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01.04.21
Three Poems
Solstice


In certain dark
the moon issues this request:

to be the shadow on the pillow,
the glass candle near the door of sleep.

A hungry Stellar’s jay breaks berries into pulp,
while bats decorate the rafters, and 

the wood pile moans under
its burden of fog.

As life encroaches on the dreaming
bedpost, you remember

a chip of ice you found in river
sludge, its sheen a mute witness

to increments of change
as lens and pure belief.


 



The Exercise


1.
unmoved
by will/choked by sun &
vessels holding water,
under gray adjectives

2.
lion of letters loop of lilies
the bird that swallowed
the cat
circadian sway
of science, its mirrors,
its cyphers,
a sand crab
tossed in a porcelain bowl

3.
remember what sins
you commit
then write shell, that which contains
a softer self

4.
stories hold the brackish
understory
the letters of refusal
(But fire will spread/despite your inclinations)

5.
In brine, a harvest of krill
his never spent notion : to be a water farmer
knee-deep in thistle

6.
He took his cure; mixed love with
blandishments:
checked his mortality at the door

7.
stayed to read the candled letter,
the windswept book of
resolves

8.
Who will outlast this life
Noun + seven
we perform the exercise
often we blush
at the strangeness of engines


 



Leaf 

Nascent in leaf, splurge
of water marks the season’s
start, the flecked eggs found
under an ivy-facing frame. 
Morning’s music is cellos 
and the warp and weft
of waves curving 
under the bridge where 
once you stood and tied your
losses like a rope of stones.
When scenes were ended,  
 their blueness still supreme 
reminder that we hold 
our longing, abjure
 the simpler premise of a swerve
 in luck or fate. Summer’s 
baggage shows up at our door,
 the lesser leaves give way
to green’s inherent richness,
 filling in the trumpet vine,
the Daphne stem, whose leaf
 is hidden under hearty growth.
In hiding we may find
our only voice or one true word. 

 

Maxine Chernoff is a professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University and a 2013 NEA Fellow in poetry. She is the author of six books of fiction and sixteen books of poetry, including Camera (Subito). In fall of 2016 she was a Visiting Writer at the American Academy in Rome.

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In Print

Vol. 76
Fortieth Anniversary Issue
Spring 2021
Edited by Bradford Morrow

Online

May 5, 2021
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“You can’t shout ‘Pelicans!’ every time we see pelicans. We’re in Florida, babe. There’s tons of pelicans.”

“But that’s the point …” the equestrian’s former friend muses.
April 28, 2021
Fire hurtles past on both sides bubbling black
At the edges. He wakes to a solitary yellow line
Glowing desolation. House truck dog are gone
Evaporated into red sky and patchy earth, snags
Decorate the darkness. Out of his scars grow
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He falls back as if falling into a pool, arms out
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Book thieves as well as purloiners of ancient maps and medieval spell books, whose superficially absurd tactics often belie a mastery of their skill, are both well-known and feared by booksellers and librarians. A list of the various methods and stratagems used to outwit an employee’s vigilance would be endless, and while vendors have certainly come up with more or less effective techniques to stem this scourge, the fact remains that to this day none has managed to catch even a single parenthesis hunter in the act.
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