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Shelley Savrenís book, The Common Fire, was published by Red Hen Press in 2004. She is the recipient of nine California Arts Council Artist in Residence grants, two National Endowment for the Arts regional grants, and three artist fellowships from the City of Ventura. She has taught poetry writing workshops at a maximum security menís prison, juvenile detention centers, a homeless shelter, a school for emotionally disturbed adolescents, a womenís center and numerous other facilities and at every grade level through the California Poets in the Schools. She also received first place in the 1994 John David Johnson Memorial Poetry Award and a nomination for a Pushcart Prize. She lives near the ocean in Ventura, California with her husband, Elijah Imlay, and is a full-time faculty member of the English Department at Oxnard College.

Inevitable Love

Lovers donít finally meet somewhere.
Theyíre in each other all along. Ė Rumi


If I had met you twenty years ago,
at a Sufi gathering
deep in meditation,
would you have noticed
the way my curls tangle in the wind?
Would I have been lured
by your smooth, waist-long beard?
Would we have danced 
with each otherís eyes 
holding hands, our bodies
interlocking at dawn?
Or would we have 
just passed each other
on the street one autumn day
carrying groceries
or riding bikes to work
and without much thought
exchanged a simple ďhiĒ
or just nod in courtesy?
Would our paths have wound
in different directions
eventually finding their ways
to this moment
where we lie side by side
brushing skin against skin,
hair against hair,
breath against breath
in morning light?

 

The Butcher's Wife

The year was round with zeros, 1900,
and they lived in a Lithuanian shtetl
where her garden smelled like roses and mint
and she collected eggs each day 
from fifteen chickens 
to sell at the market stand.

Her husband was a butcher,
a moyl really, but who could make a living
doing circumcisions?
He had a shop and knives, lots of knives.

A peddler came to the farm one day
and showed her how to open her mouth
and kiss. When he left,
she ran her tongue along the surface
of her teeth and smiled.

It took three days for her husband
to spill her confession.
Why else would a peddler spend
a sunny afternoon at one farm?
So she fasted, one full week, as he ordered
and scrubbed her mouth with soap.

She had no words that week.
Nothing passed between her lips.
But when she stepped into her garden
her whole mouth blossomed
like roses, like the taste of mint.


© 2004, 2005 Shelley Savren

 

Shelley Savrenís poems in The Common Fire are warm and direct, full of the stuff of daily life, family life, joy and pleasure and grief and pain we can all identify with in poems that carry a strong emotional weight.
óMarge Piercy

These are poems of earnest storytelling and fond description. Nostalgia for gone worlds and affection for the evanescing present are the subjects and inspirations for this volume. A pleasure to read.
óLi-Young Lee



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