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22 Poems That Got You Through 2016

Amidst the ongoing wars over culture, truth and language that defined 2016, here are some of poems we read in order to find America's pulse.

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"It Doesn't Feel Like A Time To Write" by Danez Smith

"It doesn't feel like a time to write / when all my muses are begging / for their lives."

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"Ode to Reading Rimbaud in Lubbock, Texas" by Chen Chen

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"In recently voted second most conservative city in the / country. In the year marriage equality is made the law of the land. In the year the law is / laughed at, spat on, called a sign of the end. I reread the sonnet, the ode, then go, inspired, / horny, to the one I love."

"Trevor" by Ocean Vuong

"His hard lean arms aimed in the rain. When he touches the trigger’s black tongue, you / swear you can taste his finger in your mouth."

"Bullet Points" by Jericho Brown

"I promise if you hear / of me dead anywhere near / a cop, then that cop killed me."

"Catching Copper" by Natalie Diaz

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"My brothers say they would die / for their bullet. If my brothers die, / their bullet would be lost. / If my brothers die, / there’s no bullet to begin with— / the bullet is for living brothers."

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"A New National Anthem" by Ada Limón

"Perhaps, / the truth is, every song of this country / has an unsung third stanza, something brutal / snaking underneath us as we blindly sing / the high notes with a beer sloshing in the stands / hoping our team wins."

"Huk-Huk" by Robin Coste Lewis

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"The dogs do not speak English / So you curse each one in French, / Trying to crack your new virgin / Whip - a finely scraped strip of dried walrus // Hide. But there’s no snap. / Nobody cringes."

"Social Skills Training" by Solmaz Sharif

Studies suggest How may I help you officer? is the single most disarming thing to say and / not What’s the problem? Studies suggest it’s best the help reply My pleasure and not No / problem."

"The Plums" by Anis Mojgani

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"In the orchard, the man in white sends his blackbirds into the trees and they shake the trees loose of whatever from their bodies is not held too tight. The plums rain down and we feel the wind made by their bodies passing before the thuds of them hitting the soft ground."

"Land Where My Father Died" by Fatimah Asghar

"land that mispronounces my grief land that calls my eulogy exotic land / that makes a graveyard of my other land that laughs when my people die & paints targets / on my future children’s faces..."

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"Sixty" by Mark Doty

"Write the night enormous. / Is that what souls are for?"

"Aubade with Lemon and Sage" by Tarfia Faizullah

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"First I said, / tomorrow, then, now, / I’ll leave now, while / it’s still safe. A few / more minutes, love, / he said, a few more // hours. Just trust, / he said."

"Fairy Tale" by Sam Sax

"A boy’s kicked out of his house / so he moves into the baths / + becomes the steam / men breathe in + out again / + this is a kind of homecoming, / tendriled in these strange lung / gutters, aqueduct full & emptying / of mucous & curses."

"Minefields" by Kyle Dargan

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"Many men are booby traps. You think you’re picking up a song, a shield, or a heart, then, lo and behold, there’s a man inside. Even god-vows and children are used as bait."

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"Family Portrait as Denouement" by Traci Brimhall

"The night the mother forgets to call and the father thinks / I guess she’s dead, and I’m stuck raising our son alone. / The night the son says he can’t sleep because moonlight / rashes the curtains, and the mother thinks, dear God, / don’t let him be like me, always awed by the suffering of others / in a way that is half empathy, half desire..."

"The Five Stages of Drowning" by Patricia Smith

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"There is no drunk like the drunk of milk sleep. A drizzled white floods the body and weighs down everywhere we think we know about awake. Zara’s new clockwork staggers with it while daddy, grizzle and wild-eye, lobs her like trash over the rusting rail. Inside the sack, the wriggling child cannot translate fly, plummet, descend. She doesn’t realize the hard questions she poses for pigeons or how, so dull and stupid with dairy, she is all the fall the sky can language."

“Ode To Lithium #13: Snakes In Your Arms” by Shira Erlichman

"“It feels - ” you pause, you want to get this right, you look for the right word to describe the sensation that has been haunting you, causing you to get test after test, plaguing your sleep. “It’s like needles, but they move.” How should you describe it? You only have 20 minutes with this man in his office on the other side of the city before you have to go back to Kit’s house and sleep on her couch before finding a new place to live before finding a new therapist before deciding how to live tonight, let alone the rest of your life."

“Ode To My Mother’s Backhand” By Jeanann Verlee

"Such precision, even in beer-battered rage, / to spin my jaw in whichever direction called."

Saeed Jones is executive editor, culture for BuzzFeed and the author of the poetry collection Prelude to Bruise, and is based in New York.

Contact Saeed Jones at saeed.jones@buzzfeed.com.

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