poets.org

“Poetry, more than anything else, addresses those things that most resolutely defy being spoken of. All of the things that resist being said in our lives, poetry helps to lure out into language. ”
—David St. John, Academy of American Poets Chancellor
17

poem-a-day

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Sign up to receive an unpublished poem every day in your inbox.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

Huntington Beach

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, July 27, 2017.
About this Poem 

“As a person who suffers from anxiety, I often wonder how much of my anxiety about the world is self-imposed. I wonder if it’s not that at a young age I might have heard someone say something and that person got it all wrong and thus I continued living my entire life after without knowing they got it wrong until the moment arrives when I see that it’s not true. And I often wonder about what others live with and live through, others who never have the fortune and privilege to arrive at the moment where they find rest.”
—Keegan Lester

Huntington Beach

The war ships bobbing off the coast.
                         The outdated oil drills painted
so to blend into the clouds. The gold thin
                         stitched to the water’s edge. Errant dolphin.
Balled up piece of trash on PCH with the list: Eggs, whole milk, butterflies.
                         You cry like a peacock, she says,
every time you get close to being the thing you want to be. 
                         What if God is the people around us:
watching, listening? What a relief that would be. 
                         But it’s so easy to forget we’re not
only being watched by the people in front of us, but
                         also by the people in places we cannot see. What is it
to be allowed back again? On the bike path, my father
                         ahead of me, saying, look at the wind,
meaning: look at the thing doing the moving,
                         moving orange-coned flags holding on for dear life.
The salt rolling off the ocean rots everything in its jowls
                         & my skin so close to turning, I can feel
becoming the metal shard you will learn to protect yourself from,
                        capable of catching the light drawing you in.
Everything rusted is a story beginning
                        once upon a time, I was young, standing in front of the ocean,
beneath the sun without consequence or query
                        for time, just standing, looking out into the thing
unaware of its indifference. There’s something Greek in that. Did Odysseus need the monsters more
                        than they needed him? Does it matter? A kind of antiquity
in that line of thinking but also something very American. Akin to sparklers.
                        They only dance if you light them & wave. Birds do not
abandon their young merely because of human touch.
                        This & so many other myths my mother breaks
in her search for palatable colors, for mixing,
                        for making what was lost whole again. 

Copyright © 2017 by Keegan Lester. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Keegan Lester. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Donate Today
poem

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? (Sonnet 18)

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.
     So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
     So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
William Shakespeare
1609
advertisement
Acadia National Park
poem

America, I Sing Back

for Phil Young, my father, Robert Hedge Coke, Whitman, and Hughes

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.
Sing back the moment you cherished breath.
Sing you home into yourself and back to reason.

Oh, before America began to sing, I sung her to sleep,
held her cradleboard, wept her into day.
My song gave her creation, prepared her delivery,
held her severed cord beautifully beaded.

My song helped her stand, held her hand for first steps,

nourished her very being, fed her, placed her three sisters strong.
My song comforted her as she battled my reason

broke my long held footing sure, as any child might do.

Lo, as she pushed herself away, forced me to remove myself,
as I cried this country, my song grew roses in each tear’s fall.

My blood veined rivers, painted pipestone quarries
circled canyons, while she made herself maiden fine.

Oh, but here I am, here I am, here, I remain high on each and every peak,
carefully rumbling her great underbelly, prepared to pour forth singing—

and sing again I will, as I have always done.

Never silenced unless in the company of strangers, singing

the stoic face, polite repose, polite, while dancing deep inside, polite
Mother of her world. Sister of myself.

When my song sings aloud again. When I call her back to cradle.
Call her to peer into waters, to behold herself in dark and light,

day and night, call her to sing along, call her to mature, to envision—

Then, she will make herself over. My song will make it so

When she grows far past her self-considered purpose,
I will sing her back, sing her back. I will sing. Oh, I will—I do.

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
2016
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.  

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

Ghazal: America the Beautiful

Do you remember our earnestness our sincerity
in first grade when we learned to sing America

The Beautiful along with the Star-Spangled Banner
and say the Pledge of Allegiance to America

We put our hands over our first grade hearts
we felt proud to be citizens of America

I said One Nation Invisible until corrected
maybe I was right about America

School days school days dear old Golden Rule Days
when we learned how to behave in America

What to wear, how to smoke, how to despise our parents
who didn’t understand us or America

Only later learning the Banner and the Beautiful
live on opposite sides of the street in America

Only later discovering the Nation is divisible
by money by power by color by gender by sex America

We comprehend it now this land is two lands
one triumphant bully one still hopeful America

Imagining amber waves of grain blowing in the wind
purple mountains and no homeless in America

Sometimes I still put my hand tenderly on my heart
somehow or other still carried away by America

Alicia Ostriker
2016
AASL Best Website for Teaching & Learning
poem

We Real Cool

                   THE POOL PLAYERS. 
                   SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL.



We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Gwendolyn Brooks
1960