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Five Poems
[without sound]

O inside the O

breadth of the mountain

and water beneath

sky a cipher

readers asleep

mouthing their dreams

fears of whispering

become a creed

until life blurs

like any lens

that fails at attention

[without shadow]

death stutters

in the voice

of a judge



blatant and grave

the body asks

for frost

the mind frontal

watching the avalanche

on bone’s white page

opaque wide space

filled with zeroes

and feathers

limit abetting


gone with only

one breath

[without erasure]

worlds collide

solid as candles

stiff as wood

what to forget

when knowing

leeches out like

oil buried

in sandy ground

in multiples 

of green

ignorance is brilliant

colored tattooed


to its opinions

laments unmute

their billowing song

their edges

taut with recognition

[without coherence]

under the moon’s ledger

the page unattended

hardly a snail

on a white leaf

or a bone

to call meadow

light she thinks

no longer itself

or the weather

or nodding

this instance

of meaning

inexact skeptical


in the wings

[without a narrator]

Mr. and Mrs. History

hand in hand

enact the silence

of alternate views

consolation shivers

time dispossessed

patience rewritten on

unchristened ground

in the pageant

the deaths of lovers


in childless space 

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.