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Linda Bierds
Linda Bierds

Metamorphosis: 1680

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, September 25, 2017.
About this Poem 
“Like many people in this tumultuous time in our nation, I question the origins of the chaos we’re suffering. I imagined an ‘origins dialogue’—art and artlessness, reason and reflex—and this poem is the result.”
—Linda Bierds
 

Metamorphosis: 1680

                     I paint flowers decorated with caterpillars.
                     I want to inquire into everything that exists and find
                     out how it began.
                                           —Maria Sibylla Merian
 
                                From basil, the scorpion.
                                           —Athanasius Kircher    
              
 
From pine tree resin, amber.
          From fury, hail.
From acacia’s sap, the bond.
          From raindrops, frogs.
From clay, yellow ochre.
          From dust, fleas.
From the beetle, carmine.
          From mud, the beetle.
From the murex snail, violet.
          From sea foam, the anchovy.
From the lamb, parchment.
          From the bull, the bee.
What?
          From the mouth of a slaughtered bull,
          cloaked in thyme and serpyllium,
          the bee.
From the sable, the brush tip.
          From books, the moth.
From the eagle, swan, crow, lark,
the diminishing quills.
          From fire, red snow and the west wind,
          the worm.
From the worm, the silk moth.
          From vapor, the silk moth.
What? From the spun cocoon, the silk moth.
          Yes. From steam and bluster,
          the silk moth.
From the silk moth’s mouth,
the potentate’s cloak.
          From the potentate’s horse,
          the hornet.

Copyright © 2017 by Linda Bierds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Linda Bierds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

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poem

gathering words

                            para mami

One day I will write you a letter
after I have gathered enough words
I have heard
pop! pop! pop!
like little soap bubbles escaping
the animated mouths
of the women who share
pieces of gossip like bombones
in la lavandería every Sunday

One day I will write you a letter
after I have gathered enough words
that blossom without thorns
in painted mouths, in someone else’s countries…
In my corner, I listen to how voices ring
without the sting of bofetadas
and how they undulate above
gushing water and swirling clothes
in machines that vibrate in la lavandería

One day, I will write you a letter
after I have gathered enough words
and enough courage
to let them ring in my mute dreams
until they sing to me: Write us. Así.
In your childhood tongue. Recóbranos. Recover us.
At that time, I will be able to return without fear
to la lavandería with my bags of clothes
and enough words and surrender myself to the bubbles.


recogiendo palabras

                        para mami

una carta te escribiré
después de que he recogido
bastantes palabras que he oído escapar
¡pum! ¡pum! ¡pum!
como burbujitas de jabón
que escapan de las bocas animadas
de las mujeres quienes reparten
bochinches como bombones
en la lavandería cada domingo

una carta de escribiré
después de que he recogido
bastantes palabras que florecen sin espinas
en bocas pintadas, en tierras ajenas…
en mi esquina oigo como las voces suenan
sin la quemada de bofetadas
y como ondean sobre chorros de agua
y ropa arremolinándose
en las máquinas que bailan en la lavandería

una carta te escribiré
después de que he recogido
bastantes palabras y bastante coraje
para dejarlas resonar en mis sueños mudos
hasta que me canten: escríbenos así
en la lengua de tu niñez recóbranos
y en ese momento podré regresar sin miedo
a la lavandería con mis bolsas de ropa
y palabras que bastarán y me entregaré a las burbujitas

María Luisa Arroyo
2016
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Great Basin National Park. Courtesy of National Park Service
poem

What Now?

Where did the shooting stars go?
They flit across my childhood sky
And by my teens I no longer looked upward—
My face instead peered through the windshield
Of my first car, or into the rearview mirror,
All the small tragedies behind me,
The road and the road’s curve up ahead.

The shooting stars?
At night, I now look upward—
Jets and single-prop planes.
No brief light, nothing to wish for,
The neighbor’s security light coming on.

Big white moon on the hill,
Lantern on gravestones,
You don’t count.

Gary Soto
2016
poem

Latin & Soul

for Joe Bataan

1

some waves
                     a wave of now
                                               a trombone speaking to you
a piano is trying to break a molecule
is trying to lift the stage into orbit
around the red spotlights

a shadow
the shadows      of dancers
dancers     they are dancing    falling
out that space      made for dancing

they should dance
on the tables            they should
dance inside of their drinks
they should dance on the
ceiling they should dance/dance

thru universes
leaning-moving
                          we are traveling

where are we going
if we only knew

with this rhythm    with
this banging     with     fire
with this     all    this    O
my god i wonder    where are
we going
           sink into a room full of laughter
           full of happiness     full of life
           those dancers
           the dancers
           are clapping their hands
           stomping their feet

hold back them tears
                                     all those sentimental stories
cooked uptown       if you can           hold it for after

we are going
                     away-away-away
                     beyond these wooden tables
                     beyond these red lights
                     beyond these rugs & paper
                     walls beyond way past
                     i mean way past them clouds
                     over the buildings    over the
                     rivers    over towns    over cities
                     like on rails   but faster   like
                     a train    but smoother
                     away past stars
                     bursting with drums.


2

a sudden misunderstanding
                                                a cloud
                                                full of grayness
a body thru a store window
                                                a hand reaching
                                                into the back
                                                                      pocket
a scream
               a piano is talking to you
               thru all this
               why don't you answer it.
Victor Hernández Cruz
2001
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This year marks Brooks’s centennial, and to celebrate, we’ve created this new collection of essays, audio, and poems by and about Brooks.

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poem

Calculations

“I don’t know what to tell you.
Your daughter doesn’t understand
math. Numbers trouble her, leave
her stuck on ground zero.”

                               Y fueron los mayas
                               quienes imaginaron el cero,
                               un signo para nada, para todo,
                               en sus gran calculaciones.

                Is zero the velvet swoop into dream,
                the loop into plumes of our breath?

“I suggest you encourage languages.
Already she knows a little Spanish,
and you can teach her more of that.
She lives for story time.”

                In the beginning there was nothing.
                Then the green of quetzal wings.

                               Las historias siguen cambiando,
                               sus verdades vigorizadas
                               con cada narración
                               como X x X = X2

Brenda Cárdenas
2016
collection

John Ashbery, 1927–2017: A Tribute

On September 3, 2017, John Ashbery died at his home in Hudson, New York, at the age of ninety. Ashbery had a long history with the Academy of American Poets, dating back to the 1960s when he read in our series at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. He received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize in 1985 for his poetry collection A Wave (Viking, 1984). From 1988 to 1999, he served on our Board of Chancellors, and over the years, Ashbery participated in numerous Academy of American Poets events, including readings at the Morgan Library and the 92nd Street Y in New York City. In honor of Ashbery, and his important contributions to American poetry, we've gathered a collection of his poems, historic recordings of the poet reading his work, photographs from our archive, and more.