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Three Poems 

The lunar sublime,
whose berries, dispersed
by winds’ distant ledger, 
tell of the slumber
of bees swallowed in sun’s
ripe task, location and
calling, destined, 
as bright delay marks
increase and issue. 

On that shore you were dying, 
erased, by rustling in the dream-leaves, 
as the nest in the rushes is
looted by a brief red notion. 
On what earth did we measure
the choirs of deluge and frame? 
Whose eye witnessed our
cellos and landings, as if
chased from pretense? 
Whose bright feathers
drifted over our empty hands?



“Daylight disbanded the phantom crew.”
—Edith Wharton

The sentimental is a rumor, 
Inexorable memory 
of cottonwood seed
left in its husk, of
a grief spent down to dust. 
No question arched
towards lucidity, its quivers
oil- and water-worked. 
How we land is
called the drowning. 
We launch paper boats
into reluctant space, 
speak of containment
as if it were a plan. 
Your last avowal
has left the station. 
There you stand, 
without a witness, 
consigned to speak as
words lift off the page.



its feathers
laced to
breath of sky
and molecule,
blasphemy and rapture,
the berry its
beak holds in
abeyance of hunger,
no issue,
the branch
no harangue,
the berry and branch,
its call and
the material
world holds
issue, no issue. 

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.