Erin Redfern ~ Three Poems

What Can I Say, I’m Not a Landscape

I was an American girl. I learned good love
is me on the bot­tom, fac­ing up; good sex
is me on the bot­tom, fac­ing down. I can overthink
any­thing, even now, lying side­ways between sheets,
inch­es from you, wear­ing naked
like ante­lope in a rent­ed tux, mer­maid try­ing on shoes.
I’m telling you I think I for­get how. Your face I love
is now so weird­ly strange I have to ask
Have we met before? And here’s where you hold still
while I climb down from the thought-tree,
its branch­es of fog. Your palm on my flank doesn’t move
while you wait for me to remem­ber, hand
over hand, what hands and skin are for.
I thought I’d nev­er write a sex poem
because I’m not a land­scape, and you’re
no con­quis­ta­dor. You don’t map my blue rivers
or trace with your tongue every hillock and hollow.
Also because I can’t be seri­ous about your penis––
eager tail wag­ging its own good self,
taut rod dows­ing for my plea­sure. Also because
what that plea­sure urges me to speak is not sexy
but trades porn’s slick ejac­u­la­tions for lists
of dessert top­pings––Butterscotch! Brickle! Hot caramel!––
or orches­tra sections––Yes, yes, the strings and the brass!
This, after we’ve emerged doe-shy from thickets
to min­gle our warm breath
while the green song ris­es around us.
But what else can I say? I like my sex
even and gen­tle. I burned my bedroll,
hung up my spurs long ago. When my body arrives
from far fields, I like to let it amble
toward a heat­ed sta­ble, plunge its muz­zle in dark water, hay racks
full and sweet. Later we’ll nick­er and lean into each other,
dream­ing wild herds of words that star­tle and roam,
dark­en a far ridge, then disappear.


Morgan le Fay Explains Her Decision to Teach the Round Table Boys a Small Lesson

King’s pet, every cheerleader’s wet dream, Gawain
makes play-offs again. Come spring he’s the white
kid blast­ing Bob Marley down hall­ways, swain
peach-fuzzed with sin and plumb as an alibi.
In board shorts and plas­tic shades, he’s all slick
praise for a pair of snowy hills. Shhh! His weird
approach­es. Wide-assed and wim­pled, I wield
a lord hardy and pricked as hol­ly: Bertilak.
My burly pinch-hit­ter will bring wild­ness to bear
on that frat neck beg­ging for severance
from its scrum-a-dumb head. Sap-blood­ed, wick-
eyed, my green knight knows no prey easy as ignorance.
He’ll gir­dle an unblem­ished blade with fear,
leave a nick at the nape for a souvenir.


You have to guess what it is,

I said, and got to watch
your curios­i­ty flare and settle
like a pilot light
as you put your hand in my sweat­shirt pocket
and touched cold curve,
dry, firm, fine­ly pebbled.
You smiled, then
held the egg between us on your palm.
Familiar again, but magicked
with that brief strangeness.
Bewilderment, stay. Keep
us. Not yet resolved. Not yet afraid.
Take a big breath and hold us,
for with and with­in bodies
we meet this world. Whippy cords
of weeds, grit sweat­ed to skin,
smell of ros­es and gaso­line. I know
wild­ness could feed me, though
I’ve learned to flinch from it, retreat
to matched socks and a stocked
pantry. Husband, for now
you tuck the boiled egg into your pack.
You’ll stay out all night telling the stars,
tap­ping on that end­less­ness they crack.


Erin Redfern’s work has recent­ly appeared or is forth­com­ing in Fire & Rain: Ecopoetry of California (Scarlet Tanager), New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust (New Voices Project), New Ohio Review, Massachusetts Review, Porter House Review, and North American Review, where it was run­ner-up for the James Hearst Prize. Her chap­book is Spellbreaking and Other Life Skills (Blue Lyra Press). She earned her PhD at Northwestern University, where she was also a Fellow at the Searle Center for Teaching Excellence. She has served as poet­ry judge for the San Francisco Unified School District’s Arts Festival and a read­er for Poetry Center San Jose’s Caesura and DMQ Review. She teach­es poet­ry class­es and work­shops online.