all that i left at water’s edge
the lie of unspoken truth

the truth of unspoken lie
the pulse of breath

the sound beneath all silence
this is my meditation.

• • • •

Public Art:
Bainbridge Arts & Humanities Council, Poetry Corners, 2006
Photo of public art poem “yuugen”

winter’s approach

if i could read the grains of sand
on just one beach
i would know the prayer songs
of sweet salt breezes
the hidden truth of tidepools;
i would know everything & nothing.

asleep on the couch
your dreams flutter
escape to the roof next door;
i wonder if they too watch
the exquisite death of rose petals
falling to the ground.

surrounded by your quiet slumber
i forget the frailty
of this moment & the next;
doors that stick in winter,
unanswered mail,
the mourning of dahlias
ruined by first frost,
hobbled by the cold
like bones.

• • • •

Published in Green Hills Literary Lantern, Volume XVII (2006)
Photo by Magyber Miranda on Unsplash

solitary blues

your hopes are a standing pond at glade’s edge
feathered blues     a solitary heron
your wishes     pennies tossed with abandon
tarnished     embedded
across rain-slick roads your dreams wend their way
away from this chosen paradise     far from these trees
holding dew     like tears
ready to spill

• • • •

Public Art:
Bainbridge Arts & Humanities Council, Ferry Terminal Walkway Installation, 2005 thru 2007
Photo of public art poem “solitary blues”


a routine check   six to nine months   
lesson in the velocity of stage four cells

the sudden gravity of it thrusts you into the pilot’s seat
navigating crosswinds   struggling to keep him aloft. 

ten years ago it was you facing a storm front   
pulling out of a nosedive, earning your wings. 
milagro the doctors called you.

       death is proud and holds a grudge. 

cabin pressure drops    the engines roar beneath you   
maybe we’ll beat this.

       there’s not always time to file a new flight plan.

the pills make his angular face a soft circle of moon
the chemo takes his hair 

you see him still as your love at 19, laying in st augustine grass,
writing names in the clouds 
guessing destinations of planes above. 

       how swiftly can a jet fall from the sky? 

you hold on   anticipate the moment tires hit runway   
the bounce   the screech. 

now you worry: 
how long before his face disappears 

• • • •

To be published in The Loch Raven Review, April 2021
Photo by Leio McLaren (leiomclaren.com) on Unsplash

i would rather write about peace

it’s far too cold for wandering alone without a coat,
just harsh enough to stay at the window looking out,
hand pressed against the pane.

the streets are full of strangers carrying burdens
no one can guess. there are no replacement parts left;
i see it in their faces.

(some days i don’t fret so much about nuts and bolts,
planned obsolescence; other days this machine
of flesh won’t let me forget.)

once you’ve left the house there’s no turning back.
it doesn’t matter that you have a spare key,
that’s not what will save you.

curl up like a beggar sheltered in the church vestibule,
but leave your faith behind; you’ll find time enough
come morning to believe.

those bruises; they’re not from sleeping on concrete
or fists against skin. you got them from the soft places
where you thought you were safe.

it’s ok to make plans if they ease you, just know:
traffic alerts are meaningless, love is homeopathic
and fear is musky like pheromones.

as long as the bombs land somewhere else, we’re free.

• • • •

Semifinalist, New Millennium Writings Contest #18, 2004
Honorable Mention, New Millennium Writings Contest XX, 2006-7
Published in Green Hills Literary Lantern, Volume XVII, 2006
Published in Magee Park Anthology, 2006
Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

ash tuesday

         a truncated sestina

cleansed at last of burial ash 
you return to tell of angels falling from the sky
the fire where you lost yourself as day turned to night
in brittle madness
streets brushed with unspeakable dust clouds   embers
burning the city silent 

how your subway car suddenly shuddered silent
the ground above heaving as towers fell to ash.
trapped below, none of you knew. only embers
of wild confusion igniting distrust.    even there, with no sky
you tasted the coming madness
humanity’s dark night.

you helped a pregnant woman to the street like night
joined the tide of muffled footsteps, silent
exodus across the bridge    toward what? this madness
knows no borders.   eyes burning with tears and ash
you walked blind   9am daylight wiped clean from the sky
dawn of a new era hissing like embers.

back turned on a vision once sought, embers
of love swath the night 
like neon in the sky 
rain down in silent
questions: what was true, what was ash.

