Cassandra Cleghorn & Jeffrey Levine

Thursday, July 7, 2016, at 7:00 pm, poets Cassandra Cleghorn and Jeffrey Levine will close the ninth season of the Collected Poets Series. Mocha Maya’s Coffee House, 47 Bridge St, Shelburne Falls, MA. ($2-5 suggested donation)


Cassandra Cleghorn

Cassandra Cleghorn was born in upstate New York, raised in southern California, and studied Greek at the University of California – Santa Cruz and American Studies at Yale University. Her poems have been published in many journals including Paris Review, New Orleans Review, Yale Review, Southwest Review, Narrative, The Common, and Poetry International. She lives in northwestern Massachusetts where she teaches at Williams College and serves as Poetry Editor of Tupelo Press.


Jeffrey Levine

Jeffrey Levine is the author of two books of poetry: Rumor of Cortez, nominated for a 2006 Los Angeles Times Literary Award in Poetry, and Mortal, Everlasting, which won the 2002 Transcontinental Poetry Prize. His third book, The Problem with Brooklyn, is forthcoming. His many poetry prizes include the Larry Levis Prize from the Missouri Review, the James Hearst Poetry Prize, the Mississippi Review Poetry Prize, the Ekphrasis Poetry Prize, and the 2007 American Literary Review poetry prize. A graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, Levine is founder, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Tupelo Press, an award-winning independent literary press located in the historic Eclipse Mill, North Adams, Massachusetts.


AT THE RIVERBANK / Cassandra Cleghorn

the consonance, the math, the more than three
kinds of cry from each of my mouths, the quavers,
the swallowings

from the one slipping over the lip into snowmelt roil,
her whoops opening into an O of woe of worry of too
too sorry, so wet, so how? bowled over, gulping
then righted, face angled skyward while current yanks her, feet first,
frail bark, knothole mouth whisked from sight

of the vulture who humps the wind in the cleft between
her claws tucked close for lift, where I caught her,
where I lost her, how I tracked her, opening her mouth
with my tail, stroking her lips with a drop to make suck,
a ringing, a striking of beak on beak,
signs of succor, of distress tocsin, tocsin, tocsin

to the boy on the bank, unsinging his faith.
No, lips clamped, a sweetness seeping from between the brows,
No. She bobs, she floats, she needs no saving

I do the voices for my lover who straddles, who hovers
close to the curling, drawn down by the belly’s puff
and hollow, whom I beg now to please, please fill
my dreamspent mouth

(First published in The Common)



I read Vallejo to Antonia outloud on the deck, ocean-side,
her black nose pressed upside down against the clear bowl
filled with plums, chilled nectarines, and cherry sprays.
As she showed no interest in the poems or fruit, I made sounds
in Spanish, rolled the nouns for ‘rock’ and ‘earth,’ growled
the verb for ‘darken,’ and this music thrilled her wild heart,
those lightened trills, vowels pried open round and ripe as sorrow.
My prophets all go away to think, I said in English,
every one of them, a recession of doubters, and bored
by the blandness of the native tongue she rocketed
past the sea wall through the surf, muzzle lowered, scattering
hermit crabs and gulls, laughing that way dogs have.
Shaking water on my sunburn she looked me in the eye, that slight
quiver in her leg, as a passing child with the face of a goddess,
with such a face, open and no part of sadness in it, said, I’m Grace,
only that, and handed me a book about expatriates lost somewhere hot
and unforgiving, lost and sick for home—though who would give
such a book to her, or why she wanted me to see it, I couldn’t say.
Think of the coming thaw, I warned, though she she’d run off
with Antonia and neither one could hear me, I said remember
how thin plates of ice break apart in the tide pools come spring
how they slide past the cliffs, palisade whitely south.

(First published in AGNI)