Alex Chertok


Alex Chertok has work published or forthcoming in The Missouri Review, The Cincinnati Review, Willow Springs, The Journal, Quarterly West, Copper Nickel, and Best New Poets 2016, among others. He was awarded a fellowship to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and completed his MFA degree at Cornell University, where he was also a Lecturer. He currently teaches at Ithaca College and through the Cornell Prison Education Program.


Overseen from the dark


Fog spills the moon’s sachet of lavender.

A mess of a sky. It kills the hovering moth-swarm of stars.

The moon’s mouth and eyes are blurred clean

off. Sycamore leaves are given a cicatrix sheen.

The whole earth is burnished from afar.


In some pond, the male bass keeps his tender

unhatched young in his mouth, and the midwife toad bears

the bushel of eggs on his back, little moons

he never spills.


In some womb-dark lab, young Victor

Frankenstein plies and yearns. We all look upward

tonight. The streetlamp births moth’s wings

all night like a bustling hive. Above that, the effaced moon.

We give it a face, a changing life. This we’ll carry

and never let spill.



Double cross


The YouTube recording of a robin’s mating call

fooled her. She flitted her head toward the sound.


She’d landed in the honeysuckle bush

at the crest of breeding season to be

talked into it through the window into the room

where the two-toned song trickled from the laptop.


What did she hear? Her own idiom

in a crackled accent. Duplicitous desire.

A call from both halves of the syrinx

plus a third tone of two tinny speakers.

A voice auto-tuned to sound like one she knew.

A sentence autocorrected to mean nearly itself but not –


“You’re all grown up” becomes “Your sorrow’s up,”

“I’m home” becomes “I’m gone” –


but the robin did her double take

and listened with deep question in her face.


The recording couldn’t cut it. She flew away

with her sun-holding wings over the telephone wires.

She knew better. She knew all along.


The birdcall buffered then froze.

Its sorrow was up. Its home was gone. This,

the single loneliest way to die.

Share This Post!