Guest Poet C.E. Chaffin


I saw rattlesnakes mating in the arroyo,
tangled like hoses,
braided together like black ropes,
defenseless in the grip of love.

Indians say
this sight grants second sight.

Yet when I saw my victimhood
cold, rusted from fear,
cupped like a cross of iron
in the hollow above my sternum,
I wanted to pluck my eyes out
for not deceiving me.

Self-knowledge is a dangerous thing
and canít be granted by a single vision.

September 1997

C.E. Chaffin's Questions:

1) Is the last stanza too conclusive, preachy, etc?

2) Does everybody back east know what "arroyo" means? (dry canyon)

Correspond with C.E. Chaffin at
with your ideas about this poem.


Everyone has their peculiar price
not quantifiable in currency.
When the hypodermicís hollow spike
began to graze your vein, you confessed yours.
It was not exorbitant
so I withheld the truth serum

and you returned to the television,
dreaming of a Winnebago
and a vacation to Palm Springs
before a strange voice woke you:

My sheep hear my voice and my voice is on TV.

This might have awakened you
but because television outpacifies Christ
(who in his humility must approve),
you lost track of the whole thing
and fell asleep in your recliner.

If you want another antidote for boredom
try making the familiar strange--
as if you brushed against
your own clothes in a dark closet.

September 1997

C.E. Chaffin's Questions:

1) Is this poem overly obscure? I use Eliot's "objective correlative"
as an excuse, i.e., words can evoke things they don't necessarily mean.

2) Is the ending too abrupt?

Correspond with C.E. Chaffin at
with your ideas about this poem.


To stand for something,
to protest abortion or the destruction of wetlands,
to support the preservation of historic buildings
or the return of condors to the wild
fulfills our passion for goodness
more than tolerance,
a mere exercise in manners,
not even a virtue, more like ignoring
someoneís body odor in an elevator.

For who can say with a straight face,
"I understand and accept what you are doing
even though I find it abhorrent?

Moral passion is not an oxymoron.

September 1997

C.E. Chaffin's Questions:

1) Too didactic, preachy, or does it work? I am, of course, attacking
the chief and perhaps only virtue of our "multicultural" times.

2) In stanza two I am never happy with the last word: abhorrent,
disgusting, detestable, evil, wrong, etc. A prize to whoever comes up with the best adjective for visceral and moral revulsion.

Thank you.

Correspond with C.E. Chaffin at
with your ideas about this poem.

The Albany Poetry Workshop