Two Poems by Sherri Levine

Grammar Lessons

When my students ask me how to use the future tense,

I tell them that we use “will”

for a promise or a threat.

I will always love you, for example.

And to make a plan, we use the “present continuous,”

I am divorcing him.

And when they ask about the “simple past,”

He loved me a long time ago . . .

It’s not that simple, I tell them.

There’s certainly nothing perfect about the “present perfect,”

I have loved you since the day I met you.

By definition, I ask them,

Does this mean that he stopped loving me?

But loving is a “non-continuous verb,”

Loving, I tell them, is incorrect.

And for the modals?

(Though confused, I know I still have their interest)

I may, I might, I should, I could

keep going, but I won’t.

Instead, I tell them:

Love is full of tenses.

*Published in Timberline Review, Su 2015



Orange Crush

I saw my man

put a dollar

in the soda machine

to buy a Coke

but the Coke didn’t come out





was an Orange Crush.

My man was banging that machine

so hard with his fists


Goddamn it!  Goddamn machine!

but when he got the Orange Crush

he drank it anyway.

Why?  I asked him.

Cause it’s here

and I’m thirsty

You get used to it—

You get used to a lot of things, he said.

I’ll never get used to losing you,

I told him.

*published in Hartskill Review, 205



Two Poems by Helen Puciloski



When I open the letters

more than words fly out;

bees alert for the first hint of pollen

crawl out between the pages,

circle my head and disappear.


It’s all there

our honeymoon, that fishing trip

of tangled lines,

later spring days spent hiking near the river,

even our still born we buried in the rocks.


In my fingers, grit and an odd tickle:

tiny red ants retrace

the path of each sentence in my hands.

They know what it means

to follow one thing after another

in the constant search for sweetness.


He writes of the abandoned cat,

never really welcome, and

all our separate friends,

no mention of weeks passed

in heated silence,

or the one last entry

I would write to remember

the whine of the screen door

before it slapped the house.


Folding the letters,

there’s a low hum,

an irritating prickle on the skin

that I am sure my younger self

brushed aside, smiling,

when she handled these pages,

thinking of honey.


"Hindsight" by Helen Puciloski was originally published in CALYX Journal, vol. 25, no. 2, 2009.



Entering a Wild Place

For Katie Radditz

To get to Westwind, 

we leave our cars at the gate

where the caretaker waits

with a flatbed to haul sleeping bags

and gear to camp. At high tide,

a barge follows the estuary

to the sea and we could ride it,

but our timing is wrong. We have to walk.

“It’s about a mile,” he tells us.

but it is something more than a mile.

Our eyes squint as we scan the tree canopy

for the source of bird trills-

wrens we can’t see in the branches

forty feet above us. With each step,

the old mind chatter

becomes more subdued.

Elk leave tracks in the muddy places.

Salmonberry is in bloom. Humming birds

flit among the brambles. Their movements

pulse like electricity. They surround us,

but it takes half a mile

for us to spot one, 

a flash of rust brown against green brambles

as it drinks from the cup of a flower.

The sight of that tiny bird’s throat,

so bright and unexpected-

a new thought. 


  "Entering a Wild Place" by Helen Puciloski was originally published in Windfall, A Journal of Poetry of Place, vol. 11, no. 1, 2012.