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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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Vol. 82
Works & Days
Spring 2024
Bradford Morrow

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July 17, 2024
There is the man on the moon. Go to him. Get bread from him, drink his water. Take your dog, Blue to him. Take your mother. She is skiing outside around the house. Stop her, tell her that Blue is going also. Take the gander, Henry. He is short in the legs. Leave me Iris. I have seen her eat feed in a pattern.
 
July 10, 2024
Marcie decided on Vertigo because she’d recently encountered several texts in quick succession that made extensive reference to it: Chris Marker’s time travel film told in still images, La Jetée, Terry Gilliam’s unlikely Hollywood adaptation, 12 Monkeys, and a story by Bennett Sims called “White Dialogues” about an embittered academic seething in an auditorium during a lecture being given by the hot new thing in Hitchcock studies. The coincidence made her feel involved with the film, and vice versa, in a way that evades more specific description.
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We slapped together two clods of oak around a broken bedpan lid and twined them together with a horsetail. Realized then our discovery: the first knife ever. We go to Tony’s. Tony indicates our find—What is that shit?—and he slides us each a prairie fire: whisky, tabasco. Crab says, Maybe lean forward, Tony, and Tony, doing so, discovers the knife sinking in buttery smooth, right between his ribs.