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Category: Poem of the Day Series

Poem of the Day: Nikki Giovanni

SKY DIVING

I hang on the edge
of this universe
singing off-key
talking too loud
embracing myself
to cushion the fall

I shall tumble
into deep space
never in this form
or with this feeling
to return to earth

It is not tragic

I will spiral
through that Black hole
losing skin limbs
internal organs
searing my naked soul

Landing
in the next galaxy
with only my essence
embracing myself
as

I dream of you

from Harper Collins and featured in O Magazine

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Let’s Finish February Strong: Poem by Toni Morrison

EVE REMEMBERING

1

I tore from a limb fruit that had lost its green.
My hands were warmed by the heat of an apple
Fire red and humming.
I bit sweet power to the core.
How can I say what it was like?
The taste! The taste undid my eyes
And led me far from the gardens planted for a child
To wildernesses deeper than any master’s call.

2

Now these cool hands guide what they once caressed;
Lips forget what they have kissed.
My eyes now pool their light
Better the summit to see.

3

I would do it all over again:
Be the harbor and set the sail,
Loose the breeze and harness the gale,
Cherish the harvest of what I have been.
Better the summit to scale.
Better the summit to be.

—from Five Poems (Rainmaker Editions, 2002)

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Poem of the Day: Justin Phillip Reed

Happy Tuesday, friends! As I mentioned yesterday, I’m throwing myself back into doing the things I love—and I LOVE celebrating my fellow writers. If you’d like to have one of your works featured, or do a mini-interview with me about your process or one of your successes, I’d love to hear from you. Check out how to submit here.

In the meantime, here is today’s incredible Poem of the Day, coming to you late Tuesday evening:

WHAT’S LEFT BEHIND AFTER A HAWK HAS SEIZED A SMALLER BIRD MIDAIR

I like men who are cruel to me;
men who know how I will end;
men who, when they touch me,
fasten their shadows to my neck
then get out my face when certain
they haven’t much use for being seen.
I like men to be cruel to me.
Any men who build their bodies into
widths of doors I only walk through
once will do. There’s a difference
between entrances and exits I don’t
have much use for now. I’ve seen
what’s left behind after a hawk
has seized a smaller bird midair.
The feathers lay circled in prattle
with rotting crab apples, grasses passing
between the entrances and exits
of clover. The raptor, somewhere
over it, over it. Cruelty where?
The hell would grief go in a goshawk?
It’s enough to risk the open field,
its rotten crab apples, grasses passing
out like lock-kneed mourners in sun.
There I was, scoping, scavenging
the damage to drag mystery out of
a simple read: two animals wanted
life enough to risk the open field
and one of them took what it hunted.
Each one tells me he wants me
vulnerable. I already wrote that book.
The body text cleaved to the spine,
simple to read as two animals wanting
to see inside each other and one
pulling back a wing to offer—See?
Here—the fastest way in or out
and you knew how it would end.
You cleaved the body text to the spine
cause you read closely. You clock damage.
It was a door you walked through once
before pivoting toward a newer image of risk.

poem previously featured by Poem-A-Day

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Poem of the Day: Frank Stanford

THE LIGHT THE DEAD SEE

There are many people who come back
After the doctor has smoothed the sheet
Around their body
And left the room to make his call.

They die but they live.

They are called the dead who lived through their deaths,
And among my people
They are considered wise and honest.

They float out of their bodies
And light on the ceiling like a moth,
Watching the efforts of everyone around them.

The voices and the images of the living
Fade away.

A roar sucks them under
The wheels of a darkness without pain.
Off in the distance
There is someone
Like a signalman swinging a lantern.

The light grows, a white flower.
It becomes very intense, like music.

They see the faces of those they loved,
The truly dead who speak kindly.

They see their father sitting in a field.
The harvest is over and his cane chair is mended.
There is a towel around his neck,
The odor of bay rum.
Then they see their mother
Standing behind him with a pair of shears.
The wind is blowing.
She is cutting his hair.

The dead have told these stories
To the living.

