Tuesday Jul 17

ChernoffMaxine Maxine Chernoff chairs the Creative Writing Department at SFSU and edits the journal New American Writing. A winner of an NEA Fellowship in Poetry for 2013, she also received the PEN USA Translation Award with Paul Hoover for their co-translation of The Selected Works of Friedrich Hoelderlin in 2009.  She has published six collections of fiction and 14 books of poetry, most recently Here (Counterpath, 2014), Without (Shearsman, 2012), and To Be Read in the Dark (Omnidawn, 2011).  In 2013 she was a visiting International Scholar at Exeter University in England.

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Between



"Angel and puppet.  Now we will have a play."
—Rilke

Stately in your ermine coat or naked
as a fish in his glassy underworld,
you do not ask for love, as if it were only
meant for midnight dreams of peopled worlds
in bustling rooms, their features bright as candy
or dark as moss by a northern gate.
What you hold dear becomes your task
as buds open to allegories of lips and
warmth of touch.  Let the play begin with
the theater empty and only chairs as witness.




Need


 “Always the quaking of relief."
—John Ashbery


 In a swamp the mangroves shade
the nest of eggs blue as
your eyes, which know the century's
sorrow as light knows the drift
of a feather through turbulent air.

You, whose vows evaporate
like mist from an ocean
where starfish and algae feel
the touch of an invisible poison
in water's slow retreat of grace,
and blueness is reflection
of a steepled, latticed sky.

Trellised world, built of words,
which plead in low tones
for a window to hold absence,
whose ledger fills with longing,
with threads and feathers of
birds, whose beaks vrush
certain berries in their ripeness,
this small economy of need.





Museum


"The train trains on."



Oblivion assured
you take the ramp
that leads to evidence:
a museum is refracted
on a wall with plaques
reading        Forgiveness
Mercy                  Recondite
         Witness
Not memory but
an artifact of longing
random as weather--
how your hand touched
the mirror, you who were
window and cloak
in the long-shadowed
garden, where no one
hung his hat on a branch
or blistered sepia with a face.
We barter our habits, make
questions fill the naked space.
Days are reckless, pages
erased by a trickle of rain.
It is evening and evening again.