“We are hungry lips and eager hands,
Reckless teeth and touching
It is 4 am and we are too much alive to care about the consequences of later
I can only wonder,
Will you regret me tomorrow?”
— Danielle Shorr
“Confession: I did not want to live here,
not among the goldenrod, wild onions,
or the dropseed, not waist high in the barrel-
aged brown corn water, not with the million-
dollar racehorses, or the tightly wound
round hay bales. Not even in the old tobacco
weigh station we live in, with its heavy metal
safe doors that frame our bricked bedroom
like the mouth of a strange beast yawning
to suck us in, each night, like air. I denied it,
this new land. But, love, I’ll concede this:
whatever state you are, I’ll be that state’s bird,
the loud, obvious blur of song people point to
when they wonder where it is you’ve gone.”
— Ada Limón, “State Bird”
“you were the wind
and my heart
was a tumbleweed
beating whichever way
— Aman Batra
“My lips pray to your skin
My body knows not how to respond to your body
Your body be beautiful
Beautiful like mystery
Like God himself
Your body be holy
I am unlearning how to sin
So we can love
Like we should, like we need to”
— Amy León
“The water’s always near,
you say. And so are you,
for now. It has to do.
There’s little left to fear.
A wind so cold, one might
forget that winter’s gone.
The city lights are on
for us, to us, tonight.”
— Randall Mann, “Bernal Hill”
“I’m not falling apart anymore.
I thought you should know that.
There’s an uncertainty that I used to wear as a badge of honor.
I’m better than that now. I’m better now.
If I’d been like this when you came around maybe things would be different.
But I didn’t change for you. I just changed. We all do.”
“The steam from my coffee yawns and stretches towards the ceiling, its quiet climb the only sound in the room as I fold into my chair. Eyes still heavy with midnight, I put my chin in my palm and look out the window towards the grey sky, watching the stars being snipped from their strings one by one.
And think of you.
I run a hand across my tired eyes and push back my hair, thinking, how did this happen?
Falling in love with you has been the most unkind thing I’ve done to myself, by far.”
— Marlen Komar, “Thoughts Folded Into Morning Light”
“So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset
and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.”
— Billy Collins, “Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes”
“And she’s going to learn that this life will hit you hard in the face,
wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach.
But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.
There is hurt here that cannot be fixed by Band-Aids or poetry.
So the first time she realizes that Wonder Woman isn’t coming,
I’ll make sure she knows she doesn’t have to wear the cape all by herself.
Because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers,
your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I’ve tried.”
— Sarah Kay, “If I Should Have a Daughter”
“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 back yard.
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.”
— Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise”
“So guess what,
if I ever have my own team
I am picking everyone first
even the worst kid
and the kid with the stutter like a skipping record
‘cause I know all of us are scratched,
even if you can’t hear it when we speak.
My mother says most people have heartbeats
that are knocking on doors that will never ever open,
and I know my heart is a broken freezer chest
‘cause I can never keep anything frozen.
so no, I am not ‘always crying.’
I am just thawing outside of the lines.”
— Andrea Gibson, “Letter To The Playground Bully”
“Pinned by the sun between solstice
And equinox, drowsy and tangled together
We drifted for months and woke
With the bitter taste of land on our lips,
Eyelids all sticky, and we longed for lime
And the sound of a rope
Lowering a bucket down its well. Then,
We came by night to the Fortunate Isles,
And lay like fish
Under the net of our kisses”
— Pablo Neruda, “Drunk as Drunk”
“I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
‘Eat in the kitchen,’
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–
I, too, am America.”
— Langston Hughes, “I, Too”
“each star was a pill in a rich lady’s medicine cabinet
the sky a pharmacy begging to be robbed
i skated so fast
i outran all my baggage
collapsed into a field of sheet music
i have yet to emerge from. my friends
wrapped me in a blanket of sweat
walked us home toward our warm beds”
— Sam Sax, “Reuptake Inhibitors”
“When your mother asks why you take so long in the shower, tell her you hate this cancer, this dark that wears you like a plague.
When you discover your grandmother is bipolar and schizophrenic, hug her. Then Google each illness.
When you question if you are anything like her, hug yourself, then Google each illness.
When you cry in front of your brother because he has just learned that you are not his full sister, do not slump your shoulders. Your eyes are a wealth of thirsty crave. Pour into him.
When you visit your brother at Rikers Island, do not blink to hold back the tears.
You are Moses, he is the miracle, this is the Red Sea.”
— Tonya Ingram, “Unsolicited Advice to Skinny Girls with Bitten Nails and Awkward Glances, after Jeanann Verlee”
“Now, when the world narrows
to the most simple beauties:
When I am dancing in Berlin,
or hiking the Grand Canyon,
or listening to a song we both once loved,
I speak your name out loud.
And in that way you are still here.
Taking in the world for all the good
it has left to offer you,
clasping the day with broken fingers.
For a moment, you are with me,
with all of us, back with the world
you left. Our lives still tumbling forward,
drenched in you, chanting your name.”
— Clementine von Radics, “Speak Your Name”
“Time does not heal the mariana trench in our hearts,
We’ve just learned to navigate the pain.”
— Aman Batra & Ari Eastman, “Dear Dad”