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Jake Sheff



The Way A Mother Dances


It isn’t like a warrior in the field,

although a killer instinct has a role.

It isn’t like a worrier on the couch,

although it’s vigilant and self-defeating.

A spider crawling over a sleeper’s mouth

is more precarious, but much less fleeting

and much more rare. An Arab horse displayed

in the well-groomed air and the mowed yawns

is, in comparison, what schoolboys pawn

for inexperience (since we can’t get

enough). Imagine thistledown invaded

the kingdoms of our memories and scones

are what you tasted; what did you forget? 



a line, (a blue one)


In Times of Economic Hardship


The cost of love is no great price.

The pyramids at Giza stored

no rice to ferry with a pharaoh 

to the other side, try a cat embalmed 

with eight lives left. Or the Taj Mahal;

that oriental wonder found

a likeness of the underground. 

The cost of love is digging; pay dirt,

peat and pearls are all a piece. 

The earth and heart give way to 

badgers, budget for the outward budge. 



a line, (a blue one)


Estate Sale


The cardigan my grandma wore

on Normandy in ‘84

is still here folded up. It smells

like things I know from pictures. Bells

arrive, and five times in a row,

to tell the time, “It’s time to go.”



a line, (a blue one)


And Yet, They Rage


The dead all rage. They ravish ferny soil

for a radish. All the old arrangements, all

the sages turn for yellow chaparral. 


The old arrangements turn a savage page.

The book of seasons comes of age, appalls 

old men who rank the baby’s-breath with shawls


and fear the draft; ridiculous on stage

but common as a housefly. The dead rage

with self-made purpose, turn the soil on


a bombing range to yellow chaparral.

(The cemetery is a kind of shrapnel.)

The dead rage – no chaperone 

or cage – and yet, they rage in harmony. 



a line, (a blue one)


The Political Poet


The moral sense for common good

Is commonly misunderstood

As God and poetry.


And pity too is apprehended

To make you feel like gladness ended

As God and poetry,


For misery, took Ibuprofen. 

(Or better yet, a heart to loaf in.)

But God and poetry


Imposters, uninvited, fight

In real-time for the last delight:

A godless poetry.





a line, (a blue one)


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