the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century




SEVEN WORKS
BY CHERYL LATIF

CIRCULAR BREATHING

it is moments now
not months   not even days
when illness is forgotten

when the woman you once were returns to your skin
and you think you might sprint to the corner
in time for the light
tackle the trail up cowles mountain

she is the phantom
this is your grief
this siren in the shadows
teasing with dreams of muscles warm and limber
stretching the truth of expectation
twisted recompense   late spring

only she knows how rest comes when sleep will not
how you follow your breath
its circular motion
draw stillness from the hummingbird's flight

how you stumble toward grace
offer prayers   give thanks
wait for moments
rich with the release of forgetting

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INSIDE OUT

come spring, you abandon the garden
cling to reasons for moving past this breath.

my gaze wanders to a cobweb in the corner,
i can't say how long it has been there.

outside, the wind is a frantic heart.
inside, the air, still as death.

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PRAYER BEADS

i am quiet, like the sky early
morning, anticipating birdsong
unsure about the sun

this stillness is pilgrimage

at the reflecting pool of memory
i kneel, drink in your visage
mindful not to disturb the surface,
alter the spell with even a ripple of need

you leave gifts at my door.
i cannot decipher them without you, these
bits of song; slightly faded photographs;
pages torn from an unfinished manuscript;
untitled maps

i have caught you like rain on my tongue
released you in beads of sweat
returned to the quiet again and again
to light candles, burn sandalwood
remember what i know

in pools of light, i hold your words, a rosary
feel your desire in the smooth roundness of
each bead, cast prayers of strength
wait for a sign

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STAR LILIES

soil still between your fingers, you lead me through the garden. it is early morning. crisp air and the fragrance of your favorite blooms stir my senses. we speak in metaphor, seduced by words left to interpretation. you cut me star lilies and freesia. you want your magic to linger.

i invite you in. find vases. watch the sun play on your hands, now clean, as you lovingly arrange garden gifts. a bud opens as if delighted to be in this small upstairs apartment.

you know the face of my passion, trace the fine lines of my longing with fingers experienced in coaxing flowers to bloom.

content in transitory moments, we play under the arc of laden boughs, pretend there is permanence in the mere curve of letters, cut flowers, a kiss.

beyond the well-tended beds of your garden, winding paths lead to the question you turn from. we lose our way. i return home knowing you will not follow.

upstairs, the star lilies. their fragrant flesh becoming translucent. soon petals will fall, one by one.

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ARC OF DESIRE

candles burned to pools of wax
scent of wet sand, bodies mingled

crescent moon, rising tide
the cry of shorebirds

               listen

deserted streets draped in lamplight
words on skin, on paper

fresh-cut flowers, summer berries
jazz ballads, unmade bed

               we have journeyed the sacred

shattered mirrors, unfinished letters
leaves rustle against glass

horizon stretched taut sunset to twilight
hearts pierced, bleeding sky

               breathe

nightstand photos, sunday mornings
poetry books open to random pages

sun-dappled pillows, french lace on satin
coffee cups in the sink

               we have yet to know

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SUPPLICANT

one does not easily arrive at silence
peace of a thousand lotus blossoms.

the quiet heart longs in spite of brilliant skies
rides the sound of tires on asphalt.

at the edge of the forest, shards of glass
absence of time, mystery of war.

dawn's seam splits across day
does not explain unseasonable rain

how bones tear, muscle breaks
the stillness of a single step.

before this makeshift altar
one flame, countless offerings.

there are no boundaries
within the sound of a prayer bell.

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BOBBY'S POEM

you call when you know you will not reach me,
leave the threads of your life to be spooled on tape,
saved, played back at will.

your disembodied voice lets me know
you have not moved from the small cottage
at the base of the foothills, have not married,
have not found peace. you say none of this.

my son tells me people don't lie when they're drunk.

we've been apart twice as long as we were together
and still i remember:
how your parents schemed, hoping i would love you;
how i adored the sight of your bare chest;
how we talked;
how i would fall asleep in your arms
after making love in the middle of the day;
how you knew me;
how i love you.

these memories fill your absence.
like telephone wires that carry your voice they
carry me across distance no amount of walking,
driving or flying could traverse.
stepping through the looking glass
i see us as we meant to be.