Maxine Chernoff

Chicago, Illinois
Maxine Chernoff
Chicago, Illinois

Poems

Hit Title Date Added
1.
Miss Congeniality
Even as an embryo, she made room for "the other guy." Slick and
bloody, she emerged quietly: Why spoil the doctor's best moment?
When Dad ran over her tricycle, she smiled, and when Mom drowned
her kittens, she curtsied, a Swiss statuette. Her teachers liked the way
...
2.
SHE SHOWS YOU WHERE TO LOOK
Names and forms
and from a crouch
a trial before breathing.
Mirages bruised,
'big fluffy flakes,'
speech, and notions.
The nations scattered,
an attitude of blue-
useless preface to
the waves bleeding,
the hand, occult,
the name erased
by jazz and heartstrings.
Orpheus misspelled.
Her eager thoughts,
stumbling, spare.
A fickle calypso
moving in
the distance,
like June light
in broken
February sky.
...
3.
BENEATH THE FORM
A Zen student
and a great blue heron.
A Christmas wreath
and her short blue dress.
The dust of art,
best name for
a colorless liquid.
The concept of God,
hungry and receding.
Poet as laborer,
the uses of stone
on Saturdays
when momentary release
gives way to eternal
dilemma, when
Sam asks Darryl
to pull over
at the next translation.
Tainted author
of your own sad
birth, between breaths
you are your own
witness, your own
excavation.
...
4.
CARE
As a tableau
in search of innocence
she looked desperate,
translated, lured
by approval toward
metaphor and soup.
He had the presence
of a king, kindly
providing
a counterexample
of grace and obedience.
As in 'history is
broken,' consciousness
breathing, all notions
sinister. Inside
the room, they staged
the definitive production
of the quest motif
in Western corporations.
We waited, dewy-eyed,
naked, more observers
than readers, more
smoke than guarantees.
...
5.
Breasts
If I were French, I'd write
about breasts, structuralist treatments
of breasts, deconstructionist breasts,
Gertrude Stein's breasts in Parc-Lachaise
under stately marble. Film noire breasts
no larger than olives, Edith Piaf's breasts
shadowed under a song, mad breasts raving
in the bird market on Sunday.
Tanguy breasts softening the landscape,
the politics of nipples (we're all equal).
A friend remembers nursing,
his twin a menacing blur. But wait,
we're in America, where breasts
were pointy until 1968.1 once invented
a Busby Berkeley musical with naked women
underwater sitting at a counter
where David Bowie soda-jerked them
ice cream glaciers. It sounds so sexual
but had a Platonic airbrushed air.
Beckett calls them dugs, which makes me think
of potatoes, but who calls breasts potatoes?
Bolshoi dancers strap down their breasts
while practicing at the bar.
You guess they're thinking of sailing,
but probably it's bread, dinner,
and the IgorZlolik Show (their
Phil Donahue). There's a photo of me
getting dressed where I'm surprised
by Paul and try to hide my breasts, and another
this year, posed on a pier, with my breasts
reflected in silver sunglasses. I blame
it on summer when flowers overcome gardens
and breasts point at the stars. Cats
have eight of them, and Colette tells
of a cat nursing its young while
being nursed by its mother. Imagine the scene
rendered human. And then there's the Russian
story about the woman...but wail,
they've turned the lights down, and Humphrey
Bogart is staring at Lauren Bacall's breasts
as if they might start speaking.
...
6.
BLACK
Sixty second

August

" a bruised tenderness"

kitsch operatic

clucking

certainty

fulsome

vulgate

I Clung

eggplant

question

native vacancy

recant

panic

bodily

orbit

if

then

Freon

tempest

whatnot

Ireeline

languor

listed

vested

savvy

Really
...
7.
AMBLE
Shotgun

blossoming

outward

ranting rangle

smoky

entrance

evidence

aspen

pent-up tenderly

lying

fulsome

mentor

miscue

julep jitters

sisterly

sub-strata

das ich

"or delicate surgery"

mental

trappings


hair and

tangents

fruited

fingered

lily
alley

alabaster
...
8.
Lost and Found
I am looking for the photo that would make all the difference in my life. It's very small and subject to fits of amnesia, turning up in poker hands, grocery carts, under the unturned stone. The photo shows me at the lost and found looking for an earlier photo, one that would have made all the difference then. My past evades me like a politician. Wielding a flyswatter, it destroys my collection of cereal boxes, my childhood Jived close to the breakfast table. Only that photo can help me locate my fourteen lost children, who look just like me. When I call the Bureau of Missing Persons, they say. 'Try the Bureau of Missing Photos.' They have a fine collection. Here's one of Calvin Coolidge's seventh wedding. Here's one of a man going over a cliff on a dogsled. Here's my Uncle Arthur the night he bought the prize peacock. Oh, photo! End your tour of the world in a hot air balloon. Resign your job at the mirror-testing laboratory. Come home to me, you little fool, before I find I can live without you.
...
9.
Kill Yourself with an Objet D'art
Choose a heavy one shaped like (a) your first ride in a car or (b) the Hitchcock leg-of-lamb, served at dinner to the unsuspecting detective. Or a light objet d'art, (c) an ice cube in whose reflection is suggested the history of the subconscious.


Now choose a forehead, yours to be exact. Where your hand intersects the mirror-image forehead, strike the blow. If (a) has been your instrument, you will feel run over but sincere; if you chose (b) you will feel theatrical. (C) as you know, was Freud's preference in moments of despair.


If none of these objects appeal to you, consider the following technique: Serve as executor to a millionaire-idiot. He'll gladly leave you trifles and before you know, you'll be the owner of possibilities: a Max Ernst bed equipped with guillotine, a Picasso whose lips are razorblades, a Goya with personal angels, black and familiar.
...
10.
Event
And then doves and the thrush and the late
afternoon of the swallows under the bridge
and the fathoms of sleep and then the hollows
of dialogue aspiring to contain the rich facts
of what didn't happen when it seemed to have,
and then a disquisition on the luster of windows
in the morning when a psalm is read
before lightning strikes the spire of a tall church
in the city of your birth, and then centuries
of robes of saffron or black and vespers or prayer
on cold granite or at a wall where guards
stand with AK-47s, and ghosts witness their attempts
with sorrow, unlike human sorrow, which is a stream
that evaporates when language interrupts its flow.
And the ministry of a quiet voice when what
is needed is a bell or a glass filled to a certain
level and made to vibrate with a spoon, and before
this ending another ending and after that another
and no agreement between parties as to whether
the story is over or this is a respite between
exhaustion and pleading. And the irises shallowly
covered in dirt emerge purple in spring,
world without end, as words are endless,
sending their tendrils toward the next refrain.
...

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4/21/2021 6:22:49 AM # 1.0.0.560