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Burgi Zenhaeusern


In each issue, the editors choose a writer they would like to bring
to the readers' attention.

In this issue, Burgi Zenhaeusern is highlighted.

In Zenhaeusern's poems, the purity in the moment is distilled: "a moment's blossom, or / how shrinking works: finely / serrated, slender lobes" Each moment is an accrual of sorts: "that moment all your own. I witnessed / you building Noah's Arch with blocks..." These poems lead us to the things themselves: "the apple a bite / into mealiness / and the hammer / the hammer". Say hello to a deer. Say hello to a maple leaf. Say hello to the October sun.

Maple Leaf (Japanese)


To a Deer in Rock Creek Park

I Witnessed You

[after days of sun gray]

[mottled shimmer the remnant]

Celandine the Lesser & I

Back at the Pool

My Claro Walnut Paperweight

October Sun

Maple Leaf (Japanese)

or the lover that was
A scarlet curl picked up and dropped
onto deep-green
wax fingers of a hellebore—

a moment’s blossom, or
how shrinking works: finely
serrated, slender lobes

twisting inward. I so wanted
to believe.
                          A leaf,
and what shrinking is
left to it. This red
stalls my rake.

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Raw material for

New beginnings by rot

Absorbed by the yard’s soft parts or someone else’s

Splinters of bone or a fragile skull

I expected to find

The downs I did—snow white
                   because the plucking, methodical and fierce, had to come first—

Here and there, but somewhere quite off

By the time I checked in spring

Of the Wood Duck that plummeted out of the sky into our yard
                   in the talons of her predator, as big as the juvenile raptor herself (impossible to make off
                   with it)

From the subsequent meal
                   while we went from breakfast to lunch

That winter morning


Of a gift and its giver:
                   William Cooper, zoologist, collector of specimens, to his friend, Charles Lucien

A name: Accipiter cooperii,
                   since 1828, authoritatively by a Bonaparte (Charles Lucien), ornithologist

                   (otherwise called: Big Blue Darter, Chicken Hawk, Striker; Swift and Black-Capped)

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To a Deer in Rock Creek Park

did you know

how to wait

just long enough

this time for me

to pass you

on my lonely

stretch between

goal and goal, or was it

your whim, or a vague

sense of danger

that let you hesitate

there on the side

of the road like

dusk gathering shape

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I Witnessed You

giggle into the reverent silence
for a poet laureate and his work, look up
from your reading, delighted

                                                you’ve brought

with what you were hearing.
At home, the words on the page

                                                me to my limits

wouldn’t reproduce the effect, not even
read out aloud;

                                                you’ve kept

that moment all your own. I witnessed
you building Noah’s Arc with blocks, and a

                                                me in line

girl-killing machine; you showing
teddy bear the Easter tree;
staring someone down; triumphant,

                                                you’re a man now
                                                and what you’ve taken

lording it over your dad in my arms;
your shock at my sudden anger.

                                                with you     how it will bend

You swallowed a whole piece of ginger
without blinking; clamped down

                                                your steps

on my nipple with hard gums
and a broad smile.

                                                may your feet
                                                be strong and carry you far

You played peek-a-boo with me by turning

                                                from my voice      my fears

your head to the wall. You cut

                                                my pride     know that
                                                it feels

out and glued
an army of candles onto
a piece of paper to fight
my stubborn cough—at least
that’s what you said.

                                                good to stay back and watch
                                                you go

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[after days of sun gray]

after days of sun gray
feels unreal
all day like dusk

an apple on
the pile shifts slightly
and up the street a hammer
goes from head to head
the same few
measures on wood

erratic spurts through dry leaves
of squirrels chasing
after each other

pushed clouds

sometimes you don’t
see what is
rearing up to speak
from you
until you say it
recognition always
too late

the apple a bite
into mealiness
and the hammer
       the hammer

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[mottled shimmer the remnant]

mottled shimmer the remnant
of a shower in early March
quivering on the flagstones

a dusting of orange
on roughened rinds

the cobwebbing above
our street gleams

and turns
gray again

a stiffness still between
shoulder blades moisture
has begun to seep into
the tight-fisted crust


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Celandine the Lesser & I

Though nothing is less about this
fig buttercup carpeting my yard in early spring
with lacquered green and tiny wheels of yellow spikes.

At first, it crowded into moist seams
and barren patches only—an invasion by cunning
no less—

Another spring, and its tight fists press
against what I planted forcing me to weeks of digging
into the lacquered green and tiny wheels of yellow spikes:

out slip tubers, the hard seed unclenches
spilling into the mud, chance camouflage for any small slug:
no hardness less likely to appeal than this.

Alongside quartered worms I work the sticky lumps:
they bored right back. By June, the green gloss is turning
fallow in mock defeat, gone the wheels and spikes.

I hurry on, picking through splayed rosettes for beads
to point me to the buried cluster seats of next year’s spawn
for nothing less than less of this
latest lacquered green with tiny wheels of yellow spikes.


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Back at the Pool

Raptors are circling in a clear sky.
On a lawn-chair, I’m far flung
from home, the frayed sense of belonging;

back from being the absentee
dropping my bags in the old bedroom,
greeting the horizon like an old friend:

its reassurance whenever
I was reminded that I had changed
into a guest. Out of sight

a splashing beat. I’m not home:
relief and heartbreak. Each in its spiral
the birds are riding the updraft.


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My Claro Walnut Paperweight

Swirling, iridescent, reddish-brown,
smooth drop I like to cradle
in my palm. Tightly figured weight
of the unspoken, a tilting underneath

rich with his chuckle. No words
to turn and turn: we simply met again
and parted. Sweet weighing
this fullness; still, I wonder

how to utterly forget and keep
delightful blessed and fresh, how
not caress this memory to death, send
hope adrift forever. How, and if.

Shiny shell from the wide-crowned tree
mooring my wait, heavy with sand.


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October Sun

Glitter and sharpness
sever sky from crowns today.
No dulling the edge.


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Burgi Zenhaeusern's poems appear in Oversound, Heron Tree, Antiphon, Forage Poetry, and elsewhere. She served as a translation editor for the poetry anthology Knocking on the Door of the White House (Zozobra publishing, 2017).

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