the porch, the dark
Almost fallen, the house behind them dark.
Their supper done with, they have washed and dried
The dishes–only two plates now, two glasses,
Two knives, two forks, two spoons–small work for two.
She sits with her hands folded in her lap,
At rest. He smokes his pipe. They do not speak,
And when they speak at last it is to say
What each one knows the other knows. They have
One mind between them, now, that finally
For all its knowing will not exactly know
Which one goes first through the dark doorway, bidding
Goodnight, and which sits on a while alone.

From "A Timbered Choir", by Wendell Berry. Copyright © 1998. Published and reprinted by arrangement with Counterpoint Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group (www.perseusbooks.com). All rights reserved.

Source: A Timbered Choir(Counterpoint Press, 1998)

Wendell Berry

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Poem of the Day: The Sun Rising
               Busy old fool, unruly sun,
               Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run?
               Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
               Late school boys and sour prentices,
         Go tell court huntsmen that the king will ride,
         Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

               Thy beams, so reverend and strong
               Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long;
               If her eyes have not blinded thine,
               Look, and tomorrow late, tell me,
         Whether both th' Indias of spice and mine
         Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, All here in one bed lay.

               She's all states, and all princes, I,
               Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honor's mimic, all wealth alchemy.
               Thou, sun, art half as happy as we,
               In that the world's contracted thus.
         Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
         To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.



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Poem of the Day: My Grandmother Washes Her Feet...
My grandmother puts her feet in the sink
        of the bathroom at Sears
to wash them in the ritual washing for prayer,
wudu,
because she has to pray in the store or miss
the mandatory prayer time for Muslims
She does it with great poise, balancing
herself with one plump matronly arm
against the automated hot-air hand dryer,
after having removed her support knee-highs
and laid them aside, folded in thirds,
and given me her purse and her packages to hold
so she can accomplish this august ritual
and get back to the ritual of shopping for housewares

Respectable Sears matrons shake their heads and frown
as they notice what my grandmother is doing,
an affront to American porcelain,
a contamination of American Standards
by something foreign and unhygienic
requiring civic action and possible use of disinfectant spray
They fluster about and flutter their hands and I can see
a clash of civilizations brewing in the Sears bathroom

My grandmother, though she speaks no English,
catches their meaning and her look in the mirror says,
I have washed my feet over Iznik tile in Istanbul
with water from the world's ancient irrigation systems
I have washed my feet in the bathhouses of Damascus
over painted bowls imported from China
among the best families of Aleppo
And if you Americans knew anything
about civilization and cleanliness,
you'd make wider washbins, anyway
My grandmother knows one culture—the right one,

as do these matrons of the Middle West. For them,
my grandmother might as well have been squatting
in the mud over a rusty tin in vaguely tropical squalor,
Mexican or Middle Eastern, it doesn't matter which,
when she lifts her well-groomed foot and puts it over the edge.
"You can't do that," one of the women protests,
turning to me, "Tell her she can't do that."
"We wash our feet five times a day,"
my grandmother declares hotly in Arabic.
"My feet are cleaner than their sink.
Worried about their sink, are they? I
should worry about my feet!"
My grandmother nudges me, "Go on, tell them."

Standing between the door and the mirror, I can see
at multiple angles, my grandmother and the other shoppers,
all of them decent and goodhearted women, diligent
in cleanliness, grooming, and decorum
Even now my grandmother, not to be rushed,
is delicately drying her pumps with tissues from her purse
For my grandmother always wears well-turned pumps
that match her purse, I think in case someone
from one of the best families of Aleppo
should run into her—here, in front of the Kenmore display

I smile at the midwestern women
as if my grandmother has just said something lovely about them
and shrug at my grandmother as if they
had just apologized through me
No one is fooled, but I

hold the door open for everyone
and we all emerge on the sales floor
and lose ourselves in the great common ground
of housewares on markdown.

Mohja Kahf, "My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears" from E-mails from Scheherazad. Copyright © 2003 by Mohja Kahf.  Reprinted by permission of University Press of Florida.