—from Frank Stanford’s The Light the Dead See (University of Arkansas Press, 1991)

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Poem of the Day: Brigit Pegeen Kelly

DOING LAUNDRY ON SUNDAY

So this is the Sabbath, the stillness
in the garden, magnolias
drying damp bells, petticoats,

over the porch rail, while bicycle
wheels thrum and the full-breasted tulips
open their pink blouses

for the hands that pressed them first
as bulbs into the earth.
Bread, too, cools on the sill,

and finches scatter bees
by the Shell Station where a boy
in blue denim watches oil

spread in phosphorescent scarves
over the cement. He dips
his brush into a bucket and begins

to scrub, makng slow circles
and stopping to splash water on the children
who, hours before it opens,

juggle bean bags outside Gantsy’s
Ice Cream Parlor,
while they wait for color to drench their tongues,

as I wait for water to bloom
behind me—white foam, as of magnolias,
as of green and yellow

birds bathing in leaves—wait,
as always, for the day, like bread, to rise,
and, with movement

imperceptible, accomplish everything.

—appears on Poetry Foundation here

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Poem of the Day: Sylvia Plath

WINTER LANDSCAPE, WITH ROOKS

Water in the millrace, through a sluice of stone,
plunges headlong into that black pond
where, absurd and out-of-season, a single swan
floats chaste as snow, taunting the clouded mind
which hungers to haul the white reflection down.

The austere sun descends above the fen,
an orange cyclops-eye, scorning to look
longer on this landscape of chagrin;
feathered dark in thought, I stalk like a rook,
brooding as the winter night comes on.

Last summer’s reeds are all engraved in ice
as is your image in my eye; dry frost
glazes the window of my hurt; what solace
can be stuck from rock to make heart’s waste
grow green again? Who’d walk in this bleak place?

—from Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems (HarperCollins, 1981)

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Happy National Poetry Month! Poem of the Day: Angela Voras-Hills

Happy Wednesday, friends! I hope you’re all enjoying your week. For those of you who may not be aware, and for those who are too overwhelmed with other things right now to be focused on this (know that I feel you and am here for you), April is National Poetry Month.

For the entire month of April, I’m going to do my best to post a poem every single day by an amazing poet—weekends included. I think, especially right now, we need as much art in our lives as we can get, and I like knowing I’m contributing in some very small way to the resourcing of that.

In my own work, I’m also aiming to write a poem each day, and to write a minimum of one new article per week. I’ll either share them here, or provide links to where you can find them. I’m not so worried about actually pitching and submitting right now; I only have so much energy, and I’d rather put it into creation, rather than pushing for publication, for just a little while.

Though, I want to mention, for those of you who are using this time to focus on larger goals, I have a writing group that is focused on getting your writing done, seeking publication, marketing and growing your readership. Whether you’re a poet, a playwright, a freelancer, a novelist, or anywhere in-between, I’m confident there is useful information in that group for you. If you’d like to check it out (it’s totally free), make sure to keep scrolling after the poem, and join the free Facebook group. I’d love to see you there.

Okay, enough of the logistics for tonight! Here is our Poem of the Day:

ON MY WAY HOME

A great horned owl sits in the window
of a silo along the highway. The foundation

of the barn is now rubble, its boards salvaged.
My mother has scraped and painted the wood

into plant stands. On the other side
of the highway, flames chew clean

to the steel skeleton of a sedan, its body
barely identifiable. Firemen stand close

with the hose, but no water comes through.
There’s no ambulance. The lake

has recently frozen over. Yesterday,
firemen gathered on it, jumped hard

to collapse the shell and fell through.
Each body tall in a black dry-suit, then,

only a watery hole where they’d stood.
The mother of one of the men watched

in the snow beside me. Just then,
my son was in biology class.

But what he was learning about the body,
I don’t know.

—from Angela Voras-Hills’ Louder Birds (Pleiades Press, 2020)

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Poem of the Day: Sylvia Plath

BLACKBERRYING

Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,   
Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,
A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea
Somewhere at the end of it, heaving. Blackberries
Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes
Ebon in the hedges, fat
With blue-red juices. These they squander on my fingers.
I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me.
They accommodate themselves to my milkbottle, flattening their sides.

