“Today’s Sermon” by Cheryl Dumesnil

Cheryl Dumesnil


is slop buckets knocking 
against each other

and a towel cart 
squeaking down the hall

and grease stains 
worked into cracked palms.

Today’s sermon is
red-wing blackbirds

dive-bombing a raven
with yolk on its beak.

Today’s sermon is 
spring leaves as tiny 

soldiers receiving 
soot with open hands.

Today’s sermon is 
a fifteen-dollar 

garage sale bike 
and now the kid

can ride to school
like everybody else.

Today’s sermon is
dragging grace around

like a rust-eaten wagon
pretending it’s whole.

from Rattle #67, Spring 2020
Students of Kim Addonizio


Cheryl Dumesnil: “I began studying with Kim Addonizio in 1992, when she and Dorianne Laux co-taught day-long craft workshops in Dorianne’s home. In the summer of 1994, I joined Kim’s weekly poetry workshop, which she hosted in her basement apartment in San Francisco. I had just completed a thoroughly alienating first year of my MFA program and returning to Kim’s workshop felt like coming home. Working with Kim, I learned how to write from the raw nerve, how to use imagery and the music of the line to telegraph that heat to readers. To this day, if I feel like I’m losing my edge, reading Kim’s poems will help me find it again. Beyond craft, early on in my career Kim taught me how to muscle up in the face of adversity and rejection. ‘Never let the bastards get you down’—she wrote that on a postcard she sent to me in graduate school, and I took it to heart. With her support I learned to turn adversity into an opportunity to recall my vision, to strengthen my resolve, and to move forward. By example, Kim has taught me that, as fierce and edgy as a poet’s writing might be, it comes from a bruise-tender place. You can’t have one without the other. If you’re all edge, you’re pure defensiveness; if you’re all bruise-tenderness, you’ll never get out of bed. Living a poet’s life means developing the ability to be both vulnerable enough to feel the impact of the world and strong enough to speak the truth about it.” (web)

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