“Freedom” by Elizabeth Klise von Zerneck

Elizabeth Klise von Zerneck


Haight Street

The realtor claimed the flat was lived in once
by Janis Joplin, a quite common claim,

we later learned. The tactic worked on us.
We learned to overlook—that hint of fame!—

the smell of gas, an awkward floor plan, soot
that never scoured. We dwelled not there but on

our plum address and, when fall came, we bought
dark Goodwill coats, the nights much colder than

we had foreseen. Through that long year, we read
Jacques Derrida, and smoked, and grew fresh thyme

on the one sill with light. We baked wheat bread—
well, one loaf anyway—and drank red wine,

and each day died a bit—twenty, confused—
two other words for nothing left to lose.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
Tribute to the Sonnet


Elizabeth Klise von Zerneck: “I used to write fiction, and the first line of this poem was one I had in my head for years as the first sentence of a story. Nothing came of it. When I started to write poetry, I recalled the line—iambic, after all—and the poem followed quickly, almost as if it wrote itself. It knew what it wanted to be more than I did.”

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