Earth is a Fickle Dancer / Dane Cervine


Earth is a Fickle Dancer

poems by

Dane Cervine

ISBN: 978-1-59948-758-8, 100 pages, $15 (+ shipping)

Projected Release Date: September 26, 2019


Dane Cervine lives in Santa Cruz, California where he works as a therapist and is the emeritus Chief of Children’s Mental Health for the county. Among others, his work has appeared in The SUN, the Hudson Review, TriQuarterly, Poetry Flash, Catamaran, Miramar, Rattle, Sycamore Review, Pedestal Magazine, and have won awards from Adrienne Rich, Tony Hoagland, the Atlanta Review, Caesura, and been nominated for a Pushcart. His recent books include The Gateless Gate–Polishing the Moon Sword (Saddle Road Press), a cross-genre work of Zen koan & prose poems. Previous poetry books include Kung Fu of the Dark Father; How Therapists Dance; The Jeweled Net of Indra; and What a Father Dreams.

Dane Cervine is three things, all of which have to do with seeking: a Buddhist, a practitioner of silence and yoga, and a man who bares his world to the reader, always with the understanding that, as one Zen master said, Not-knowing is the most intimate. Cervine has a talent for opposites, one example being, beautifully, these lines: “this stranger, this new being/ is neither dolphin nor tiger,/neither slave nor what is free./ It is a road one must travel,/the body a bridge for it,/and there is no map. This/ is why I love my wife.” And, like a buzzard tearing at meat, he relishes every moment because in the end,” he says, it’s all so god-damned beautiful.” ~Lola Haskins, author of Desire Lines–New & Selected Poems


Dane Cervine is a poet of keen observation, conscience. What he has to say about the immediate world that surrounds us every day is important, and he has the craft, concision, and insight to say it well. His quiet, specific, and accurate appreciations of the natural world, its embedded ironies and transformations, reveal the spiritual contained within it, and within us. ~Christopher Buckley, author of Star Journal: Selected Poems


Dane Cervine is a seeker, exploring the human condition with intelligence and wit. In his poem, “Synchronicity,” he describes Carl Jung as “just another European yearning/to know the difference between crazy/& enlightened.” This is Cervine’s own quest as well as he, “thumb[s] the illustrated pages of …[his] own/enigmatic, cryptic/red book of the heart.” Earth Is a Fickle Dancer contains much wisdom, but it’s the “Not-knowing [that] is most intimate.” “So,” Cervine writes, “I settle into my chair on the back deck,/savor one bitter cheese/one smoky taste/at a time.” Good advice for reading these poems as well, savoring them one by one. ~Ellen Bass, author of Like a Beggar

Earth Is a Fickle Dancer

At the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco,
there is a fluid map of the world
where one can spin the silver toggle
with a finger, watch familiar continents
swim like fish round a globe
I thought reliable.

Once, a single vast ocean
we now call Panthalassa
surrounded the super-continent Pangea
in the southern hemisphere,
this restless Earth always moving,
tectonic plates cavorting:
the Americas thrown from Africa,
India a leaping dancer thrust
at the immovable body of the Himalayas,
the shifting floor between California
and the Appalachians flooded
with new seas.

Inch the dial one million years,
not much changes—a new isthmus here,
a new mountain there. But spin
the silver disk like the six-year old
who muscles his way in between
my torso and the luminous map
saying, Let me see! Let me see!
and the world reveals itself
as the Flamenco dancer it is:
the hem of her dress bunched
in hand like the Alps,
toe of her boot spinning
my leaden feet nimble,
oceans flooding into the breach
of Gibraltar with one blink
of her Mediterranean eyes.



Poisonwood Bible

As the story goes,
missionaries stumbled into Africa
with their medicines and Bibles to cure
what was wounded, only to find
a people who lacked nothing
because they had no conception of want.
Many having lost an arm
or an eye, a foot or a jaw,
or in whose family
an old man was dying,
or a child deformed—
even what went missing
was not another word
for tragedy, or sin.
It was just Life. This
is the story I tell
my friend Peter,
struggling after retirement
from years as a nurse where
every psychiatric emergency
and intensive care patient needed
him desperately. How
now to live with nothing to cure?

Perhaps my own leathered heart,
old knees, crooked mind –
a kind of heresy I’ll never fix,
can only love.



Sugar Skull

—Mexican Folk Art Tradition

I buy the painted skull in San Francisco’s Mission district,
adorned with flowers purple & blue,
pink & red. Large as the one still perched
atop my own skeleton, inside this cocoon
of rough skin.

I am drawn to this flagrant facsimile from Mexico,
a calavera to remind of my mortality,
to laugh at me from the skull’s eventual perch
on my desk. For now,

the dead seem to laugh everywhere alive
hovering over wild marigolds & bright-red cock’s combs
this Day of the Dead—voyeurs of the mole,
tortillas and breads still offered by vendors:

toys and candies for the spirits of children,
cigarettes and tequila for ghosts of the weary-aged.
To remember the glamor and the terror
of this skeletal life. This sugar skull,

its mystery a tiny sea along this shore
between ghost & human—filled with laughter
in the bright avenues, the dirty alleys,
hawkers offering wild marigolds in a bucket,
a last cigarette, a shot of mezcal
for the living.




There’s a pedophile
registered and relocated
on a quiet street somewhere
in Santa Cruz. My son Gabe,
twenty-two years of pathos
in his veins, knows
where the man lives.
Has burned the contours
of the man’s massive
big-wheeled truck
in his mind,
the contorted tattoos,
the silent threat
of the man
into prayers
my son deposits
in rainwater collected
in a white plastic bucket
he’s placed in our backyard
on a round stepping-stone
etched with a swirling wheel of Dao.

But at the bottom of the white
plastic bucket, glimmering
in liquid prayer, is a red brick—
a literal thing he’s simmering with rage
to see if he might one day
throw the weight of its metaphor
through the window of the man’s
truck, just to let him know
someone is watching.

For now, atop the brick
he’s placed a pair of my old brass
reading glasses submerged in the water
like a talisman: a blessing, a bit of voodoo,
to say I see you. This
dark thing of the world.

SKU: 978-1-59948-758-8 Categories: , Tag: