Three Poems

by Sherre Vernon

The Tower

Thus, I had so long suffer’d, in this quest… The knights who to the Dark Tower’s search address’d
Their steps….And all the doubt was now—should I be fit?
— Robert Browning , “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

under the neon, I give in
to the car as it pulls against
the gravel, small pebbles, flung
by the tread, tap
the windows like fleeing angels
do you know, Brother—
I have been tumbling, unbound
all these years—

against the barren sky, the lights
from the valley below
set the night cliff to opal—

in the half-shade of the water tower,
you chuck bottle tops over the edge
one after the next
like small crowns falling
and beaten
against the rockface—

a split and moaning tree: you
speak of our grandfather
here, how the city spilled out
below us, how he was
mica and palm, I ramble on
about Babel and Alexandria, what rain
that falls is mist, a desert dew,
and the smoke from your cigarette
twists in the absent wind, the cherry,
the ember that starts it all—

this will be the last of us:
in the hospital you will say
so little, but rage as your body
unstructures itself
below you, I will deny it—
blood splitting your lungs and beating
against your brain, and when
I see it, helpless and split from you—

I have been tumbling all these years—
against all that’s jagged—

A Prayer for the Dismantling

father, keep me from broken men
with eyes like the boozy sea

mother, carry me, carry me
and should another stand in for me

I’ll keep a holy calendar. hear
my long confessions:

your brother buried, then
your sister in a storm—

by car and cliff. my father loved
like yours, in contusions and miscarriage

there’s a photo of me at twenty-two,
three-quarter gaze in black-and-white

you follow me into the silver
& i pierce you. i am guilty

of breathing and leaving: ruby,
emerald, gold—your mouth takes in

waves of sapphires. i do not dream
in color, you say to me, i am already

dead; let me do this. we were children,
too young to believe in language.

flannel pajamas, asleep in the back seat
& held in the spider-arms of streetlights

i tender you a letter that says,
meet me, my love, on a bridge

where we will pass quietly
by Li-Young-Lee out of Chicago

and we will be East of here. Texas,
maybe. you have left me

in the way that East feels: crisp,
even, seen through the tinted glass

& men looking for strange omens
in my arms. freckles as omens.

you towel sand from my feet
in the name of beauty

& i am understanding Magdalene
a little more every day.

we are sixteen, no seventeen, i think
strumming salvation from the stars

raw cotton against my breasts
your scent torn to threads

we repent, we repent, again, again
we kiss. you know your parents’ fists

of course we chose the
Song of Songs: our little sister

has no breasts / i’m my beloved’s
and she is mine & six-am between us

you caught my wrist and held it: i need to feel
you. they used startle me, these hands

but i cannot drink wine
in this new life, or walk

along the pond, that grey back
path – i tossed my soul

by that coin, and empty, waited.
just once, i wanted to say yes.


My Father’s Last Letter

It’s sadder here, and I am less
for your leaving. The sun is barely
enough to see by. There was a time—
but that’s behind me.

Your mother says she’ll
bring the boys
by. I’m working. I have
a place with a yard,
a tree. In September,
I asked God from the depths
for this, he heard me. Will you

listen, too? Write
to an old man. And your lover,
bring him. For the heart of me—just
in case, just in case. We all
need a little protection.

A dream yesterday. You were so like her,
and I sang to you: muñequita linda.
I am trembling. Your low voice
humming and I knew you
heard me, from another room
& unwilling to come
to the phone. The weight of it.

Your silence I mistook
for love a century ago. She’s
all my senses. I have loved
so many, had so many,
but never until
your mother— Enough.
If I could forget
her. And we know
the cure
for that.

me and my song
the part of my soul
that is only yours
will fly to you. Receive
my love, a kiss, a hug.
(and the money enclosed)

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. Readers have described Sherre’s work as heartbreaking, richly layered, lyrical and intelligent.

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