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Why SHINE (Lynne Burnett) is on Arc’s Shortlist

Comments by Lise Rochefort

The language in “SHINE” both illuminates and scorches as it deals with a subject matter rarely treated in contemporary poetry: sex between consenting seniors. With deft craft and subtle wordplay, the poem’s tight tercets shine a searing light on the complexities of human relationships. Hesitation gives way to lust and in the building tension of the light of day, questions whether it will withstand the betrayals of memory and grief. Brilliant!


Weeks of maybe, before they sleep together
in his house, his bed—a clumsy affair
giving their bodies back forgotten parts

until their mouths simply open to the salt-
lick of skin, tongues carving initials
along spread limbs. Wherever it finds us,

rapture’s face nudges the deepest bulb
to claim its sky. A mending here—the clotted
heart on fire with beautiful, beautiful,

not thinking of the intense heat and light
it throws, the shadows sure to creep from dark
caves, intent on apprehending it. She wakes to

find him staring out the living room window.
It’s the first spring since his wife’s ashes
were scattered over the June-bright garden

and daffodils she’d planted nod across,
trumpeting the sun and the hour. Touch
his shoulder now—and suffer the blade

of a body stiffening, straightening,
as if last night’s shine had stuck
a suddenly dangerous foot in the door.



Lynne Burnett won the 2016 Lauren K. Alleyne Difficult Fruit Poetry Prize. Recent publications include River Styx, Comstock Review, and Taos Journal of Poetry & Art. Finishing Line Press published her chapbook Irresistible in March 2018.