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C.E. Chaffin

C.E. Chaffin's first book of poems, Elementary, was published in 1997 by the Mellen Press, available through Amazon.com here.  A feature article with links to his work appeared at Suite 101.  He edits the The Melic Review, tutors poetry online, and has been widely published on the web and in print. He lives in Long Beach, CA, with his wife and three daughters in a high rise overlooking the Pacific.  



Like mating dragonflies
I saw two milkweed
dandelions joined in flight.
They sank to the yellow Bermuda
like white umbrella spines
then slowly rose above
the fence of brambles
and out of sight.

Love is heavy, love is light.
We rose from wild mustard
as one cabbage moth,
white wing on white,
amidst the solitary lightning bugs
of this New Jersey night.

© C.E. Chaffin


I want to tell the truth,
I want to tell it straight;
I want to peel your skull off 
and put in a glass plate.

A shocking rinse of sun 
shall purify every gyrus
into an innocent worm,
the serpent twist in silence 

as the decalogue burns 
deeper than God burned stone
inside the pale organ 
helmeted in bone. 

All shall be well
when the one light enlightens
the snail and shell, 
the dull and bright ones.

© C.E. Chaffin

Beyond Courtesy

A bloody Christ who blesses suffering 
stretched gaunt and green on a medieval tryptich 
hardly appeals in an age of kindness. 

Down the gutter butts swirl, some mine, 
on their way to the wide sea. I plead 
guilty to lung destruction and littering. 

You look at me through blue puritan eyes
and wonder what makes me unashamed
of these and all my other failings. 

I can only say when Adam fell the skins 
were courtesy, no more hid sins than rubbers, 
mouthwash, or the lies we told our parents.

© C.E. Chaffin

Degenerative Disk Disease

My brain is mainly inured 
to its constant siren. 
Not to stiffen in apprehension 
before rising from a chair
would constitute a delicious absence.
I brace against walls to sneeze;
so twelve years, so always.

They replace hips and knees
but I want a new back of titanium
that lets a nerve go its way
without undue pressure.
This cross aches, spine 
and pelvis out of fellowship-- 
I suppose my scoliosis
makes it more of a caduceus!

© C.E. Chaffin

Fairy Tale 

Rejection seems as alien to you 
as your face reflected in aquarium glass, 
fish passing through your ears

yet familiar as your mother's sour breath
as she snored insensibly beside
a pile of empty beer cans.

Each day brings floods, fires, crashes,
tragedy to those who never suspected 
nature and neighbors as enemies. 

If tragedy is interruption of the usual pain 
by something greater, yours is 
that nothing can make another love you. 

© C.E. Chaffin

For a Night

Up the sandy wash
past the bullet-laced stove
around the barrel cactus caging 
a bumblebee dry as paper, 
the horse turds guide me: 
enamel black, emerald where cracked, 
marking the trail. 

Through dead silence I ascend 
an amphitheater of rock.
Across the plain 
tufts of creosote bush 
olive-gold in the afternoon, 
yew-green at sunset,
mimic the patchy beard 
of adolescence.

Divided by shadow, 
pink fists of rock 
debate who wins. 
Darkness always does
but only for a night.

© C.E. Chaffin