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Natalie Eilbert

Let Everything Happen to You

About this Poem 

“A friend recently reminded me of this Rilke poem from The Book of Hours, which begins, ‘God speaks to each of us as he makes us, / then walks with us silently out of the night.’ As a girl, I experienced traumas enough to make me feel I didn’t even exist, that I was some manifold spirit of many subjects and objects. There’s a line in the Rilke poem, ‘Let everything happen to you,’ which is both an admission and an ecstatic gesture, and I wanted this poem to capture those existential, sublime feelings alongside terror, revenge, etc. The quiet of Rilke’s poem allowed in all these things.”

Natalie Eilbert

Let Everything Happen to You

Natalie Eilbert

As a girl I made my calves into little drinking elephants,
I would stare at the wonder of their pumping muscles,
the sup of their leg-trunks. I resuscitated a bunny once
from my cat’s electric teeth. I was on neighborhood watch
to save animals, as many as I could. My damage was easy.
My plainspoken voice is a watercolor. I’m afraid of it
as I’m afraid of what the world will do to color. I don’t
think I’ve done much. A table leans against itself
to be a table. I hold nothing but this air. I give it off.
I want a literature that is not made from literature, says Bhanu.
Last night my legs ached a low-tone. I imagined the body
giving itself up for another system. Dandelions tickling
out of my knee. The meniscus a household of worms.
It is okay to bear. My apartment hums in a Rilke sense.
A pain blooms. I am told that it’s okay to forego details
of what happened. I am told it doesn’t matter now.
I want to write sentences for days. I want days to not
be a sentence. We put men in boxes and sail them away.
Justice gave me an amber necklace. I tried to swallow
as many as I could.

Copyright © 2015 by Natalie Eilbert. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets

Copyright © 2015 by Natalie Eilbert. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets

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May Swenson at Joshua Tree National Park. Used With Permission of the Literary Estate of May Swenson.
poem

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
1978
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