Overhead go the choughs in black, cacophonous flocks—
Bits of burnt paper wheeling in a blown sky.
Theirs is the only voice, protesting, protesting.
I do not think the sea will appear at all.
The high, green meadows are glowing, as if lit from within.
I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies,
Hanging their bluegreen bellies and their wing panes in a Chinese screen.
The honey-feast of the berries has stunned them; they believe in heaven.   
One more hook, and the berries and bushes end.

The only thing to come now is the sea.
From between two hills a sudden wind funnels at me,   
Slapping its phantom laundry in my face.
These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt.
I follow the sheep path between them. A last hook brings me   
To the hills’ northern face, and the face is orange rock   
That looks out on nothing, nothing but a great space   
Of white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmiths   
Beating and beating at an intractable metal.

—from Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems (HarperCollins, 1981)

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Poems of the Day: Allan Peterson

THIS LUMINOUS

Turn off the light
The hemming begins at once
You hear the engine of the sewing heart
stitching into sleep so you won’t come loose
Out the window light is still moving
that sees through your bones
I hold a flashlight to the fire in my hands
How can I see into my skin’s little blue rivers
and not out from my eyelids
How can the water that holds up everything
slip through my fingers
How can we be this luminous
and people go right on talking

BOTANY

I started a garden just flowers and watched
the cotyledons turn recognizable coming up
like pictures on the box warning of glycosides
in ranunculas water crowfoot and lesser celandine
They were poison in the book but that was once
said about tomatoes so I ate another nightshade
just to see

HOW IT WORKS

A book is saved memory
A tree is memory saved as a book of leaves
This is not news
The leaves say themselves again and again
The pages remember the tree
and the leaves that have fallen onto its own
We saved each of them
to make others out of paper and wire
With each one we said
I remember—There was the elm
the rope swing was in it and the yellow bird

—all from Allan Peterson’s This Luminous: New and Selected Poems (Panhandler Books, 2019)

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Poem of the Day: Vievee Francis

ANOTHER ANTIPASTORAL

I want to put down what the mountain has awakened.

My mouthful of grass.
My curious tale. I want to stand still but find myself moved patch by patch.
There’s a bleat in my throat. Words fail me here. Can you understand? I sink to
my knees tired or not. I now know the ragweed from the goldenrod, and the blinding
beauty of green. Don’t you see? I am shedding my skins. I am a paper hive, a wolf spider,
the creeping ivy, the ache of a birch, a heifer, a doe. I have fallen from my dream
of progress: the clear-cut glass, the potted and balconied tree, the lemon-waxed
wood over a marbled pillar, into my own nocturne. The lullabies I had forgotten.
How could I know what slept inside? What would rend my fantasies to cud and up
from this belly’s wet straw-strewn field—
these soundings.

—from Vievee Francis’s Forest Primeval (Triquarterly Books, 2016)

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Poem of the Day: Rebecca Pelky

RADIUM GIRL

Once the boys were goldfish and all the girls
were rings, tossed and bouncing from bowl to bowl.

If not for the clink of plastic on glass,
we’d never have known the frenzy,

how it sorted itself to tinny song. The funhouse
mirrors tripped us up, caught our bottled necks,

each turn in the murky neon telling a truth
in thighs and teeth, telling us what we already knew

we were. So I filled my arms with rubber snakes
and phosphor. I dragged my stranger limbs

beyond the tilt-a-whirl lights. One by one,
I tied tails to incisors and held tight to the chain link.

One by one they tugged free, newborn
rattlers trailing my mouthblood from their tails.

—from Horizon of the Dog Woman (Saint Julian Press, Inc., 2020)

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Poem of the Day & Remembering Ralph Angel

Happy Tuesday, friends. I hope you enjoyed your day and did something you love today.

I mentioned yesterday that I’m diving more deeply back into my reading and writing, including sharing poetry during these uncertain times.

On March 9th, the press where I used to work as the Layout and Design Editor, New Issues Poetry and Prose, shared a video of Ralph Angel reading his lovely poem, “Bright Example.” In the post, it read, “If you need to need to hear Ralph’s voice, it is here. We at New Issues will all miss him so much.”

