poets.org

17

poem-a-day

poem-a-day
Sign up to receive an unpublished poem every day in your inbox.
today's poet
Jerry Williams
Jerry Williams

Russian Ending

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, May 23, 2017.
About this Poem 

“It has taken me three years to come to peace with the inciting incident that inspired ‘Russian Ending.’ Some poems are practically too painful to write—which can sometimes turn out to be a recipe for artistic realization.”
—Jerry Williams

Russian Ending

As in some demented romantic comedy,
my wife and I divided the apartment in half.

She took the living room and I took the bedroom.
Bivouacked and bleeding, we waited for the lawyer

to finish the stipulation so we could sign
the pages and crawl away forever.

I lived in her midst like an alien species.
The exclusion zone sizzled like wet lightning

when I whispered to outsiders on the house phone.
Then came the morning of my departure:

I awoke in civil twilight with my wife standing
over me, looking down into my pallid face.

For half a second, I thought she might strike me,
but she grasped my hand and squeezed it goodbye,

an astonishing tenderness glistening in her eyes,
one final gift in all that pain and murderous détente,

all that wailing and mortification of the flesh.
On the way to the gallows of divorce,

she held a merciful cup of clemency to my lips,
and I drank deeply, I drank so deeply

that I forgot what I’d done to deserve her.

Copyright © 2017 by Jerry Williams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Jerry Williams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Donate Today
Writing from the Absence
poem

[Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome]

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my loadstar while I go and come
And so because you love me, and because
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honored name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.
Christina Rossetti
1881
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.  

advertisement
Mount Rainier National Park
collection

Gwendolyn Brooks: A Centennial Celebration

A Pulitzer Prize winner, an Academy Fellowship winner, and the first black woman appointed as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, Gwendolyn Brooks was—and continues to be—an outstanding voice in the world of contemporary American poetry. Brooks, who was awarded countless literary honors in her lifetime, was known for writing poems that captured a cross-section of everyday life in her hometown of Chicago. In sonnets, ballads, epic poems, and more, Brooks captured the lives, speech, and perspectives of people as varied as those she encountered in her city, and was particularly known for her interrogation of race relations and class.

This year marks Brooks’s centennial, and to celebrate, we’ve created this new collection of essays, audio, and poems by and about Brooks.

poem

Morning Song

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival.  New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety.  We stand round blankly as walls.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses.  I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's.  The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars.  And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.
Sylvia Plath
1966