Literary Arts | READ LOCAL First

Jennifer Tonge: CATAFALQUE & seven syllabic acrostics

Photo by Paisley Rekdal.

READ LOCAL First represents Utah’s most comprehensive collection of celebrated and promising writers of fiction, poetry, literary nonfiction, and memoir. This week we bring you poet Jennifer Tonge. Tonge resides in Salt Lake City and earned an MFA at the University of Utah. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and, most recently, as part of the Visible Poetry Project.

We begin with Jennifer’s poem, CATAFALQUE, which originally appeared in the New England Review. This poem is followed by a series of syllabic acrostics in which the Turkish name of the title fruit runs down the poem’s left margin. Tonge came up with the idea from the fruit she ate in Turkey while living there. The poems are featured on Zoetic Press’s podcast The Literary Whip



Stone and twig and chip,

the world we walk

immediate, sharp-edged.

She is going,

as the leaves are going

copper, going red.

This beautiful fall,

like any fall,

a pyre.


This high basin,

brimmed with mountains.

Deer come down

to the avenues,

in the summer

the gulls come in

to the inland sea.

The sky’s come down

to the mountains

this year; the aspen

-leaves strike it,

the bone-like trunks

of the birch

are stark against it.

The air is like glass,

it makes everything

crisp and near.


When I go to the foothills,

I look out at the basin;

when I go to the basin,

I look back at the mountains.

The old conundrum,

a tether at either end.

I stand looking into

a maple tree:

This yellow has pushed

through yellow, pushed

through gold,

is on its way

into another realm,

where it will find

or be waiting for her.



A moment of renunciation—the world

Recedes beneath the sudden flush, gilt with lutes’

Minstrel notes. Each one flickers its tart edges,

Undone by that whispering sweet, the same sly

Tantalus that made you reach, that made you bite.



If you would know me, you must break my skin—see, it’s bruised

Nearly black with readiness. It will just tauten, then

Cleave and show my many constellations. Don’t grimace;

Injury is part of every union. You want my

Ruddy pulp; you can’t get it without using your teeth.



Khan’s favorite, from plateaus poised like cool hands

Above fevered plains, rough-skinned site of his most

Verdant longing; you think you know your own, but

Under your hand it is changing—not a globe,

Now you’ve opened it. Hollow without its seeds—



Keep to yourself your secret,

absolute as ice. Should you

yearn to tell, recall only

in that unchaste split-second

surrendering the last time—how

it took forever the tree—



See if you can do this cleanly: the cleft velvet

Envelopes—no, purses—unimaginable

Fullness; it will gush at your bite, it will drench you.

Think this hyperbole in what words you choose, staid

Adam reaching, then know it in the flesh: it is

Luscious beyond recall. But, you think, this region

Is famed also for its baths and its thick, thick towels.




is such a


net, it can’t

ever hold.



Ever the beloved: first-fruit

rich on the altar, soft landing

in lap. Ever luscious, ever sere.

Killingly do we covet it.



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