Sherre Vernon

Before Combustion

& the dream said
we had to put our bodies

on the bodies

of these horses
who’d just as soon
untie themselves

I say to the girl, do you

wonder about
the first time

but she doesn’t
& I do & I think

it must have been a man
who tried this, who thought
I can ride this

the first time
I heard Russian spoken aloud
my lover on the phone
all that language
bucking up & kicking
pushed to the hush
at the front

of his mouth, pulled back
to the deep groan
of his throat
& still I

balancing, bracing
a tongue of stone

Holiday Newsletter

& I have worn my hair blue
& short & red sometimes.

sewn five or so party dresses, one
to be worn with dollar-store, clip-on

poinsettias in silver and gold, shedding
glitter. & for myself an electric kettle.

& for myself, clover seed in the yard
before the frost. & for myself

an orange car when the green
one had rolled her last. & I asked

for a raise & I asked for a CT scan.
for both, I prayed. & the child to school

I sent (wish I hadn’t, and wished
I’d earlier). O Angel-Manger-

Morningstar! Brought in
the rosemary bush, gathered

its bows in bands & upstrung it
with lights & with books

surrounded it. Forestalled somehow
talks of conception, immaculate

& otherwise. Cleaned cat pee
from sheets & blankets & an old

couch I gave up on & hauled
out, bad shoulder aching, only to find it

gone before the pickup. & returning
to you: ink, pen, this bit of me.

“angle, manger, star” is a line found in Ted Kooser’s “Christmas Mail”


O you, the parental
breach, you who have become mild
in all things but this — pray, howl
to the sun in its western altar:
may you set, may you set —
O what small beast it is
you bore & now wrangle through
the lycanthropy of childhood —
what beast you feed
from skin and bone, your soul
at nightfall, before she yields
to the closet light, that placebo moon
calling her to a wild wakefulness
that cliffs her body against
your sleep — O pace that quiet house,
waiting, waiting —
and believe your child‘s face
will remember its infant lines,
your fingertips, your kisses.

Sherre Vernon (she/her/hers) is the author of two award-winning chapbooks: Green Ink Wings and The Name is Perilous. Vernon has been published in journals such as TAB and The Chestnut Review, nominated for Best of the Net, and anthologized in several collections including Fat & Queer and Best Small Fictions. Flame Nebula, Bright Nova, her full-length poetry collection, is available at To read more, visit and tag Sherre into conversation @sherrevernon.