Rita Dove

When you appeared it was as if
magnets cleared the air.
I had never seen that smile before
or your hair, flying silver. Someone
waving goodbye, she was silver, too.
Of course you didn’t see me.
I called softly so you could choose
not to answer—then called again.
You turned in the light, your eyes
seeking your name.

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Hilda Raz

I am sick with worry when you call.
You tell me a story about ears
How the doctor asked about your earaches
Peered in and pronounced “Pristine.
Clean as a whistle.” And you were cured.
Because I am a maker of poems
And you are a maker of music
You tell me the word pristine was perfect.
It was the cure.
Yesterday I went to the hospital
To hear my heart beat in her various chambers.
I knew the sounds:
The Fly Bird from the right ventricle
The Go Go from the left
The Here I am from under the rib.


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american sonnets 23


American Sonnet 23
Wanda Coleman

after Akhmatova
here’s to my ruined curbless urban psyche/the spent
tempest fleeing the golden rain of cruel day
wandering star-starved punched-out bleached-blind

here’s to the poison i greedily consume as sustenance
to the killer humdrum of my life without fulfillment
my love’s isolation, my nation and me – our bickerings

i drink the cold ugly and funky negro divas who
cast me down their death-dealing amused eyes
delighting in my writhing/castration/made numb
in this world – made brutal made coarse made jealous of
they who have usurped and commodified god

here’s to

my uncompromising vision and to the young blood who
tells me i carry the broom like a cross

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awakening in new york


Awakening in New York
Maya Angelou

Curtains forcing their will
against the wind,
children sleep,
exchanging dreams with
seraphim. The city
drags itself awake on
subway straps; and
I, an alarm, awake as a
rumor of war
lie stretching into dawn
unasked and unheeded.

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final first poem


Final First Poem
Phillip B. Williams

In the beginning, I suspect my index is on fire.
Daystart spasmodic with hunger, my dull teeth catch
on pale figures voweling from an empty heaven. God
been left, bored too with ransom for art, allusionsstacked like reluctant saints in a pyre: Eliot, Alighieri,
Homer. The sun’s glossy odyssey traces half-
moon above the horizon, clefts these Alexandrine hours
into shoddy boats I’m tired of drifting toward nothing on.

“There was once a sea,” I begin, having never seen a sea
nor been able to seam any time to “once.” Now, I sleep
and avoid documenting my rhyme-sourced wet dreams,
and who would collect these metered christenings?

I want to know what you must know. I own nothing
impressive. No noctuaries of gallivanting steeds, no
beloveds creeping from sun-bloodied water in a salt-
stained stolen dress, no oceans from which she stole

her voice to give to me to offer you slow-blinkingly,
awaiting “genius” and a circle of rooks (all the crows
have gone, my love, and all shovels cradling yarrow and jewels
of beetles have rusted away revealing my face all along

held these things in unrequited climax) to crown me king.
The book is burning. Come, sit at my bedside. Let ash
fill in the fugue that was your need. Now, open your hands.
Reader, read to me what you have stolen and called your life.

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the ghost


The Ghost
Frank Bidart

You must not think that what I have
accomplished through you

could have been accomplished by any other means.

Each of us is to himself
indelible. I had to become that which could not

be, by time, from human memory, erased.

I had to burn my hungry, unappeasable
furious spirit

so inconsolably into you

you would without cease
write to bring me rest.

Bring us rest. Guilt is fecund. I knew

nothing I made
myself had enough steel in it to survive.

I tried: I made beautiful
paintings, beautiful poems. Fluff. Garbage.

The inextricability of love and hate?

If I had merely made you
love me you could not have saved me.

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