Friday Jan 19

ChertokAlexAlex Chertok has work published or forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, 32 Poems, Bat City Review, Linebreak, Painted Bride Quarterly, and Potomac Review’s “Best of 50” issue, among others. He was awarded a fellowship to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and has recently completed his MFA degree at Cornell University, where he was awarded the Corson-Browning Poetry Prize and is currently a lecturer. 

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Mom’s got a new you who’s used to
tying bucktail to line, holding anchor, tackle,
snap and barrel swivel, bucket, cutting board.
The hook nicks and chalks his knuckles so he rubs
on balm meant for a cow’s chapped bag.
You have none of his hardhandedness.
He smells of the seawind we walked in off
the bluff you loved that time you wouldn’t even
lay a finger on the fluke in the net flexing.

Take two. Recast the line. Your hands feel, still.
More callused than mom’s, but yours touch just like.
Her new angler speaks into the wind: Two trawls
are not enough. You need less to say
more than this, enough as any fountain.



Between lightning and lightning bug


Or, running home through the bus exhaust
of August afternoon, the difference between water
and a water bug.
The difference between sunsleep
and the dark cloud that breaks it.

Between a bowl of water and a strand
of hair landing in it, between
Yes already and Yes,
all ready,

the difference between a face drawn in the morning
and a face drawn in mourning, how much
               sun is bearable, between drawn en plein air

and from an airplane, how close the light
feels to being licked. The sudden difference,

in the space of a breath, between the father
laughing with a ladle in his hand
              and his spilling ire.

To the sweaty body heaving home,
soot and soothe, heave and heaven.
 
An eyelash like a curved
black pen mark, but the difference
between them—

To the legs that lift like sandbags
over gravel, now past dinnertime,
between a tub drowned in cool water
              and drained of it.

The difference between hearing he died and hearing
him die. The difference
between dropped eyes
and a risen face, a reflection
rifle-there.

To the one who’s reached home,
             the difference between straw
and strawberries, rasp
and raspberries.

To the father, not and do,
the difference between, to the new
supine mother, sheen
             and being handed,
between emptied and filled.





Saturday night movie; or, the Peak-end rule


All we can remember from our two straight
hours of bent around the corner sofa,
flipped over to prostrate, then back to bent,
then upright, back to back, then both temples
touching, our faces a mask the flickering screen
kept changing,
              all we can remember is
you rolled off my ribs and bleated, once, so close
—I was half-expecting a flock of red
to geyser from where the edge of the glass
coffee table must’ve nicked your neck—
till you gasped in, lived, reclaimed your breath,
bicycled in air laughing.
             This is why lying with you
felt precipitous. And when it ended,
credits rolling, we also remember not
moving, stock-still against, stayed put, slack,
my breath that brushed my nostrils
burning gently your cheek.
              So lying with you
was quiet, too. One limp sleeping forearm—
our two lost hours—and one crashing hip
turned moon-blue bruised in the shape of a yawn
that couldn’t be kept in.