June Sylvester Saraceno

Previously published in Tiferet

The window fills with gardenia bloom in evening.

The humid air, my sister’s voice, this window

that I raise and lower across elastic time.


Some days the window is out of reach.

I have to climb the trellis that rose to yesterday

and disappeared in winter.

I build steps out of snow and pack them down

with stomping, with some sturm und drang, with salt.


It’s worth the effort. Every effort.

Even though I never know what the window will let in or out.


Sometimes a slight crack and angry voices engulf

the space in flames. Always somewhere a burning roof.


Sometimes a slight crack and angry voices engulf

the space in flames. Always somewhere a burning roof.


Sometimes the corn stalks are so high that boys climb

them to the moon to carve their initials in its flesh.


Sometimes the window wells with salt spray from an ocean

that buoys and baptizes, but also serves up jellyfish and trash.


I look for the family portrait there, moving frames —

a lullaby slips out, a dime locket, cootie catchers,

a fish hangs from the lightbulb, duck quack,

peed in underpants stuffed behind a freezer,

mittens and carpet burns, a clue in a clock tower,

backwards braille of initials carved on the sill,

a diary with a broken lock, galoshes, smoke,

a revival tend of dire prophecies, lightening bugs,

ticks, scabs, the hanged man, angels glinting,

a sack of pecans, a rusted tractor, a fly swatter.


It’s only a first story window.

It has more stories than start.

If I don’t open it,

I’ll never get out.


June Sylvester Saraceno is the author of two poetry collections, Of Dirt and Tar, and Altars of Ordinary Light, as well as a chapbook of prose poems, Mean Girl Trips. She is English program chair at Sierra Nevada College, Lake Tahoe, as well as MFA faculty, and founding editor of the Sierra Nevada Review.  She will be participating in the 2018 Nevada Humanities Literary Crawl on Saturday, September 15.


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