poem index


Rage Hezekiah
My white therapist calls it my edge, I hear
Angry Black Woman. She says, Strength
of Willful Negative Focus. She says, Acerbic
Intellectual Temperament. I copy her words
onto an index card. She wants
an origin story, a stranger with his hand
inside me, or worse. I’m without
linear narrative and cannot sate her. We
perform rituals on her living room floor. I burn
letters brimming with resentments, watch
the paper ember in the fireplace, admit
I don’t want to let this go. What if anger,
my armor, is embedded in the marrow
of who I am. Who can I learn to be
without it? Wherever you go,
there you are. She asks what I will lose
if I surrender, I imagine a gutted fish,
silvery skin gleaming, emptied of itself—

Copyright © 2019 by Rage Hezekiah. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 1, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Billy Collins, 1941

          The worst thing about death must be
          the first night.
                    —Juan Ramón Jiménez

Before I opened you, Jiménez,
it never occurred to me that day and night
would continue to circle each other in the ring of death,

but now you have me wondering
if there will also be a sun and a moon
and will the dead gather to watch them rise and set

then repair, each soul alone,
to some ghastly equivalent of a bed.
Or will the first night be the only night,

a darkness for which we have no other name?
How feeble our vocabulary in the face of death,
How impossible to write it down.

This is where language will stop,
the horse we have ridden all our lives
rearing up at the edge of a dizzying cliff.

The word that was in the beginning
and the word that was made flesh—
those and all the other words will cease.

Even now, reading you on this trellised porch,
how can I describe a sun that will shine after death?
But it is enough to frighten me

into paying more attention to the world’s day-moon,
to sunlight bright on water
or fragmented in a grove of trees,

and to look more closely here at these small leaves,
these sentinel thorns,
whose employment it is to guard the rose.

From Ballistics by Billy Collins. Copyright © 2008 by Billy Collins. Reprinted by arrangement with The Random House Publishing Group.

Carrie Fountain
When, at the end, the children wanted 
to add glitter to their valentines, I said no. 

I said nope, no, no glitter, and then, 
when they started to fuss, I found myself 

saying something my brother’s football coach 
used to bark from the sidelines when one 

of his players showed signs of being 
human: oh come on now, suck it up. 

That’s what I said to my children. 
Suck what up? my daughter asked, 

and, because she is so young, I told her 
I didn’t know and never mind, and she took 

that for an answer. My children are so young 
when I turn off the radio as the news turns 

to counting the dead or naming the act, 
they aren’t even suspicious. My children 

are so young they cannot imagine a world 
like the one they live in. Their God is still 

a real God, a whole God, a God made wholly 
of actions. And I think they think I work 

for that God. And I know they will someday soon 
see everything and they will know about 

everything and they will no longer take 
never mind for an answer. The valentines 

would’ve been better with glitter, and my son 
hurt himself on an envelope, and then, much 

later, when we were eating dinner, my daughter 
realized she’d forgotten one of the three 

Henrys in her class. How can there be three Henrys 
in one class? I said, and she said, Because there are. 

And so, before bed we took everything out 
again—paper and pens and stamps and scissors—

and she sat at the table with her freshly washed hair 
parted smartly down the middle and wrote 

WILL YOU BE MINE, HENRY T.? and she did it 
so carefully, I could hardly stand to watch.

Copyright © 2019 by Carrie Fountain. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 13, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.