Charlotte Innes


Photo by Jon Rou






You Can Change the Shape of Almost Anything


Across the street, the agile digger rises

like a cat on two back wheels to feed

succeeding trucks with crumpled earth. Red,

white, red, they come and go all day

till half the hill has gone, a field of fennel,

home to feral cats, coyote, possum,

skunk, and coming soon, concrete slabs,

metal poles, plywood, wire, plaster.


You can change the shape of almost anything,

we thought, those early days among the pines,

scorning beachside homes for their distortion,

the extra floors and bulging sides that seemed

to beg the finger of God to topple them.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,

I said. And then, Is that OK? You smiled.

Oh yes—well, some might dispute the terms.


Those summer days. How easy it was to speak

of anything. Tell me about your faith.

And you, forgetting your natural caution, said

it was like a house, cracked by unexpected

aftershocks, craving restoration.

After that, I’m not sure why, I’d ask

about your faith at some of the oddest times.

Silly, maybe. I think you understood.


And like the spotted fawns nibbling hedgerows

behind the ugly homes who lose their spots

a few months after birth, our talk’s equation

shifted shape with ease, then changed again,

as if the hill’s new homes now housed the poor

or the homes beside the beach kept families safe.

The proof seemed indestructible but something

was missing, some formula, some factor x.






November’s Santa Ana heat. The leaves gleam bright

as steel, as if from rain, or knives in wait for sleep.

In harder light, in rooms across the way, a man

unlocks what seems to be a box of knotted hair

and broken beaks. It sickens me. Are we so old

the genesis of light in us can only flicker?

Silver cogs inside a clock of shining glass

lock and turn. And lock. The sunlight seems so cold.




Among Birds




Black, black, blackest bird,

astonishing me


to lightness


spinning me

out of grief


for whole moments

of clean joy.


To hear a song

sung sweetly:


the relief of it!






circles of air

striped and shaped

by birds wrench

and reach in

uncurl me





as sparrows, flecked with fluff,

shake off, with joyous

flapping, sunlight and water,

the last drops of love—

then up, quick as a thought,

to fat cloud pillows

and back.

All morning

I’ve learned alertness—needs

met and fears dodged

in instants. Now the birds

are silent. But what of it?

Tomorrow—though I’ll be off—

they’ll be back. Splashing.





And here’s an almost

dead tree, a few

leaves at bottom,

that’s all, taller

than anything,

with birds arrayed

like serious surveyors

along the grey hook

of the topmost bough.

Crows? Starlings?

Hard to tell

from curved backs

and hidden wings,




you’re an elegant whip!

Urging the eye

towards stones

and thin grass.

Allow me to keep

the rail of the deck

between us,

to watch

the sleek grey heron—

the one called “blue”—

rise up

from bulrushes

by a stream













Charlotte Innes is the author of Descanso Drive, a first book of poems, to be published by Kelsay Books in 2017. She has also published two chapbooks, Licking the Serpent (2011) and Reading Ruskin in Los Angeles (2009), both with Finishing Line Press. Her poems have appeared in The Hudson Review, The Raintown Review and Rattle, with some anthologized in Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond (Beyond Baroque Books, 2015) and The Best American Spiritual Writing for 2006 (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), amongst others.

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