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Mia You
Mia You

Contract between Forward and Reply

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, February 24, 2017.
About this Poem 

“This is a section from a text I wrote for The Multinational Book of Contracts, an anthology I’m coediting with the Dutch writer Maarten van der Graaff. My own interest in contracts arises from my recent readings in revolutionary feminist texts and wanting to interrogate how intimacy and desire are bureaucratized.”
—Mia You

Contract between Forward and Reply

would you be a lender
if it coincided with war

could you be sure your tenderness
came from more than envy

should you have amended
those rules that bound you

                careful!

would you have descended
from behind that leaden war

could you foresee

how slender my heart
should you then doubt

my fear of deep intention
would you be more

than the commended old wrong
would you be still

my song of snow in sight

would you be

                the provision in the sky

would you know more

                than a law a weight
                a mended wall that wood

                            that night?

Copyright © 2017 by Mia You. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 24, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Mia You. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 24, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

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

Read about poetic terms and forms from Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary (Harcourt, 2014), a book ten years in the making that defines the art form of poetry.  

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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
Big Bend National Park
Langston Hughes's 1966 Letter
poem

America

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand. 
Claude McKay
1921