Sherre Vernon

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—

 

—our one-hundred-twenty-third,

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

something living.

 

from Sarah Gardner’s “Among the Choirs of Wind and Wet and Wing”

 

I.

 

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

secretly wept.

 

II.

 

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.

 

III.

 

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.

 

IV.

 

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.