Poems by Janine Certo



Arm of an ossified
angel found among
the root families. That perennial

note: you were on the wild
side, hard at the core, a verdant
taste with a venture

of licorice. Prometheus,
in his boldness and intelligence,
scaled a mountain and lifted

a stalk to light a flame
from the gods, which makes
me think remedy, which makes

me think raw: a mandoline
ski slope, the bright
flowers you bring, kiss

of oil and citrus, delicate fronds,
sometimes shaves
of parmesan, then a baked

frittata primavera followed by a slow-
roast chicken with shallots.
How they said you’d be good together,

how the braised becomes silky,
near melted.


When I Contemplate My Existence


Alpacas, air, or anything earnest you are
bursting to say, bees, bees, bees, just being,
citrus everything, particular cypresses, Van Gogh’s chair,
democracy, sliding doors, delight in others’ delight,
elevator I used to fear, swoosh I didn’t expect,
flash of minnow, the phantasmagoria of fish,
green landscapes below the blue or the gilded
horns piped with pastry cream and hazelnut
inside their ruffled boats, the decked-out in
January, a snowperson juxtaposed, just
keeling over backwards with the kneeling
little old man trying to repair, & I can’t forget letting
Maddox bury his head in the dogfood bin, crunch machine,
next, all this color in the bend on River Trail North,
otter right there, & I’m like Odysseus saying odd
phrases to it, planning palinodes, or how ‘bout the perfect
quote from a friend, getting myself quietly
ready in a room full of sunlight, & perhaps this recitation
seems radical, but somewhere, someone is studying
toddlers running or cell typology, a palm tucked
under the Earth, a rehabilitated animal, its unmistakable
voice like the end of a good book or the creak in a weather vane.
What if, what if, on an ordinary Wednesday,
X-shaped signs mean you belong here, mark your X’s,
your own list of greats, as if to say, you, now you:


Janine Certo is the author of ELIXIR, winner of both the New American Poetry Prize and the Lauria/Frasca Poetry Prize (New American Press and Bordighera Press, forthcoming 2021) and IN THE CORNER OF THE LIVING, runner-up for the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award (2017). A winner of Nimrod International Journal’s Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, she has new poems forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, Poetry Northwest, and Shenandoah. She lives in East Lansing, Michigan where she is an associate professor at Michigan State University.


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