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Every weekday, U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith delivers a different way to see the world – through poetry. Produced in partnership with the Library of Congress and the Poetry Foundation.


37: To My Twenty-Four-Year-Old Self

January 15, 2019 ·

To My Twenty-Four-Year-Old Self by Brenda Shaughnessy You wouldn’t know me, If I came to you in a dream. You’d be sleeping It off, you’d be naked And cute, but you think You’re a kind of monster And maybe you are, Just not an ugly one. That whole business Will come later. You’d pass me […]

36: Quiet Places

January 14, 2019 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Quiet Places by Lemn Sissay Some people on bus seats shake at the shoulders, Stoned Elvises trying to dance after the gig. Some walk into the rain and look like they’re smiling, Running mascara writes sad bitter letters on their faces. Some drive their cars into lay-bys or park edges And cradle the steering-wheel looking […]

35: Poem Where I Be a Doe & You, by Effect, Are a Wolf

January 11, 2019 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Poem Where I Be a Doe & You, by Effect, Are a Wolf by Danez Smith lay me down on eye-white snow     my slow brooding bed of robin wings my body slit & smearing everywhere.     I will not name this new opening a wound. here, there is no pain I didn’t beg for.     I heard […]

34: Speaking Tree

January 10, 2019 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Speaking Tree by Joy Harjo I had a beautiful dream I was dancing with a tree. —Sandra Cisneros Some things on this earth are unspeakable: Genealogy of the broken— A shy wind threading leaves after a massacre, Or the smell of coffee and no one there— Some humans say trees are not sentient beings, But […]

33: Photograph: Circa 1960

January 9, 2019 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Photograph: Circa 1960 by Angela Jackson How wide the sidewalks were! You stood in the middle of ours. Definite and debonair. Mama with a big black Patent leather handbag. Strap Draped over her arm. Chic. Loose coat holding no baby inside. Madaddy suited, slanted wide brim hat. At attention As if he were seeing Paris […]

32: Gentrifier

January 8, 2019 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Gentrifier by Franny Choi the new grocery store sells real cheese, edging out        the plastic bodega substitute. the new neighbors know how to feed their children, treat themselves        to oysters sometimes. other times, to brunch. finally, some good pastrami around these parts. new cafe        on broadway. new trees in the sidewalk. everyone can breathe a […]

31: Turtle, Swan

January 7, 2019 · Duration: 6:30 · Play

Turtle, Swan by Mark Doty Because the road to our house is a back road, meadowlands punctuated by gravel quarry and lumberyard, there are unexpected travelers some nights on our way home from work. Once, on the lawn of the Tool and Die Company, a swan; the word doesn’t convey the shock of the thing, […]

30: Vows

January 4, 2019 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Vows by Melissa Stein He didn’t invite me to the wedding. Am I some kind of ghost? A few roses blown open. People kept trooping back and forth in downpour to view the thorny stalks. I saw the photos. Am I shameful? Even from far away you can tell someone’s age by how her body […]

29: Our Dead Friend

January 3, 2019 · Duration: 4:59 · Play

Our Dead Friend by Alicia Suskin Ostriker Our dead friend used to say when she reached menopause the swamp cleared from her mind the sun shone brightly for the first time since girlhood she could think clearly things were outlined as if in lights a dog was a dog and a man was only a […]

28: On Kindness

January 2, 2019 · Duration: 7:40 · Play

On Kindness by Aracelis Girmay         after Nazim Hikmet, for & after Rassan At the Detroit Metro Airport with the turtle-hours to spare between now & my flight, there is such a thing as the kindness of the conveyor belt who lends me its slow, strange mollusk foot as I stand quiet, exhausted, […]

27: The Raincoat

January 1, 2019 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

The Raincoat by Ada Limón When the doctor suggested surgery and a brace for all my youngest years, my parents scrambled to take me to massage therapy, deep tissue work, osteopathy, and soon my crooked spine unspooled a bit, I could breathe again, and move more in a body unclouded by pain. My mom would […]

26: Against the Promise of a View

December 31, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Against the Promise of a View by Maureen N. McLane A difficult climb to a beautiful view— I don’t like it. I don’t like the way you make me go positively Protestant all this deferral up to a future only you’ve seen the ascent always leveraged against an alien payoff already prescripted. When we get […]

