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Anaïs Duplan
Anaïs Duplan

Ode to the Happy Negro Hugging the Flag in Robert Colescott’s “George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware”

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, January 23, 2018.
About this Poem 
“In Robert Colescott’s 1975 painting George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook, the famed American inventor is depicted standing at the bow of a rowboat making its way across an intrepid Delaware River. Carver is accompanied by a band of Sambo-esque figures, including one Revolutionary War army general who hugs the American flag with a kind of serenity about his expression. The painting is a response to—or a refusal of—an earlier painting by a German American artist, completed in 1851, showing George Washington and his all-white cadre in the same scene.”
—Anaïs Duplan

Ode to the Happy Negro Hugging the Flag in Robert Colescott’s “George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware”

I have waited all my life to find me find you
perched around my black neck in repose

songing of me in repose                   	    your black legs         	
songing of me in repose

your black legs a dangle around me      I have waited
to find you find your black toes  to find them

sundering at the base   your black toes your black toe-
nails hale and bright 	   your black feet a straddle around me

around my black waist a straddle I finding I
was born I was born who operated

in the white was born who was born
who operated in the white chapel

who found your black thighs in repose
songing to each other in repose
                                            	           across

my chest      	    an extended black for blocks
a neighborhood song in repose

your crotch an extended black
at my neck   	  your black groin a straddle

around me in repose 	   what life what
there it is there               I had been looked at

there o lord sucked His black
thorax which spanned as a fracture
                                            spanned as I

who grow up in you there as a fracture find
your black breast o lord quiescing

atop my head your other black
breast o lord hale and bright around me o lord

a pendulum o lord to my black ear
my black ear that finds you songing

of me in repose in your stature
toppling to one side of my one side

find your black shoulders a gaping
around me    	death your body armless

around me    	death none can
skirt it in your mother's way o lord

is finding black  fingers there your black
neck is finding          	  lord is rising past

the cumulus-line an extended black
o lord is an extended black o lord

is thinking of self and thinking of self is
finding you there so that when I entered I entered
                                            	           the pulpit I entered.

Copyright © 2018 by Anaïs Duplan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 23, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets

Copyright © 2018 by Anaïs Duplan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 23, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets

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poem

Good Bones

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Maggie Smith
2016
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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.

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Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. Courtesy of National Park Service
poem

January

Again I reply to the triple winds
running chromatic fifths of derision
outside my window:
                                  Play louder.
You will not succeed. I am
bound more to my sentences
the more you batter at me
to follow you.
                                  And the wind,
as before, fingers perfectly
its derisive music.

William Carlos Williams
2016
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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.

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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.  

In Memoriam
poem

Burning the Old Year

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.   
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,   
lists of vegetables, partial poems.   
Orange swirling flame of days,   
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,   
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   
only the things I didn’t do   
crackle after the blazing dies.
Naomi Shihab Nye
1995