Source: E-mails from Scheherazad(University Press of Florida, 2003)

Mohja Kahf

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Poem of the Day: Eating Poetry
Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

Mark Strand, “Eating Poetry” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1979, 1980 by Mark Strand. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Source: Selected Poems(Alfred A. Knopf, 1991)

Mark Strand

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Poem of the Day: Different Ways to Pray
There was the method of kneeling,
a fine method, if you lived in a country
where stones were smooth.
The women dreamed wistfully of bleached courtyards,   
hidden corners where knee fit rock.
Their prayers were weathered rib bones,
small calcium words uttered in sequence,
as if this shedding of syllables could somehow   
fuse them to the sky.

There were the men who had been shepherds so long   
they walked like sheep.
Under the olive trees, they raised their arms—
Hear us! We have pain on earth!
We have so much pain there is no place to store it!
But the olives bobbed peacefully
in fragrant buckets of vinegar and thyme.
At night the men ate heartily, flat bread and white cheese,   
and were happy in spite of the pain,   
because there was also happiness.

Some prized the pilgrimage,
wrapping themselves in new white linen   
to ride buses across miles of vacant sand.   
When they arrived at Mecca   
they would circle the holy places,   
on foot, many times,
they would bend to kiss the earth
and return, their lean faces housing mystery.

While for certain cousins and grandmothers
the pilgrimage occurred daily,   
lugging water from the spring
or balancing the baskets of grapes.
These were the ones present at births,
humming quietly to perspiring mothers.
The ones stitching intricate needlework into children’s dresses,   
forgetting how easily children soil clothes.

There were those who didn’t care about praying.
The young ones. The ones who had been to America.   
They told the old ones, you are wasting your time.
      Time?—The old ones prayed for the young ones.   
They prayed for Allah to mend their brains,
for the twig, the round moon,
to speak suddenly in a commanding tone.

And occasionally there would be one
who did none of this,
the old man Fowzi, for example, Fowzi the fool,   
who beat everyone at dominoes,
insisted he spoke with God as he spoke with goats,   
and was famous for his laugh.

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Different Ways to Pray” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

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

Naomi Shihab Nye

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Poem of the Day: Khaleesi Says
In this story, she is fire-born:
knee-deep in the shuddering world.

In this story, she knows no fear,
for what is fractured is a near-bitten star,
a false-bearing tree,
or a dishonest wind.

In this story, fear is a house gone dry.
Fear is not being a woman.

I’m no ordinary woman, she says.
My dreams come true.

And she says and she is
and I say, yes, give me that.

Source: Poetry January 2014

Leah Umansky

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Poem of the Day: Sad Steps
Groping back to bed after a piss
I part thick curtains, and am startled by   
The rapid clouds, the moon’s cleanliness.

Four o’clock: wedge-shadowed gardens lie   
Under a cavernous, a wind-picked sky.   
There’s something laughable about this,

The way the moon dashes through clouds that blow   
Loosely as cannon-smoke to stand apart   
(Stone-coloured light sharpening the roofs below)

High and preposterous and separate—   
Lozenge of love! Medallion of art!
O wolves of memory! Immensements! No,

One shivers slightly, looking up there.
The hardness and the brightness and the plain   
Far-reaching singleness of that wide stare

Is a reminder of the strength and pain   
Of being young; that it can’t come again,   
But is for others undiminished somewhere.

Philip Larkin, "Sad Steps" from Collected Poems. 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: My Dad, in America
Your hand on my jaw
              but gently

and that picture of you
punching through snow
              to bring two deer, a gopher,

and a magpie
to the old Highwalker woman

who spoke only Cheyenne
              and traced our footprints

on leather she later chewed to soften.
              We need to know in America there is still blood

for forgiveness.
Dead things for the new day.

Source: Poetry January 2013

Shann Ray

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Poem of the Day: What Kind of Times Are These
There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.

Adrienne Rich, "What Kind of Times are These" from Collected Poems: 1950-2012. Copyright © 2016 by The Adrienne Rich Literary Trust.  Copyright © 1995 Adrienne Rich. Reprinted by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc..

Source: Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems 1991-1995(W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1995)

Adrienne Rich

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Poem of the Day: The Little Rock 9
It is Monday, I am twelve years old,
summer still feel like summer to me...

