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Sarah Messer
Sarah Messer

Spark of the Sky Stag’s Great Heart

About this Poem 

“I wrote this poem in the middle of packing to leave a place I had lived in for fourteen years. So the poem is about coming and going, and also about the arrival of a thought or a memory. It is an attempt to remember that one day we will all be dead and gone. If I can remember, I find that I act with more kindness, love, and right action—so the poem is also a spell or a prayer to never forget this.”
Sarah Messer

Spark of the Sky Stag’s Great Heart

Sarah Messer

strung from a thought arrived through the keyhole grasping
the hand of another

I will begin with my mouth

then live with antlers remembering the light inside, always to breathe this unforgetting

and his body shaped like a crabapple tree

or a mother raised by a wolf looking back at the mirror

and trying not to break anvils on the bottles of blame

in another life: smell of moss, stream water,  depressions of dark orange rocks which trap tiny fish

the consequence of silence: a field beneath opening clouds

on that morning I woke to the sound of the blue jay and used a small silver key

some day we will all be gone from this place

now that the live oak has thrown down all its caramel-colored leaves, thought lives in the ear-shaped idea of this only

Copyright © 2015 by Sarah Messer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 29, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Sarah Messer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 29, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

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Sam Beam of Iron & Wine at Poetry & the Creative Mind, New York City, 2015. Photo credit: Jennifer Trahan.
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
Alberto Ríos at the Southwestern Poetry Festival, New York Historical Society, 1991
collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

collection

A Poet's Glossary

Each week we feature a new term from Academy Chancellor Edward Hirsch's April 2014 book A Poet's Glossary. Ten years in the making, Hirsch's book is an international, inclusive collection of the poetic terms that define the art form.