Charlotte Pence

Charlotte PenceCharlotte Pence’s first book of poems, Many Small Fires (Black Lawrence Press, 2015), won Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award (silver medalist) and was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Prize. The book explores her father’s chronic homelessness while simultaneously detailing the physiological changes that enabled humans to form cities, communities, and households. The director of creative writing at University of South Alabama, she is also the author of two award-winning poetry chapbooks and the editor of The Poetics of American Song Lyrics (University Press of Mississippi, 2012). Poems have recently been published in Epoch, Harvard Review, and The Southern Review.

Black Silhouettes Against a Pink Sunset

They move
more like darkness
than deer,

this trio
who nibble

this trio
I mistook

as straight-backed,

nipping the edges
of field and forest,
while the sunset

behind them
slices sky
a blinding pink.

This trio stop
and start
and stop

along the same path
my family
of three

“for air.”
What is

but shared

And what
is the name
for those

when worry
feels distant

and tamed–
when we

to deer
to darkness
to certainty

that this coming night
is neither for
nor against us.

DNA Searches for Her Mother

Curling around myself, I went
to the center, copying hard, searching
for our dead mother’s eyes.
Granted, they were brown. But in her brown,

a toasty alternated with something wobbly.
A plain girl on a rusted green bike.
A spot on a decaying leaf. A hesitation after
any compliment. Very pretty, she might offer.

Then, she’d clap once, ask, What’s next?
as if to suggest life means never stopping.
After months of searching, I find
the short brown rung tangled among

the green. Oh, I will see those eyes
again. Memory, I knew not to depend on you.

After Election Day: A Tanka

— November, 2016

Wide-eyed wind stirs sand
beneath the broiling storm clouds,
thick with heat and rain.
A dog charges from the dunes,
our fear cradled in his mouth.