Jake Sheff is a pediatrician in Oregon and veteran of the US Air Force. He’s married with a daughter and whole lot of pets. Poems of Jake’s are in Radius, The Ekphrastic Review, Crab Orchard Review, The Cossack Review and elsewhere. He won 1st place in the 2017 SFPA speculative poetry contest and a Laureate’s Choice prize in the 2019 Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest. Past poems and short stories have been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology and the Pushcart Prize. He’s also published translations of poetry and reviews of translated poetry collections. His chapbook is “Looting Versailles” (Alabaster Leaves Publishing). A full-length collection of formal poetry, “A Kiss to Betray the Universe,” is available from White Violet Press.
Difficulty’s Spiel (On the First Day of Spring)
“Greatness in noble songs endures through time: but to win this, few find easy.” - Pindar, Pythian III Arise and double-cross another day as notes of birdsong drizzle drunkenly at dawn. Internal rhymes outnumber stars / tears / loves when hatred’s dehydrated. Math itself can’t hear to think. Dry-hearted heat from stars / tears / loves collapses type (a type of trap) today. Arise and take desire’s rise to fame more seriously, or for a ride. They ride the air like horsemen; our hosannas. Champs / Storms / Loves are defervesced today by tupelos’ Platonic imperfections. Bested champs / storms / loves blame blemishes; a blemish on their blame. Arise and take the stage to play your part as springtime’s hostage: it’s the stage you take to ply apart two brothers. Memory stars / storms / loves in family dramas; brothers look alike, but one is so attractive here, the stars / storms / loves burn out as if to practice the dark art of a memory good enough to not recall bad times. No brothers cut their moral code and hair the same. Spring’s undivided trees / tears / stars wear strong disquiet; clothes too cool for warmth. More sisterly than early-onset trees / tears / stars, to make a spectacle of speech, some fall. Arise, grindelia; try this on for size: a minute less minute. Expansive speech, like spring’s, is richer than what’s real. But hands / streets / trees spell ‘Wretched, wretched, wretched’ out of sight, in righteous, inexpensive dust. To hands / streets / trees, ‘once chopped, twice woodsy,’ means ‘democratize.’
Former Rains in Pain’s Motel
Your husband scans the meter of your breasts and lies. The light outside is brain-gray. I mistook my wife for a BMW. A nasty quiet cups your wordy breasts, but misery’s my worldly mistress. I saw passion whirled near the VFW, ousting all you sting the best. Your breasts out-sing the urban, unborn light that I saw shipping shapes like “BTW” from trees in spring. Just like two turbans, breasts conceal the sunlight’s semi-electric I, its breath. Undress a www address – a memory – to double you and me. I hate how time’s mastectomy embarrassed beasts, from stroboscope to starburst.
Last Train to LACMA
Natalie: “I’m not the one for you!?...So what’s the problem?” Ted: “Well, it’s just ineffable.” Natalie: “Oh, so I’m not f-able!?” Season 1, Episode 4; How I Met Your Mother I am what I do not believe before the sculpture of Eve by Rodin. As much as I say, “I, I, I think I get it,” by Metropolis II by Burden, I still cannot forget the baluster Leger caught with a pencil, its luster that, somehow, someway, conveys the very pyrite spirit of ‘Oy vey!’ In LA today, clouds transport construction cranes as cranes do the clouds on this wheel-thrown stoneware’s dismembered red, the one where no New Jersey accent in a Raiders jersey competes with its floral spray, the one which involutes to loot and pray a cigarette the length of time – like Xu Bing’s – is somewhere for smoking or stabbing its open sea. When its open sea stretches a miracle mile, it opens a nautical mile wider than before. One may only enter mounted on light. The deepest height is four times more glittery with Chinese catalpa wood’s one thousand bent knees. The Metro Purple Line’s Wilshire/Fairfax station thanks its lucky stars, but shuns the rustic drops of awe it took to build the ancient bison’s vertebrae we owe for art. Floating dresses, from the Joseon dynasty, suspend our disbelief from chains, the price of awe; upend ideas of future sites for rare, exotic and exquisite episodes of This is Us. The melted plastic of Gu Dexin hisses like a thing to put eggs in in the next room as Lambos vroom- vroom outside down Wilshire. Stella’s Kagu didn’t hire this bored security guard inside my ability to disregard unnoticed hypnotists’ uncalled for sinew-renewers. You must understand that parrot-shaped ewers, with eyes like hailstones, hit me like hail with their sweetmeat tones which are hard to come by. Edicts chase the pigeons off. My Eggs Benedict tastes like summer’s lazy intellect beneath the jacaranda’s purple cloud and spring’s elect. As if the cosmic harmony is on my plate, I contemplate this concert’s Latin sounds and two women drawing Bloody Mary from a book nearby as I draw my Bloody Mary from a straw. To put the disarray in disarray, I can’t just brunch at Ray’s. The areca nut cutters prove awe is like love – independent of dislike and like – as one boy chases another by the art class studying the clock by Adolf Loos. Its bronze and brass are reminiscent of the Los Angeles National Forest through God’s eyes, its glass – which only on light mounted enter one may – reflects the weather’s pleats. Whether it offers more than couplets to tomorrow’s Pride Parade or not is up to memories no eyes or time can raid. Like everybody on Museum Row today, I successfully dodge Pissarro’s sorrow- arrows as I find a way to transplant my heart on the road again. After my brain transplant – courtesy the ritual masks of Sri Lanka – I unmask Aries, hiding in each photograph by The Colombo Apothecaries Co., Ltd. Here lying like a spent hen by the satinwood bridge, then again, right here by Kandyan temple pillars. Sure, it’s a lot to ask of pleasure, but it isn’t up to me, it’s up to memory, or rather, the same me that earlier observed a photo shoot by Urban Light and suddenly felt too light with clear glaze to photograph the German tourists asking me – a single hand with two wrists around my heart – to photograph them. It’s what I’m not and what I need to graft to the white heat of oughts and nots; painted by Charles White, they deliver shock after shock, until Hollywood is nothing but hollyhocks. Hypnotists unnoticed; these wallets, pencil pouches and bandanas in the gift shop shop for customers by featuring artwork: The Sheaf, Matisse’s cutout intonations, seems to say, ‘Jake Sheff,’ while cat’s-eyes patterns from Central Asian ikats offer amber waves of judgment. I feel blessed inside this wooden, villous, jobless depot, which on light only may one mounted enter, by Serra called Band. The bada bing of cigarettes the length of time – like Xu Bing’s – meets the bada boom of the construction cranes outside to make a youthful Om with flattened sides. That man with vitiligo and a stroller seems to go wherever I go. Here they are again, this time admiring the Narilatha (“woman-vine”) pattern, flowers said to resemble divine women; folk deity or demon, it’s no matter to the shivers meeting in my pia mater in the form of two gentlemen greeting. Blue merle border collies blow by levels feeling blue, closed for inventory and packing on a day with free entry for active duty military, ghosts and a whole host of ancient choices with jawbones and hipbones colder than ice. The walls of donors’ names suggest the onus is on these two Adonises slow dancing nude on this postcard together; the onus, that is, of placating the ether’s half-crazy delegates delight delegates originality to. As this book on Frank Gehry cons me into standing cooler than the last scene of Satyricon, I overhear a teenage girl – who “drove three hours all the way from Chino” – call her fart a sonnet and laugh into her Frappuccino. I can’t help but suspect a repurposed joke from the inflatable black Buddha’s repose.