Sandra Yannone – Crevasse

Yannone profile Dec 2020

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, Volume One, December 2020.

Sandra Yannone published her debut collection Boats for Women with Salmon Poetry in 2019 and will publish The Glass Studio in 2022. Her poems and reviews have appeared in numerous print and online journals including Ploughshares, Poetry Ireland Review, The Blue Nib, Live Encounters, Prairie Schooner, and Lambda Literary Review. She currently hosts Cultivating Voices LIVE Poetry on Facebook on Sundays. Visit her at

Degrees of Isolation in Philipsburg
            after Richard Hugo

At the entrance to the Philipsburg Cemetery,
the worn-down signs read All Ground Flowers
and Trinkets must be removed ten days
after Memorial Day and Please

No Dogs Allowed this sun-soaked April
afternoon. More people inhabit the ground here
than downtown where the World’s Greatest
Candy Store has closed until further notice.

Granted, those among the well-groomed
graves are aged, all under chalky grass, some
since early last century, so Richard Hugo knew best
when he wrote in 1973: Isn’t this defeat?

So accurate, the church bell simply seems
a pure announcement: ring
and no one comes? I stare at the lone, shut-in
librarian through the library’s glass-paned door.

The books heave their sighs alongside her.
Everything and nothing now in this world is overdue.
In Philipsburg, the sun keeps breaking
through the intermittent grey. Hugo knew this

because he stood here once writing
all the populated desolation down, but today
there’s few here to notice except the despondent
bar owner keeping his social distance, grumbling

to a patron-turned-friend about the Governor
and his stay-at-home order. The barkeep’s built
a decent business at convincing people
not to drink at home alone — now that’s in jeopardy.

At least Sherry’s Pies is still selling
homemade pastries and biscuits and gravy
for take-out, although no one is biting today.
With nothing open except the big sky above us,

we might as well head back to Missoula, leave Philipsburg
alone, but if I die here in Montana, far, far
from my hometown Atlantic’s blue swells, please
bury me here in Philipsburg with plenty of trinkets.

Inauguration Night

Tonight we stand ceremonial
on the front porch, give

our addresses to no one
but the January sky turned low

and each other, a crowd of two
gesturing toward a way to move

the future forward, the aging,
glass globe overhead

washing its subdued light
through the roots

of our historied hair. Poised
with that shouldered weight,

I consider asking her
for one dance to turn

this modest concrete slab
into a dizzying ballroom

if for only a moment
of swoon. But this night

concurs it is the speeches
I come for – both orator

and audience. No bunting.
No brass. No tuxedos. No press.

Just the vast, small space
love always occupies

when my feet trip over
the air, a rhetoric

for the ageless.
And she, still shadowed

in that makeshift
spotlight as we look out

across the lawn
and the black velvet

trees, punctuates
with her fist that luck

has nothing to do
with what we pledge

alone to our country
out here in the middle

of this alternative night,
where now I can’t remember

the stars, if they are here
bearing witness, except I feel

something breathing
down my neck, mistake

this January chill,
my breath pooling

toward her, as if wanting
to resemble some kind of warmth.

The coyotes begin to heckle
some kind of approval.

And so I’ll remember tonight
like politicians say they mean

forever, speechless
on our cavernous tongues,

before one of us
dares to inaugurate

eternity in the ballroom
of the other woman’s mouth.


I possessed two hands           that longed once to hold
her  let this elusive           white space on the page
be the body’s stand in         be the irrefutable
place of conclusive           vanishing  the morning’s
search party follows           always the blizzard’s blinding
white out  the body           frozen under flakes of ice
without swallowing           is just another form
of drowning  the body           flawless as it performs double
time  and it’s here           in the snow’s shackling
drift that she told me           in so few words
so many times where           I could find her  and so
it’s for reckoning I plead           for the restless chance that
the rescuers will break           their way through this snow globe
avalanche for the sake           of my reckless snow-bound hands.

© Sandra Yannone