Monday, June 12, 2017

#233: Three Poems by Ava C. Cipri

~Work selected by assistant poetry editor Clara Jane Hallar


~This poem previously appeared in Western Humanities Review (2008).


Queen of Swords

you are the curator the loud custodian    one set of keys

one pass    single access

you stand guard at the gate

no other entrance no other may come

fast forward if you are looking for the protagonist
a woman of reticent character by this name [H.] you will not find her here

fast forward nor will you find her       Heath[er] . . .
no time

I write it down

rewind    I will not witness

the sky pinches back from its corners    fast forward

I know your window from the bus shelter & the hour
it crests the wall then the snow heaves the way I

watched the end from outside myself steeping
from that porch dismantled for three full seasons

it’s the photograph I continue to pick up the one my grandmother never

too often    declared the futility of being a writer & want of spontaneity
photography at my command to have a camera around my neck
yesterday there was a tall blond amazon    her hair tightly pulled back in a

the season halts from November’s edge

your door    and the season
it cuts the city the way a dancer
his partner clipped in the distance vanishes
into night into dreams too far
I return from your absence and limp into my life

knowing terror for the second time
overhearing the scream

for two Septembers I walk out into traffic

wonder the month it stopped—you finding my hair in the drain behind the
    stacks of books
under the suitcase which was our table

the walls of you the way you pulled me into those voice-filled fields until

no one could make you come as hard    fast with the trains extinguishing
    behind us


~This poem previously appeared in Western Humanities Review (2008).

Nina's Studio

Furnace out. 6:00am
Hudson River churns, violet.
Wind funnels through the keyhole.
Nana's kettle; proof of your habits.
Two shadows break.

Sometimes I can hold
nothing; its vastness irrefutable.

These days stack up, beg to be purged. Don't answer
this letter or the one just composed.
Shuffle the deck, take a card, you know the one
facing you/ facing me.



~This poem was previously published in Georgetown Review (2010).

Of Last Things

What do you, do I even remember
of finalities, solemn laminations
beside the bed?  The table
with its faint, fading water rings—
what marks their permanence
if our departure comes?

The darkening approach irrefutable.

Of last things, there is this love:
Your car’s back-seat parked in the heat
on a July evening, the urgent pressing of bodies
under the sky’s gate where the planes
margin, leaving the burdened ground.

And this:
a starless suburban park,
emptied at dusk except for homeless
teens, left with nowhere else
to take time, take their virginity.

A spacious black pond, its cries rise
out of thickets and rush towards us.
There is the picnic-table, its red paint
flaking into confetti beneath us
under the drowsy lidded moon.

The eastern night’s shore of Hatteras Island
billows out like an unmade bed;
an endless soliloquy of stars,
each accountable for a truth.
Extend your faith—flesh
under the open whites of a billion
knowing eyes.

“Queen of Swords” asserts its voice through a fragmented and associative language. It was the only way I could give voice to an experience of such significant loss; a break-up and its aftermath. The poem is caught up in looking back and trying to cope, while pushing forward (even seasons later), with this lover’s absence. It embodies the continuation of a conversation, and it is testimony that not all is lost because the words did come. Two authors were instrumental in helping me find a way in, Agha Shahid Ali and Elizabeth Bishop.


Ava C. Cipri is a poetry editor for The Deaf Poets Society: An Online Journal of Disability Literature & Art. She teaches writing at Duquesne University and holds an MFA from Syracuse University, where she served on the staff of Salt Hill. Ava’s poetry and nonfiction appears or is forthcoming in Cimarron Review, The Fem, FRiGG, Room Magazine, Whiskey Island Review, and PROSODY: NPR-affiliate WESA’s weekly show featuring the work of national writers. She resides at: and tweets at @AvaCCipri.

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