In the Corner of the Living \ Janine Certo


poems by

Janine Certo

ISBN: 978-1-59948-645-1, 72 pages, $14

Release Date: November 21, 2017

JCerto_PxJanine Certo grew up in Pittsburgh. She received graduate degrees from the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University. Her poetry has appeared in Alimentum, Cider Press Review, Crab Orchard Review, Emrys Journal, Italian Americana, Third Wednesday, Pittsburgh Poetry Review and elsewhere.  She is an associate professor at Michigan State University’s College of Education where she teaches writing, literacy and poetry courses. She lives in East Lansing, Michigan with her husband and dog. In the Corner of the Living, which was a runner-up in the 2017 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, is her first poetry collection.

One of the most sacred duties of the poet is to shine a light on what’s important in our fleeting, momentary lives—because what’s important is most often hiding in the margins, in the corners. We need help seeing the ridiculous red purse in a lap in a wheelchair in a museum, the pitch black in the recesses of pine needles, the painted cornflowers facing a wall. In her fine first collection, Janine Certo is there to give us that help, to show us what matters before it’s too late. —Dan Albergotti, author of Millennial Teeth

In “One Life Burning,” Janine Certo asks, “What is it like to live your one life / burning?” In the Corner of the Living invites readers into such fully embodied living, with beauty and pain as tinder. These poems ache with longing and loss, yet resonate with a resilience rooted in love, empathy, and awe. Like the laughter in “The Whip-O-Whirl” or the last tomato in “Heirloom,” you’ll want to savor each sensation, each connection these poems offer. –Wendy DeGroat

In Janine Certo’s In the Corner of the Living, there’s no bombast, no hyperbole—only intelligence, craft, economy and compassion ranging from her father’s disease to a fallen bird. Here are spare incisive poems that deserve our attention. —marge piercy



I study my father across the gallery
in his wheelchair, bald head angled up,
swaying under eight by eight feet
of psychedelic blues and living greens.
I once read that water lilies are always
hungry, and suddenly I picture them
voraciously pulling him into the pond,
his morphine pump loosened
and drifting away, his body turning,
nerves finally cooled. Blossoms
cover his skin, their petals cocoon him.
Then my father wheels his chair
around, his face shocked with light.
He’s searching for me, water in his eyes,
my red purse ridiculous on his lap.




In the restaurant housing, we slipped
on aprons—their bibs branded
with claws, each one pointing its finger.
A line snaked outside the door. Clowns
twisted balloons while we served
sautés and bisque, imperial and cake.

Long after, we clutched neon tumblers,
toked on a passed bottle. I sweet-talked
the night guard so we could sit on the same
cement where we toiled, felt
somehow authorized to the Key
lime pie, the still warm bin of rolls.

We ran to a black ocean, the beach
dotted with side-walkers, flickering
blue carapace, antennae and eye,
not minding them for our drunkenness,
amassing them in bucket. We broke
into the apartment of the boys who lived

above us, still out for the evening. One by one,
we arced the crustaceans, sand-dredged,
into their shower. Only to be wakened
later to a rage. The boys pounded
our door, shattered our window.
We heard a tic and scurry on our floor.

The next morning, the sadness of the animals’
confusion, drifting past table legs
on an unknown coast. It was the year
we saw the Ferris wheel on fire—
spokes churning the thick air, casting
a glow on the castles, the castles to sky.

I remember how we poured them all back to the sea;
how I saved not one cent that summer;
how I drove a car in the wrong lane.




Inside the estate sale, two women gossip over
Corningware, handling towels, clanking bowls.
Someone haggles over a price of a print, a chip
in its frame. A teen grunts at the portraits:

What would a person do with these? The woman
who lived here owned an Italian rose espresso set,
collected ceramic rabbits. Yesterday,
a tiny rabbit head—bloodied—pitched face up

on our sidewalk. A cat had bitten it off
for no good reason other than to take,
while other rabbits make new nests
of grasses, furs, trash. April tricks us this way.

Fertility and late parties sit next door
to those who did not make it to spring.
We are certain only of shifting greens, grabbing
for the one thing that says I was here:

a linen fingertip towel, a set of Thai rice bowls,
that small engraved creamer, for Lucy. A door slams,
a neighbor predicts the home will sell fast.
A woman cackles in the corner of the living room,

reconsidering a teapot she put back in the wrong place,
its cornflowers facing the wall.

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