                                           Ernest Green


My elementary school principal was white
I only had one white teacher, she was named
after the juice the astronauts took into space,
Tang, I got some Tang at home...did you hear
about the little girls who got killed while we was
in Sunday School yesterday?

                                          Elizabeth Eckford


I live in Baltimore and so do you,
your people the raw and stinky crew,
my daddy a big shot on the Avenue
your daddy can't buy a pair of shoes...

                                          Jefferson Thomas


One little girl was named Addie Mae,
just like my aunt from South Carolina,
and when I come home from church
everybody was cryin about the news
from Alabama...I know Alabama
Alabama was on the math test today—
                             If you going 65 miles an hour leaving
                             Richmond near where my cousin live
                             and you drive for twelve hours straight
                             will get you to Alabama? hell no, cause
                             Alabama in hell ...

                                          Terrance Roberts


The bus is hot, the white neighborhood
full of angry faces just two miles from where
we live, angry faces I see at night when I look
out the window and wonder why I have to sit
next to white children to be smart...I was smart
all the time, my mama told me so when I did
things the right way, extra things, good things,
smart is knowin when somethin's missing...

                                          Carlotta Walls LaNier


I like Malcom X because he looks like me
when I am so mad I can't stand myself, when
my cousins take my model car shelf down,
break up my cats and then dare me to fight,
when I have to walk from the white school
home through the white neighborhood when
I miss the bus or when I get a beatin for what
my friend did and he get a beatin, too, but
mine hurt more because he did it, not me, so
I like Malcom X. He so mean, Mr. Green,
he so mean...you got to be mean in Chicago...

                                          Minnijean Brown


When I was fourteen a boy kissed me
when we were walking to the movies,
he sneaked me, and I tried not to smile
because kissing is a sin and all the while
I was so full of hallelujah on the inside,
on the way to the movies we go to now
because somebody made a way somehow,
standing in lines with protest signs, dogs
barking all around, so I make sure I sound
educated when Henry sneaks to kiss me
on the way to the movies...we have
all kinds of movies in Philadelphia...

                                          Gloria Ray Karlmark


New York is faster than yesterday,
been here and gone before you remember
it ain't here no more, we go downtown
in the middle of tomorrow when it still be
today, New York is faster than yesterday,
I got a quarter for your ten dollar bill,
give it to me I'll pay your cleaners bill
because New York is faster than yesterday,
and a high school diploma is all a genius
like me will ever need in a city where
a thrill is more to me if you will believe
me...and believe me you will...

                                          Thelma Mothershed


What a word will do, my momma used to say
at night when her work was done, rearing back
in that chair of hers with the stuffin fallin out
of the arms, what a word will do when you know
what words are for, she would say, layin her head
back, closing her eyes and settling down
inside some dream. She never told us her dreams
when we asked her, she just said we would know
when the moon turned over three times and ghosts
rose up out of the sea. Mama was half out
of this world, in California we all the way in it...

                                          Melba Patillo Beals


              Little Rock Nine,
              Shaking the line
              Between white no
              And black oh yes,
              I'll walk all over
              What is mine, thanks
              To Little Rock Nine.
 

 


Afaa Michael Weaver, "The Little Rock 9" from A Hard Summation. Copyright © 2014 by Afaa Michael Weaver.  Reprinted by permission of Central Square Press.

Source: A Hard Summation(W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2014)

Afaa Michael Weaver

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Poem of the Day: Who Am I, Without Exile?
A stranger on the riverbank, like the river ... water
binds me to your name. Nothing brings me back from my faraway
to my palm tree: not peace and not war. Nothing
makes me enter the gospels. Not
a thing ... nothing sparkles from the shore of ebb
and flow between the Euphrates and the Nile. Nothing
makes me descend from the pharaoh’s boats. Nothing
carries me or makes me carry an idea: not longing
and not promise. What will I do? What
will I do without exile, and a long night
that stares at the water?