         on the third anniversary of 9/11

• • • •

Published in Anti-Heroin Chic, February 2021
Photo by Jeffrey Blum on Unsplash


 it is not the jewish people who carry the ark,
but the ark that carries the jewish people.
— bamidbar rabbah 4:20 

beyond the gates of faith we wandered,
infinite horizon before us, 
the taste of unleavened dreams
on our lips; our lives mishkan.

we bear more than tales of pharaohs and prophets,
absolution granted at the altar of sacrifice.
the sight of ash falling like snowflakes
the stench of hatred carved into our skin

the miracle of faith is not contained in structures.
the times of man find us nearly spent. we tear 
at the veil of injustice, find our way past reason
discover imperfection is our salvation.

keepers of the sacred scrolls, our history is our future.
we gather in sorrow or celebration, temples built, 
destroyed and built again; inner chambers of our forebears, 
holy thresholds we prepare, we swear tikkun olam.

our prayers seed this valley, resound from the mountains 
we answer the call to build a new home — not from ruins,
but promise, our many hands one hand of God, 
the sacred breathed into each stone, beam, window and tile.

the beauty of this place is the beauty of our hearts; 
how far we have come. 
in our shoes grains of sand remain
lest we forget.

hear, O Israel, we have found makom.

• • • •

makom: place
mishkan: temporary structure
tikkun olam: repair of the world

Commissioned by Temple Emek Shalom, Ashland, Oregon, 2002
Learn more…
Photo of public art poem “makom”

circular breathing

there are only moments now
when illness is forgotten
when the woman i once was 
returns to my skin
and a trick of imagination
sees me sprint to the corner
in time for the light
hike the trail up cowles mountain

she is the phantom
this is my grief
this siren in the shadows
teasing dreams of muscles
warm and limber
stretching the truth of expectation
twisted recompense
late spring.

only she knows
how rest comes when sleep will not
how i follow my breath
its circular motion
draw stillness
from the hummingbird’s flight

how i stumble toward grace
offer prayers     give thanks
wait     for moments rich
with forgetting

• • • •

Published in The Comstock Review, Fall/Winter Awards Issue, 2002
Photo by Mark Olsen on Unsplash

scholar in residence

August found me traveling to Ashland, Oregon, as Scholar in Residence for The People of the Book Series, sponsored by Temple Emek Shalom. My program touched on the integral relationship between politics and art, how poets stand as witness, and how this informs my own process. i shared poems of Denise Levertov, Carolyn Forché, Langston Hughes and Gil Scott Heron, finally reading a few of my own works available in a handmade, limited-edition book of selected poems produced for the event. Here are the comments of one attendee:

“As a member of the acting company of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, I have spent many years performing the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare. Thus I have fairly high expectations when attending literary events. When I attended Cheryl Latif’s reading of her recent work, I was not disappointed.

“Cheryl’s poetry was enlightening and moving. I enjoyed hearing about her sources of inspiration and how she sees the place of the poet in our social fabric. The idea of poet as witness resonated with me, as I believe that is an important aspect of the work of artists in our culture: to be witnesses for social issues and the emotions that accompany our passions.

“I was particularly moved by her poem, Makom, which speaks to the importance of ‘place.’ “…the beauty of this place is the beauty of our hearts……” is an example of the evocative imagery with which I connected. This poem made me feel at home. To have someone be so articulate while reading her inspiring work was very moving to me, and a lovely way to spend an afternoon.”

Catherine E. Coulson
Actor, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

star lilies

soil still between your fingers, you lead me through the garden. it is early
morning. crisp air and the fragrance of your favorite blooms stir my
senses. we speak in metaphor, seduced by words left to interpretation.
you cut me star lilies and freesia. you want your magic to linger.

i invite you in. find vases. watch the sun play on your hands, now clean,
as you lovingly arrange garden gifts. a bud opens as if delighted to be in
this small upstairs apartment.

you know the face of my passion, trace the fine lines of my longing with fingers
experienced in coaxing flowers to bloom.

content to linger in transitory moments, we play under the arc of laden boughs,
pretend there is permanence in the mere curve of letters, cut flowers, a kiss.

beyond the well-tended beds of your garden, winding paths lead to
the question you turn from. we lose our way. i return home knowing
you will not follow.

upstairs, the star lilies. their fragrant flesh becoming translucent.
soon petals will fall, one by one.

• • • •

Published in New Millennium Writings, Winter 2000-01
Photo by james garland on Unsplash