Peter Serchuk

Better Kept


Better that I’ve kept you where

you were, twenty-three forever,

spared laugh lines, stretch marks

and menopause, quarantined

from thirty years of diets

and self-awareness.


You were a girl with a plan

and I could barely read a map.

You were tapping your foot for

tomorrow, ready to shout your name,

and I was clutching at your yesterday

hoping nothing would change.


But everything changes except

the mirror. Faces gallop past

like small towns from a train.

Lovers share dreams and kisses

in fields along the road and wonder

if the starry sky will ever look the same.


Perhaps your flag is famous now,

too high for me to know. I hope

your eyes still daze someone if the

buttons won’t quite close. I still see

those eyes when the sky goes dark.

I’ve kept the girl who stole my heart.

In the Next Canyon


In the next canyon the fires are fierce.

Winds hurl their lasso hill to hill, gorging

on brush, hissing like snakes, a streak

of tigers leaping walls and ravines

to hunt down the houses below.

Road signs have warned us to keep out

but we can’t contain our own heat.

So we drive in the back way,

through the closed park, up the tire-chewing

dirt road until we kill the engine and roll

to a stop just blocks from the flashing lights.

We inch our way closer.

What is it we’ve come to see?

Firehawks water-bomb slopes, police cars

barricade streets, while armies of yellow

and red attack with their axes and ropes,

with their ladders and hoses block by block,

house by house. The sky is surreal, Van Gogh’s

Starry Night turned orange and black.

We fight back the smoke and heat, live in

the sweat, throats raw, eyes bloodshot.

We hide in the pandemonium.

Minutes pass. Two hours pass.

Soon the wind begins to doze and more trucks 

unwind their hose to seize the upper hand.

The curtain of smoke sways then lifts.

No longer invisible, firefighters see us

and our teary eyes, take us for homeowners,

victims, people suddenly homeless,

possessions reduced to memory and ash.

Some nod their sympathy, offer regrets.

We can’t bear to speak the truth or repel

their kindness. Stunned into silence, we lower

our heads, wait until the street begins to clear

then slip back into the dark, into the night,

our car, back to our safe and quiet home,

repeating over and over, for no good reason,   

Everything’s going to be all right.

Peter Serchuk’s poems have appeared in a variety of journals including Boulevard, Poetry, Denver Quarterly, North American Review, Texas Review, New Letters, Valparaiso Poetry Review and others. His poetry collections include Waiting for Poppa at the Smithtown Diner (University of Illinois Press) and, most recently, All That Remains (WordTech Editions). He lives in Los Angeles.



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