To celebrate
the 20th anniversary of
National Poetry Month

We asked
for
.

put them
.

By Phoebe Connelly, Suzette Moyer, Julio Negron, Amy King, Emily Chow, and Ron Charles.
Published April 20, 2016

Commencement


Already the apartments
unfilling. Steady rain.
The feeling of rented

gowns against the skin.
Of rented everything.
That rain

again. The green—
loud sound of digging,
whine from a far-off machine.

Tornadoes take away
whole towns,
touching down. Families

try to find
each other, pointing out
their child in the crowd—

That one’s mine,
proud. Teams practice
sliding home

dusting off uniforms
& somewhere the tailor is bored
to tears with nothing

left to hem. Rained
out games—

But the flowers love it

says the man selling me
sweet tea.
In my yard what I thought

were only weeds
turns out are really
a hundred tiny

blooming maple trees.

Excerpted from “Blue Laws” by Kevin Young. Copyright © 2016 by Kevin Young. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Next poem:

Cotton Candy

Cotton Candy



We walked on the bridge over the Chicago River
for what turned out to be the last time,
and I ate cotton candy, that sugary air,
that sweet blue light spun out of nothingness.

It was just a moment, really, nothing more,
but I remember marveling at the sturdy cables
of the bridge that held us up
and threading my fingers through the long
and slender fingers of my grandfather,
an old man from the Old World
who long ago disappeared into the nether regions.
And I remember that eight-year-old boy
who had tasted the sweetness of air,
which still clings to my mouth
and disappears when I breathe.

Excerpted from “Special Orders” by Edward Hirsch. Copyright © 2010 by Edward Hirsch. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Next poem:

Face Down

Face Down



What are you doing on this side of the dark?
You chose that side, and those you left
feel your image across their sleeping lids
as a blinding atomic blast.
Last we knew,
you were suspended midair
like an angel for a pageant off the room
where your wife slept.
She had
to cut you down who’d been (I heard)
so long holding you up. We all tried to,
faced with your need, which we somehow
understood and felt for and took
into our veins like smack. And you
must be lured by that old pain smoldering
like woodsmoke across the death boundary.
Prowl here, I guess, if you have to bother somebody.
Or, better yet, go bother God, who shaped
that form you despised from common clay.
That light you swam so hard away from
still burns, like a star over a desert or atop
a tree in a living room where a son’s photos
have been laid face down for the holiday.

Courtesy of Mary Karr

Next poem:

A Second Life

A Second Life



After this life
we’ll need a second life
to apply what we learned
in the first.

We make one mistake
after another
and need a second life
to forget.

We hum endlessly
as we wait for the departed:
we need a second life
for the whole song.

We go to war
and do everything Simon says:
we need a second life
for love alone.

We need time
to serve out our prison terms
so we can live free
in our second life.

We learn a new language
but need a second life
to practice it.

We write poetry and pass away,
and need a second life
to know the critics’ opinions.

We rush around
all over the place
and need a second life
to stop and take pictures.

Suffering takes time:
we need a second life
to learn to live
without pain.

“A Second Life” By Dunya Mikhail, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, from “The Iraqi Nights,” copyright © 2013 by Dunya Mikhail. Translation copyright © 2014 by Kareem James Abu-Zeid. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Next poem:

Harbor

Harbor


If this bowl is always empty
If it breathes        if it’s lung
If a horse can rise from the ashes


Saul was a sailor on the boat to Damascus
He did not know what he was
Paul turned to a voice        it rose up from the waves
It chained his boat to the darkness


A man finds ash                & he makes it a man
A horse finds ash in a horse
It lifts us         it holds us        it breaks us again
It scatters us into the harbor

Nick Flynn, “Harbor,” from “My Feelings.” Copyright © 2015 by Nick Flynn. Reproduced with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, www.graywolfpress.org/James Price/FCC.tv.

