Tag Archives: Erin Redfern

Erin Redfern

RedfernErin Redfern served in 2015 as poetry judge for the San Francisco Unified School District’s Arts Festival and as associate editor of Poetry Center San Jose’s print publication, Caesura. She works as a writing mentor and spends far too much of her time opening and closing the patio door for her changeable cat, Juniper. www.erinredfern.net


Graduate School

I wish I could say I walked into that ring cocksure
and pummeled the compromised guts of the heavyweights.

I landed more like a stray feather, a little soft-focus, a little
surprised by gravity. Have you ever seen an animal so young

it doesn’t know whether to charge or run, so stands splay-legged,
eye-whites flashing? While holding a hissing brand, ask a foal

if it would rather be marked with Semiotica or Renaissance Studies,
and you’ll see what I mean. In the intro seminar

the French turtleneck expounded until comp lit students
took off their shoes and knocked worn heels on the table top

in a fervid cerebral display. The incomprehensible syllabus blurred.
I’d stowed away on a transport hauling language like freight and hurtling

at high speed toward the wrong planet. And the library towers
were shaped like Catherine wheels, radial stacks expanding,

diminishing like panic attacks. I snuffed the dead air, listened for tenured steps
in stairwells, watched other people’s notebooks tell their faces what to say. 

(At least I knew enough not to be a red cape wagging in front of a bull.
Remember the terminal master’s student who wanted to add Leviathan

to the syllabus? At Nevin’s that night there was talk of stringing him up
in the alley behind the free trade coffee shop.) So I learned “Americanist,”

but specialized in Fight-or-Flight-or-Freeze. Even now say “informal meet-and-greet”
to see the backs of my hooves flashing over a distant fence. All the same,

I don’t startle so easily these days. I’ve learned how to value herds, corrals,
open land. I’m not so quick to stand a tight girth or a weight I wasn’t meant to bear.

I know what it’s like to wake in a cramped chute, throat clutching the sweat-sharp dark,
hide twitching at each floorboard’s dull thud, and I know I wasn’t alone

in there. (Remember Elizabeth, who bit her nails to the quick?)
It’s not stupid to run toward air, toward the gate swinging open.

I stand on the other side, now–a crisp fall apple, sugar lumps in my pockets–
and sometimes I spot them–the ones with blinders, burred manes, split hooves.

They’ll be branded, too, but to those who come trembling close I offer a far fence,
a lesson in jumping, and, from my full pockets, these small boons.

Erin Redfern

Erin Redfern’s poetry has most recently appeared in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Clementine Poetry Journal, and Compose. In 2015, she will serve as poetry judge for the San Francisco School District’s Arts Festival and as associate editor of Poetry Center San Jose’s print publication, Caesura. Website: erinredfern.net


Photograph of a Drugged Giraffe

The strong stalk of its neck has gone slack on the packed sand,
revealing a long face, dun-colored cheek,
and dark, puckered underside of lip.
The lifted chin is so slender
that the bearded man in work boots and a white t-shirt
can cup it in one hand. The ear, velvet lily, pivots
to hear what is happening to the body,
back there, outside of the frame, where the metal doors screech
and the ramp of the transport truck crashes open.
Leather gloves flare from the man’s pockets
as if they, too, are listening for what happens next.
He’s bent at the waist, the small of his back taking the weight
of the great head–tongue, bone, brain, skin.
Sighting down the sloped neck
he doesn’t see between his arms
the giraffe looking up at his heart,
doesn’t meet the thick-fringed eye gazing at him
the way the untried Gorgythion, Priam’s blameless son,
might in the midst of battle have gazed back at the ramparts
before the arrow sent for Hector found him instead
and his perfect head drooped like a dew-heavy poppy on its slim stem
–a look like a coverless book, spine cracked so it opens here,
to this sweet face, this tilted throat, these buckled knees
pressing the ground beneath, this ground
become sky in the black eyes
that know neither resignation nor hope.