by Alison Shaffer


Love Poem about June Bugs
                              (for Raymond)
Because I love you, I have taught
myself to dwell
in the summer's drift of days.
There is no breeze, and I watch slowly
the feathery souls of dying flowers
let go of the earth and rise.
The June bugs are in the field.
All my life, I have been defined. I pull apart
the flushed petals of a clover blossom
with my fingertips--it has no center.
A bee settles onto another, does the same,
delicately, as if playing
an ancient instrument.
The June bugs are in the field.
A cloud looms and dissipates, strange
for being so slow, careful, yet at once
quickly, it moves unlike
my expectations of an unwatched sky.
I do not understand it,
but I have been moving this way,
watching the edges of my definition
with aesthetic distance from far below,
naming the changing shapes of myself.
The June bugs are in the field.
They open their wings, flying,
careening, as if swept up in the wakes
of the shadows of clouds.
They swing by one another
as if they did not choose this.
The energy of the sunlight buzzes
through their little bodies,
pries them open and sends them spinning.
For three months I have practiced
loving you, writing no poetry.
Because I love you, I have learned
to drink the wind of summer storms, overwhelm
my edges, the wordlessness of heavy rain.
When you are present, I abandon
the idol of self I've made of my life.
When you are gone, I am missing
without disappearing. I leave no trace
on paper. When I walk, my footsteps
sink into the embrace of grass and remain hidden.
Because of you, I live in love with a world
that will not know me.
I sit in absence.
The breeze picks up, the souls
of flowers continue their slow rising,
and the June bugs are in the field.

Muse Abused: Ars Poetica
She sleeps with fists
clenched and wakes with bruises
in her palms.
She is reversible.
She folds colored paper along creases
that could break
open the skyline,
then quietly she unfolds it again.
The moon rises.
She knows the empty
roads, long and wet with rain, punctuated
by streetlamps,
are what whisper
along the necks of sleeping girls, absence
of unwoken hours.
She pretends subtlety.
Shadows cling to the hem of her
dress, ends of her
hair, broken strands
of moonlight that ripple down her back.
She moves first
with her silver eyes;
her body follows like fog slowly melting.
She does not breathe.
The stream breathes
of her. She cradles thick riverbanks
like an instrument,
touches three strings.
One chord moves the air, three drops
of rain entering
the same pond.
She traces circles back to their beginnings.
She is afraid of
losing the source
of things. She understands dissipation.
She bathes her old
soul in oil pastels
and touches three strings with charcoal
fingertips. The stars
circle their beginnings.
She sleeps with fists clenched and wakes
with inky palms.



ALLISON SHAFFER attends a small liberal arts college near Philadelphia, writes poems as often as she is able, and otherwise grows basil on her windowsill. Occasionally, she dreams that all stones secretly long to be turquoise. This is her first publication.