a poetry e-zine










Poems By Jeffrey Saperstein

Under Water



The first time I went under

was at sleepaway camp,

the first time I was parentless,

in a place without streets or stores

or anyone I knew.


I stood on the sagging catwalk

swaying with the lake’s flow,

holding tight to slick ropes.

Looking into its slate surface,

I could see a boy on a train

sent miles deep through a tunnel

past stations he could not name.

Then I was that boy,

pushed from behind,

splayed out mid-air, without purchase,

and going in.


You pierce the crust, drop fast.

The sounds of the others

choked off.  A pressure

clamps your eyes.  Tendrils wisp

at your feet. The viscous waters

coat your skin,    hold you still-

born, suspended, drowned until

            a column of lake

            suctions you up

            sends you back

            to the light of the platform

            and the treacherous, reaching arms.






The day before,

tubed up to the machines,

Dad was still working those puzzles.

Still quick and sharp,

he peered through bi-focals

worn low down on his nose,

filling in the boxes

in his firm and flowing hand,

all those words still humming

through the circuits of his brain--

the synonyms and idioms,

the puns and proper names.

His fingers still retained

their tensile strength--

bold, clear letters never straying

outside the grid.

But he couldn’t beat that puzzle

underneath the flesh--

the clues indecipherable,                                   

            the answers obscure, the dark spaces

tightening and closing in.



Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Jeff Saperstein has been teaching English at Radford University in southwestern Virginia since 1985.  Some of my work has appeared in "The Deronda Review," "The Sow's Ear," "Ibbetson Street Press," and "Chantarelle's Notebook." 

Copyright 2010  Chantarelle's Notebook