Kelly Cherry

Featured Poet: KELLY CHERRY

Metaphor As Method

I value logic and empiricism
and cherish scientific method for
the knowledge it uncovers but I love
the leap across a chasm that is metaphor.
To find a similarity between
two disparate things reveals that all
is one, and one reflects the all there is.
A metaphor unites the world, whereas
government does not, and metaphor
expands the mind, as deduction doesn’t.
In adolescence I drew a downward line
on a ruled page, one side headed Logic,
the other Analogic. It seemed to me
both were ways of thinking and if I was
wrong, one must admit a metaphor
is by far the shortest distance between two points.

Dark Energy

The process whereby cosmic materiél
collects could be, perhaps, called cosmosis,
stuff swallowing stuff, and in a way, that’s true
though it’s more accurate to say that some
thing unseen is pushing everything
apart, which leaves each cut cross-section of
the universe with only a little bit
of matter and a huge amount of space,
the sky dead black excepting a few faint flourishes
of starlight from so long ago we’d need
a lifetime simply to count the years it took
to reach us on our aging earth, by now
hotter than Hades as our giant red sun
swallows the tasty amuse-bouche of us.

Small Errors With Gigantic Consequences

I speak of the smallest errors,
the ones that, lined up, spell catastrophe:
A minute error in measurement, meteor
that was supposed to miss but scalded Siberia.
A planned bomb-radius that failed to stick
to the plan. An unnoticed miscalculation
in bridge construction that resulted in
the deaths of a dozen unsuspecting people.

A teller makes a small mistake that leads
to another and that leads to another and next
you know, the bank is plumb out of money.
Or should we blame the lenient loan officer?
Both routes come to the same—disaster, like a clot
in the brain, abrupt and lethal, or the butterfly
whose tremulous wings unhinge the seven seas
from continents, blue drowning its sister, green.

To please a special friend, you made a necklace
out of string and sea glass. You wrapped your gift
in wrapping paper with hand-painted butterflies.
The string broke, the sea glass shattered, and
there was nothing you could say but “I’m sorry.”


Days implicate us in their myriad doings.
The crime is ours and time’s. The punishment?
Death by foul or any means. We meant,
no doubt, to do our best, be true to life

and art, to celebrate the mind and heart.
Time interferes, takes intention apart,
a crucial bolt or nut left lying on
the floor beneath a covered couch or chair.
We never fail to fail. It’s never there,

that bolt or nut, that Philips screw or socket.
The passing days will close the door and lock it
before we reinvent ourselves. People

inclined to religion might say our complicity
with time is the original “original sin.”
Corruption happens everywhere and when.


How exhausting to be a butterfly:

From egg to caterpillar to chrysalis

To imago, and thence to Mexico—

A two-thousand-mile flight—where mating ensues,

And that too is tiring, if you recall

Your own salad days and honeyed nights.

The annual Monarch migration is beautiful

Seen against the sky, but sleeping in

Large clusters on branches of trees in sunny Mexico

The staggering numbers of them terrify.

So fecund! Yet so fragile. Yet so intent

On doing what they are intended to do.

It’s the great-grandbaby butterflies who return.

In Heidelberg

In Heidelberg I chose a cuckoo clock
To serve as my souvenir of Germany.
Maybe any woman traveling alone
Through Germany, through the second half
Of life, would place her trust in souvenirs.
A clock will wake a woman when no man
Or child’s available to do so and
A German clock’s alarm’s always on time.

Sicily By The Sea

The Mediterranean Sea,
Red cliffs,
Oleander, palm, and pine.
Light sifts

Through the sky
Like pleasure
Through a sigh.

Golden bread
On the terrace table.
Blood oranges,
A mansard gable.

By the sea.


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