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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. 79
Onword
Fall 2022
Edited by Bradford Morrow

Online

November 23, 2022
I SAW ALL THE STRANGENESS IMMEDIATELY,

I saw it in this very particular slide of swell’s,
the sylphspun silk of the sylph, she sideways,
her garage is paradise in masque, her sweep
is saturn, szturn im sturm & string, install’d
in the area’s traverse. he follows that lucky
old sun, the gesture of her lining and loose
knot, and pulls herself through burns and a
dry wash and some soft lead. in discorporate
minerals, or in the sharing of the black sleek
sharing with the wild man in her soft shoes,
all over the panes of the various sworld and
out into the superhighway of bywater, hard
by marigny. to flow through one to another
indetermination, the posture of their brush
must be immaculate fray, all them, all they.
November 16, 2022
Day Book

One wants to grasp a latch.
The broken star, the cellophane.
One suffers if untethered from
the pain that brought a lock.
Across the way the husband tends his teeth.
The wife redresses, parted from her paper.
To emblemize, to separate the word
grief reaches. Grief reaches, unseduced.
November 9, 2022
He had thought for a while of having his ashes placed on a ship propelled out to sea while being set aflame with burning arrows—in his dotage, my father grew obsessed with Norse myth—but in today’s regulatory environment, bringing him here was the closest feasible compromise. “The best moment is when Fenris the giant wolf appears,” he’d told me on Zoom, his voice trembling only slightly. “It draws everyone’s attention, so nobody will be watching you. Do you remember how you used to cry when we got to the wolf?” This sounds more like something Ulf would do, although Ulf doesn’t remember coming here either. Most likely it was a lost intention of my father’s. He might have spent a day talking to strangers in a bar about planning a trip here, an imagined bout of quality time so vivid it became real for him in retrospect. Towards the end, the winter and the lockdown getting to him, my father was drinking forty ounces of vodka a day. I may not have been his favorite son, but I was the one who agreed to scatter his ashes here once, and if, the park reopened after COVID. Ulf would never violate theme park rules.
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