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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. Her latest book, Under the Music, is a collection of prose poems from MadHat Press. In fall of 2016 she was a Visiting Writer at the American Academy in Rome.

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In Print

Vol. 78
Fear Itself
Spring 2022
Edited by Bradford Morrow

Online

May 11, 2022
                                  1.

Someone nodding, and the light pressing down
as though it had weight.
And right in the middle of what I want to say
there’s a long row of chairs. There are green,
red, yellow arches that gradually contract
and close, like doors.
Like a disease whose threshold no one can cross,
she says.
May 4, 2022
Once upon a time, there was only Olga and me, as well as our old dog, Boji, in a big house we inherited from our parents, whose food we had slowly been poisoning in a span of at least a year. Our parents blamed their “chronic illness” on inclement weather, on the “heathens” who played rock music next door, sometimes on “cursed” and “possessed” appliances and furniture.
April 27, 2022
birds, vital furniture for our eyes. The floor refoliates
a dozenfold. Months
these days waltz
triple-time
within us. Echoes of fundamental shapes. Great-

grandfather, Harry Houdini’s accountant.
Isaac, our cousin the Don, muscled his way into King’s spitting distance.
All told, say
the performance outlived the performer?
O
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