Next poem:

Portrait

Portrait



Or is it
a poor trait

I am a
parasite

I lift off
the wings

of others

Courtesy of John Yau/Bran Dougherty-Johnson/FCC.tv

Next poem:

The Hornet Mascot Falls in Love

The Hornet Mascot Falls in Love


Piece human, piece hornet, the fury
of both, astonishing abs all over it.
Ripped, just ripped to absolute bits,
his head in the hornet and his head
in the hum, and oh he want to sting
        her. The air he breathes is filled
with flying cheerleader parts. Splits
flips and splits, and ponytails in orbit,
the calm eye of the panty in the center
of the cartwheel, the word HORNETS
—how?—flying off the white uniform.

Cheerleaders are a whole, are known
to disassemble in the middle of the air
and come back down with different
thighs, necks from other girls, a lean
gold torso of Amber-Ray on a bubbling
bottom half of Brooke. The mouths that
cry GOOD HANDS GOOD HANDS.
The arms he loves that make the basket,
the body he loves that drops neat
                        into them.
Oh the hybrid human and hornet, who
        would aim for pink balloons.
Oh the swarm of Cheerleading Entity,
who with their hivemind understand
him. Rhyme about the hornet, her tongue
in her mouth at the top of her throat! Clap
one girl’s hand against another’s. Even
                        exchange screams in the air.
The pom-poms, fact, are flesh. Hornet
Mascot is hungry, and rubs his abs, where
the hornet meets the man. Wants to eat
        and hurl a honey, in the middle
of the air. (No that is bees I’m thinking of.
Like I ever went to class, when the show
was all outside.) The hornet begins to fly
toward the cheerleaders. “Make me
the point of your pyramid,” he breathes.
And they take him up in the air with them
and mix-and-match his parts with theirs,
and all come down with one gold stripe,
        and come down sharp and stunned,
and lie on the ground a minute, all think-
ing am I dead yet, where am I, did we win.

From "Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals" by Patricia Lockwood, published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2014 by Patricia Lockwood.

Next poem:

Not Fade Away

Not Fade Away


Half of the Beatles have fallen
and half are yet to fall.
Keith Moon has set. Hank Williams
hasn’t answered yet.


Children sing for Alex Chilton.
Whitney Houston’s left the Hilton.
Hendrix, Guru, Bonham, Janis.
They have a tendency to vanish.


Bolan, Bell, and Boon by car.
How I wonder where they are.
Hell is now Jeff Hanneman’s.
Adam Yauch and three Ramones.

[This space held in reserve
for Zimmerman and Osterberg,
for Bruce and Neil and Keith,
that sere and yellow leaf.]

Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings,
Stinson, Sterling, Otis Redding.
Johnny Thunders and Joe Strummer,
Ronnie Dio, Donna Summer.

Randy Rhoads and Kurt Cobain,
Patsy Cline and Ronnie Lane.
Poly Styrene, Teena Marie.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

"Not Fade Away", from “The Second Sex” by Michael Robbins, copyright © 2014 by Michael Robbins. Used by permission of Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

Next poem:

Visitation

Visitation



When I opened the door
She rose on her coils.

I’d never seen
A green like that before—

Heady, wet, dark as death.
My feet were lead,

My hands upset
Every little thing they touched.

And she just watched.

Cool bitch who’d been there

Who knows how long, idling
Beneath our bed, the table where we ate,

Sliding where our gaze refused to reach.
Were there papery eggs or her pale young

Waiting in the hollows of our shoes?
Daylight seared the walls. Go,

I failed to say—me with my spine
To the wall, voice trying to lurch,

But straightaway choked back, like a dog
Tethered to a pole. Her silence

Rose around me like a song.

She watched back, winking
With just her tongue.

Courtesy of Tracy K. Smith

Next poem:

The Boss Calls Us at Home

The Boss Calls Us at Home


The boss calls us at home the boss can call us anytime
the boss tells us to turn on the television
not to go into work I watch over and over
the planes the buildings that met each

other wept each other the people stuck the boss’s voice
shakes the boss must look familiar like a
mother like a sister but the boss isn’t our mother isn’t
our sister the shoe doesn’t fit she can

whimper does whimper can feel sorry for other people
can vomit sadness when someone says
it’s personal when is it not personal about the person
when the planes crashed into the

towers the pilots’ bodies met a CEO their bodies
pressed together their power latched
together on the 54th floor hating each other embracing
each other like an accordion

Courtesy of McSweeney’s