The post hit my body like a wave, and I locked myself in the bathroom for a few minutes, simply sitting there to listen to Ralph read his poem aloud. I cried alone while my children played, unaware, in the basement.

I think partially the news hurt so much, because it’s impossible to imagine such a bright light in the world going out at a time like this.

But more than anything, I think it’s the culture that I embraced while working with New Issues. The relationships we built there with each other, and with our writers, were sound, authentic, and unforgettable. I’ve never lost track of New Issues, celebrate their winners, read their latest books, and do whatever I can to remain involved with them from afar.

Working with Ralph Angel, who was one of the later poets I worked with while on staff, was an incredible experience. We exchanged countless emails about his poetry, their need to breathe on the page, the weather, what we were reading—typical to poets who relate anything in life to poetry.

More important were the phone calls, which were fewer in number but long, thoughtful, and hilarious. I knew long before anyone told me that he was brilliant, and a jokester.

During one of our calls, he joked with me about pranking me at some point—but not until the book was released, of course. He said he couldn’t take any chances (haha).

Then at AWP that year, in Seattle, Ralph was scheduled for a book signing at the New Issues table at the bookfair. I made sure to be there, so I could finally meet him in-person. When he arrived, there were immediately people surrounding him, so I waited. Once he was free, I introduced myself, and he gasped audibly.

He said, “Oh, it’s you,” and pulled me into a hug, saying, “Thank you.” He picked up his book from the table and said, “This is here because of you” (which was such an exaggeration, but it meant a lot to little MFA-candidate-me).

Goodness, I miss him. I think I always will. But eventually, I will have all of his books, and that will be more than I can say now.

For anyone who doesn’t have the books I have, or who may have not been introduced to his work yet, here are three poems I particularly love from Ralph’s Your Moon, which I designed in 2014.

THE WIND WILL CARRY US

Someone has been sleeping. Someone’s
heading nowhere.

This is the winding road. Then there’s a solitary
tree, and after that, nothing,
nothing.

If someone asks, say I’m
looking for buried treasure. Such a lovely
village. You’ve hidden it so well.

I haven’t hidden anything. Our ancestors
built it here.

See that blue window, near the lady
sitting on the steps. Let’s
go higher. I will

show you. Here’s your
room.

We have a sack of apples. We have
fresh bread. You won’t
get another chance

like this. On judgment day
it’s obvious. I’m used to it. I work
here. If you stay a while longer, you’ll
get used to it, too.

When I was little, and someone
told me a secret, I always wanted to reveal it.
And, eventually, I did.

“If you come into my house
oh kind one, bring me a lamp
and a window

through which I can watch the crowd
in the happy street.”

I’m sorry to disturb you.

You’re welcome.
This is my normal route.

YOU’RE THE RUB

Murmured in loneliness, round and round.
Let’s not go inside. The cliffs drop off, and the ocean’s
a friend—on the boardwalk
enough people alone
have died.
So relax, take your feet
off—nobody’s
missing. There are many parts
of the mind. On that old
open day we let out our long green grass. A night’s passed
and you expected it
to be there.
You’re the rub—the love
that loves the love. I like especially the puddles
and your wire. I like your mud.
I like your part
of it.

CONVERSATION

So I took a walk
inside. You’re alone
when morning
comes.
Watching you sleep in
is better

than oatmeal,
even Irish
oatmeal,
that thing you do
so well.

When you were a fish
you were a salmon.
I know, I’m
slow, I
know.

November’s a nice day
to be. The ocean’s
near.
Your fog
is

everywhere.

So I
talked to I, I said
fuck death, everyone
I meet knows
someone

I know. I said
it’s nice to be happy,
but no one
believes
me.

Take your time,
my love. The logs have lit
the fire.
The sweet scent
of your hair

kisses
my mouth, and I
kiss you back,
and pour
the tea.

Enjoy, friends. And have a glass of wine in Ralph’s memory for me, okay?

—all from Ralph Angel’s Your Moon (New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2014)

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