Water
binds me
to your name ...
Nothing takes me from the butterflies of my dreams
to my reality: not dust and not fire. What
will I do without roses from Samarkand? What
will I do in a theater that burnishes the singers with its lunar
stones? Our weight has become light like our houses
in the faraway winds. We have become two friends of the strange
creatures in the clouds ... and we are now loosened
from the gravity of identity’s land. What will we do … what
will we do without exile, and a long night
that stares at the water?

Water
binds me
to your name ...
There’s nothing left of me but you, and nothing left of you
but me, the stranger massaging his stranger’s thigh: O
stranger! what will we do with what is left to us
of calm ... and of a snooze between two myths?
And nothing carries us: not the road and not the house.
Was this road always like this, from the start,
or did our dreams find a mare on the hill
among the Mongol horses and exchange us for it?
And what will we do?
What
will we do
without
exile?

Mahmoud Darwish, "Who Am I, Without Exile?" from The Butterfly’s Burden. Copyright © 2008 by Mahmoud Darwish, English translation by Fady Joudah.  Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. www.coppercanyonpress.org

Source: The Butterfly’s Burden(Copper Canyon Press, 2007)

Mahmoud Darwish

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Poem of the Day: I Go Back to May 1937
I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the   
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head, I
see my mother with a few light books at her hip
standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks,
the wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its
sword-tips aglow in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,   
they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are   
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.   
I want to go up to them and say Stop,   
don’t do it—she’s the wrong woman,   
he’s the wrong man, you are going to do things
you cannot imagine you would ever do,   
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you have not heard of,
you are going to want to die. I want to go
up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
her hungry pretty face turning to me,   
her pitiful beautiful untouched body,
his arrogant handsome face turning to me,   
his pitiful beautiful untouched body,   
but I don’t do it. I want to live. I   
take them up like the male and female   
paper dolls and bang them together   
at the hips, like chips of flint, as if to   
strike sparks from them, I say
Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.

Sharon Olds, “I Go Back to May 1937” from Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002. Copyright © 2004 by Sharon Olds. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Source: Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002(Alfred A. Knopf, 2004)

Sharon Olds

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Poem of the Day: Flight
I call to ask my mother the name of the street where we bought the suitcases when we left
Brooklyn. A better question would have been how did it feel to be sliced from the rib of Pine and
Loring and sent, like a kite, up North. Or tell me what your mother said to you in her grand rear
room the night we left, seated on the edge of her bed in her nightgown, muted in the low light.
So many bellies in the house. Cacophony of kreyol and Brooklyn buk and sweet sweat across the
walls. Did she tell you to follow your husband. Did she tell you anything about us. How, above
all, you should keep us anchored to here, where the distance between comfort and safety is
measurable by the length of the hallway, the distance from one room to the next. The rooms, like
capsules, each with its own medicine for Black kids. Or, tell me what you wore on the plane
ride. I only remember what I wore: stockings and Mary Janes and the pink knit pleated skirt. I did
not remember this was your first time flying, a grown woman over thirty, and you had never seen
how small the world looked beneath your feet.

Source: Poetry April 2018

Idrissa Simmonds

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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: When I Am Gone
When I am gone what will you do?
Who will write and draw for you?
Someone smarter—someone new?
Someone better—maybe YOU!

Shel Silverstein, "When I Am Gone" from Every Thing on It. Copyright © 2011 by Shel Silverstein.  Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
 

Source: Every Thing on It(HarperCollins Publishers, 2011)

Shel Silverstein

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Poem of the Day: Grandeur of Ghosts
When I have heard small talk about great men
I climb to bed; light my two candles; then
Consider what was said; and put aside
What Such-a-one remarked and Someone-else replied.

They have spoken lightly of my deathless friends,
(Lamps for my gloom, hands guiding where I stumble,)
Quoting, for shallow conversational ends,
What Shelley shrilled, what Blake once wildly muttered ....

