Sherre Vernon is an educator, a poet and a seeker of a mystical grammar. She has written two award-winning chapbooks: Green Ink Wings, her postmodern novella, and The Name is Perilous, a collection of spiritual poetry. Sherre is a 2019 recipient of the Parent-Writer Fellowship to Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing and served as the fiction editor for Fickle Muses during its final season.
Too Much Shape
“Roadside acacias—/ I could not bear them. All unzipped…
…—curved / to spoon up the rain. Too much shape”
from “The First Tractate” by Brenda Hillman
I take the coast in the rain
and you’re there even when
the nights, when they end—
—but that was half a lifetime
ago: me on a greyhound &
you, your hair grown loose,
one arm across your chest—
I couldn’t write anything, looking
at you—I had stretched my love
so tight against your frame. I have
an ex with less of me than you, but he
hasn’t read Levine, was never listening:
there’s a shape a soul makes
pressed into another—
—& your name, like a cat’s
third & secret name, I fear
I’ll ask for it when all
others have left me—
tonight you’re on a plane, crossing
the Atlantic, our twenty-third goodbye—
perhaps. Perhaps we have been parting
since our pre-cellular days. My body
is too far gone to be a part of it & I can’t
remember the exactness of your skin
but every word, every word—I know its shape—
Waiting in July for What Must Come
At twenty-seven, she had learned often
the best shells still held
from Sarah Gardner’s “Among the Choirs of Wind and Wet and Wing”
He has a history of healing distance with henna,
so he drew around you a cartographer’s scar: Nevada.
The ink of twenty-seven nuclear winters,
tapped into your bones. A body of shells
and valleys, and your name in the fogged windows
of a 1970 Mercury, where at sixteen, you
The tools are simple: a needle, some alcohol,
cream for afterward, a bandage. The skin
around the nail of my lover’s hand is swollen.
I am not a doctor; like this
I am a sister, always, only.
I think of you while he watches me,
wide-eyed and waiting.
Twenty-seven was just the shell,
a priesthood where we told ourselves
the kind of stories that water towers keep
for summer nights, for cliff-dust
and siblings. What is the difference
between brother and cousin? Cousin
and self? But death is not mitotic.
There will be no repetition of our
council, no duplication in the
unkind division of you from me.
Brother, where will I find them,
the raw faces of you in this
earth? And on finding them,
know they hold you,
living, know them as yours?
10 o’clock and 10 degrees: Johnson, VT
The moon low, in East Coast slumber, milks down
haphazard and malted. Like crystal bone, it sugars
iron tracks to glass. We wake in a strange place
steeped and drained, silhouettes against the snow
our bodies drowning into themselves, like petals
etched into a ceramic cup. What would the old woman read
in us, placed against the cool of Tuesday noon? What
high-pulsed risk might her fingers detect in your palm
pressed to my chest, brailing the broad safety, the small scars
that we have woven? I am bound by this one name, shrouded
ravine-hid, smelling of nutmeg and late-remembered dusk.
What words can stray this night, too starry-black and velvet?
Home for you is a distant December: twenty-eight degrees,
fifty-one minutes: North. I am further, and feather. And West.
West, beyond: one-hundred and eighteen point four.