A Poem by Charles Jensen

Charles Jensen

Charles Jensen

Charles Jensen is the author of SPLICE OF LIFE: A MEMOIR IN 13 FILM GENRES, forthcoming in May 2024; three collections of poetry, most recently INSTRUCTIONS BETWEEN TAKEOFF AND LANDING; and seven chapbooks. His work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Crab Orchard Review, The Journal, New England Review, and Prairie Schooner, and the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs designated him a 2019-2020 Cultural Trailblazer. He hosts The Write Process, a podcast in which one writer tells the story of crafting one work from concept to completion. He lives in Long Beach, California.

Birthday Quake

“A magnitude 4.0 earthquake was reported at 4:44 a.m. Monday near Inglewood.” 

Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2021

Here in SoCal,
we speak Richter.
Know a 4.0
even on the day
I turned 44. 
The bed shimmied
me awake at 4:44.
Coincidence has meaning
if we try. The way
“cake” and “quake” 
rhyme like major
chords. Happy
birthday to me, 
half-awake, holding
the bed as a framed
photo pratfalled
on its shelf. 
I slice open the day
too soon as if
the faults beneath me
and the faults within me
made a pact:
sleepless mind,
sleepless body,
one way or another.
Nothing’s broken,
a small kindness
from the angry gods
deep beneath
the surface of this
gumball spiralling,
shaking, shimmering
toward an end
I hope I never see.