25: The Star Market

December 28, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

The Star Market by Marie Howe The people Jesus loved were shopping at The Star Market yesterday. An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps. Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and hawking into his hand. […]

24: A Talk with My Grandson, Age Six

December 27, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

A Talk with My Grandson, Age Six by Wanda Coleman there’s a cosmic storm whenever he’s in my orbit five races at war outside time, trapped in one spindly high-toned body, knobby elbows and knees the rigorously loving teachings of mom and dad take root despite media engineering and peer pressures. the snippy cuttings, mouthy […]

23: My Father at 49, Working the Night Shift at B&R Diesel

December 26, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

My Father at 49, Working the Night Shift at B&R Diesel by Edgar Kunz There’s no one left to see his hands     lifting from the engine bay, dark and gnarled         as roots dripping river mud, no one to see how his palms — slabs of callus     from scouring the long throats […]

22: Love (III)

December 25, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Love (III) by George Herbert Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,                             Guilty of dust and sin. But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack                             From […]

21: ‘N’em

December 24, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

‘N’em by Jericho Brown They said to say goodnight And not goodbye, unplugged The TV when it rained. They hid Money in mattresses So to sleep on decisions. Some of their children Were not their children. Some Of their parents had no birthdates. They could sweat a cold out Of you. They’d wake without An […]

20: Therapist 4

December 21, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Therapist 4 by Bao Phi A river, wanting to go downhill will carve new tributaries, tear through homes, flood the roots of trees. The therapist tells you your mind is swollen with doom that carries you in its white rush, torrents ripping through rock and root. I don’t know in what direction love pulls me. […]

19: Hip-Hop Ghazal

December 20, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Hip-Hop Ghazal by Patricia Smith Gotta love us brown girls, munching on fat, swinging blue hips, decked out in shells and splashes, Lawdie, bringing them woo hips. As the jukebox teases, watch my sistas throat the heartbreak, inhaling bassline, cracking backbone and singing thru hips. Like something boneless, we glide silent, seeping ‘tween floorboards, wrapping […]

18: Prayer on Aladdin’s Lamp

December 19, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Prayer on Aladdin’s Lamp by Marcus Wicker Grant me shelter & bread. Grant me porch ledge, mantel. Scented candles, bed. Grant me four walls, a 5-foot fridge & a hall. & maybe four more walls. Yes. Four more walls. & a desk. & a decent laptop, plus pleather rolling chair. So that I might sit […]

17: Woman on Cell Phone Dragging an Empty Cart Through Washington Square Park

December 18, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Woman on Cell Phone Dragging an Empty Cart Through Washington Square Park by Donna Masini It’s called Sisyphus. No. Sisyphus. Yes. Apparently some Greek myth. This guy is punished for—punished—yes— for something, and has to roll a rock up a hill every day and every day it rolls—a rock, yes— and every day it rolls […]

16: Spring

December 17, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Spring by Arda Collins I was making a roast. The smell wafted from the kitchen into the living room, through the yellow curtains and into the sunlight. Bread warmed in the oven, and in my oven mitt, I managed to forget that I’d ever punched someone in the face. It seemed so long ago, I […]

15: Old Wives’ Tales on Which I Was Fed

December 14, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Old Wives’ Tales on Which I Was Fed by Jenny Xie The number of rice grains left in your supper bowl foretells how many pockmarks will appear on your lover’s face Sleeping on your back will flatten your head’s shape but sleep on your stomach and you’ll induce nightmares Eating the fat inside the crab […]

14: Apocalypse, Umbrian Master, about 1490

December 13, 2018 · Duration: 6:06 · Play

Apocalypse, Umbrian Master, about 1490 by Hans Magnus Enzensberger He is not as young as he used to be. With a groan he chooses a sizable canvas. He broods on it. He wastes his time haggling about his commission with a mean Carmelite monk from the Abruzzi, prior, or canon, or whatnot. It is winter […]

13: What the Memories Said

December 12, 2018 · Duration: 5:32 · Play

What the Memories Said by Crystal Williams You, woman, bearing your losses, the dog’s leash taut in your hand, how can you so blind & quickly pass us on your morning walks? Haven’t you yet learned there are happenings on planes you do not see? The dog knows we are here & have crucial news. […]