How can they use such names and be not humble?
I have sat silent; angry at what they uttered.
The dead bequeathed them life; the dead have said
What these can only memorize and mumble.

n/a

Source: Selected Poems(1968)

Siegfried Sassoon

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Poem of the Day: How I Discovered Poetry
It was like soul-kissing, the way the words
filled my mouth as Mrs. Purdy read from her desk.
All the other kids zoned an hour ahead to 3:15,
but Mrs. Purdy and I wandered lonely as clouds borne
by a breeze off Mount Parnassus. She must have seen
the darkest eyes in the room brim: The next day
she gave me a poem she’d chosen especially for me
to read to the all except for me white class.
She smiled when she told me to read it, smiled harder,
said oh yes I could. She smiled harder and harder
until I stood and opened my mouth to banjo playing
darkies, pickaninnies, disses and dats. When I finished
my classmates stared at the floor. We walked silent
to the buses, awed by the power of words.

Marilyn Nelson, “How I Discovered Poetry” from The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 by Marilyn Nelson. Reprinted with the permission of Louisiana State University Press.

Source: The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems(1997)

Marilyn Nelson

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Poem of the Day: Amusing Our Daughters
We don’t lack people here on the Northern coast,
But they are people one meets, not people one cares for.
So I bundle my daughters into the car
And with my brother poets, go to visit you, brother.

Here come your guests! A swarm of strangers and children;
But the strangers write verses, the children are daughters like yours.
We bed down on mattresses, cots, roll up on the floor:
Outside, burly old fruit trees in mist and rain;
In every room, bundles asleep like larvae.

We waken and count our daughters. Otherwise, nothing happens.
You feed them sweet rolls and melon, drive them all to the zoo;
Patiently, patiently, ever the father, you answer their questions.
Later, we eat again, drink, listen to poems.
Nothing occurs, though we are aware you have three daughters
Who last year had four. But even death becomes part of our ease:
Poems, parenthood, sorrow, all we have learned
From these of tenderness, holds us together
In the center of life, entertaining daughters
By firelight, with cake and songs.

You, my brother, are a good and violent drinker,
Good at reciting short-line or long-line poems.
In time we will lose all our daughters, you and I,
Be temperate, venerable, content to stay in one place,
Sending our messages over the mountains and waters.

Carolyn Kizer, “Amusing Our Daughters” from Cool, Calm, and Collected: Poems 1960-2000. Copyright © 2001 by Carolyn Kizer. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: Cool Calm and Collected: Poems 1960-2000(Copper Canyon Press, 2001)

Carolyn Kizer

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Poem of the Day: May
The backyard apple tree gets sad so soon,
takes on a used-up, feather-duster look
within a week.

The ivy’s spring reconnaissance campaign
sends red feelers out and up and down
to find the sun.

Ivy from last summer clogs the pool,
brewing a loamy, wormy, tea-leaf mulch
soft to the touch

and rank with interface of rut and rot.
The month after the month they say is cruel
is and is not.

Jonathan Galassi, “May” from North Street and Other Poems (New York: HarperCollins, 2001). Copyright © 2001 by Jonathan Galassi. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: North Street and Other Poems(HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 2000)

Jonathan Galassi

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Poem of the Day: Ramadan
My mother forgets to feed her animals
because it's only fair.
She rushes to them when
she hears hoarse roosters crowing
and billy goats butting
over a last straw.

This month the moon becomes a princess.
The stars fan her,
Jupiter pours cups of wine,
Mars sings melancholy mawals.
Bearded men holding prayer beads
and yellow booklets stare at her
and point aching fingers at her waist.

In our house we break a fast
with dates from Huun
and glasses of buttermilk.
Then on to bowls of lamb soup
flavored with mint, trays
of stuffed grape leaves,
spiced fava beans drenched
in olive oil and lemon juice.
And that is only the beginning.

The spirits of Johnny Walker and gin
hide in the trunks of white Peugeots.
In the nightclubs of my city, waiters
serve only non-alcoholic beer
and belly dancers cover themselves.

Father of sixteen children, our neighbor
visits bringing two kilos of baklava.
He washes them down with a dozen
demitasses of sweet sage tea.
Before dawn he runs to one
of his two wives, both named Salma,
and loves her hurriedly,
his hands barely touching a breast.

Khaled Mattawa, "Ramadan" from Ismailia Eclipse. Copyright © 1995 by Khaled Mattawa.  Reprinted by permission of The Sheep Meadow Press.

Source: Ismailia Eclipse(The Sheep Meadow Press, 1995)

Khaled Mattawa

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