Poems by Sherre Vernon


She’ll Never Know Because You’re Dead


I’m sure you’re a good parent.
Your brother would have been better.

I hadn’t thought anything could hurt more
than her constant mumbles of miscarriage
through every tunnel of my pregnancy. What could

be worse than when she said No, I’d rather not
as my daughter was born? But every pain
doubles at your name invoked. So why argue? Brother,

maybe this is about choices: the drugs or the abortion
you paid for when parenthood came knocking. Your grief
& shame. Sometimes I’m sure that the deep silence

you’ve been holding started in the truck cab
where we sat when you told me. This poem
has lost its center, brother, so I gave it three.

But let me turn back to our mother: It’s not
that I agree, or don’t. It’s that each grief spills out
with its own need. Hers: that smoky-looking at

our little brother & me & never seeing you. Me at the mirror,
asking if age would fold your face like mine, twin us—
crumpled & flattened out. Crumpled again. Brother,

when I try, I can see the grey in your beard, but it’s always
something like a cheap Halloween mask or bad physical
effects from 90s sci-fi. Enough to believe, briefly,

& in the right light. You could say I’m stuck in denial,
the way I meet you on the cool-curb of my dreams. Wanna
come trick-or-treating? It’s a nice night & the costume

suits you. I look for you too much, you
sometimes remind me, with that stupid-sad chuckle:
Sis, I’m dead. But there you are every time I call

my daughter back from the street she’s about to cross
at the diagonal. You’re there when I run. When I struggle
to breathe. When Number Three & I manage to get all the kids’

feet around the same table. You mimic our awkward hugs,
steal the shared drink. & though we don’t talk about what
it means, we know why our mother isn’t there. We know

the devil’s bargain she’d have made if the devil were
anything other than your absence. She lets us carry
that. You’d forgive her for it, wouldn’t you? Arriving

on the doorstep all these years later, called back to find her
weeping in joy at your return, bumming a smoke & a light,
telling you all she did to get you, but leaving out the truth of it,

until you asked: Mom, where’s my sister? Where’s my baby
brother? She doesn’t know, can’t believe—that after all she’s loved
you best—at that moment, without us—you’d turn around & leave.


My Daughter Mourns for Our Descendants


I should have told her No, of course not,
when she asked if we, like the dinosaurs,
would replicate ourselves into some cocky
chickens that can’t tell truck-grill
from coop. I should have said, What do I know
of evolution beyond the fairy tales
of hope that pour out of our pores like sweat—
all salt, before it cools. But I can be
stupid, so I said, I imagined it so—
that gradual change to more fingers or less,
to skin that flickers like galaxies,
to not needing to speak at all. Who needs
to speak against the bright bite
of ginger, the crosscurrent of mint? What harm
could there be in imagining words
as orange blossoms, falling from
the mouth like so many teeth,
the soul somehow uncontained
in these bodies. But my child, my light
-child, who flitters through the filigree
of dream—she wants this skin, the mole
on my face, the milk-stink of this body
for herself, for her children—
& she wants us all, eternal.


Sherre Vernon (she/her/hers) is the award-winning author ofGreen Ink Wings (Elixir Press), The Name is Perilous (Power of Poetry) and Flame Nebula, Bright Nova (MSR). Sherre has been published in journals such as Tahoma Literary Review and The Chestnut Review, nominated for Best of the Net, and anthologized in several collections including Fat & Queer and Best Small Fictions. Read more of her work at http://www.sherrevernon.com



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