Artwork for Jessie Janeshek's poems

Three Poems
Jessie Janeshek

Differentiated Superstition

Tricks detonate.
                             You build a tank        say it’s confusing
               when the rapist has pupils                  shaped like a snake.

                             I wake up with hope     (hearse songs help you heal)
in the boughs of the house.

                                                            Autonomy how
                             no thick eyelashes            a blood-stained mattress
                                            red-studded cups.

                                                                         The second wave of cicadas
                                            devalued the mushrooms        the cub locked and loaded.
                                                            Sisters dying their blonde black
                             sat at the autoharp           shredded me in
                                            said how he said              from under the mask
                                                                 think about orange lips
                                            your seaside scent burning.

                                                            I said I meant midnight
                             my cat so tight        under my plaid skirt                      I couldn’t piss.
                                                            I wish I loved time enough
                             to wake up and confront it        and stretch it exquisite                                             and incriminate. The lion didn’t make it

                                                            but fill me in on how you claim
                                                            you cool the abrasions
                                                            in my soft white insides.

~ ~ ~

It Could Be a Hoarse Exaggeration

               but not too much of one
torture               environment               loyalty               pleasure
               and 14 Texans               killing moon dead
a tiger-striped bride.
                                             The black-water menu
                             the spirograph steps       are so sweet and loving       I might drop the baby
but we’ll wake up eventually               w/ the tin donkey          the fox hiding its head.
                                             You’ll say want a bloodbath story
                                                          and hurry before                     all treats are gone.

                                                                            The girls go to the dance
                                             crossing the ballfield                    in long lacy wounds
                                                          tetanus           and thick heels           and Peter Pan collars
                                             understanding my struggle        is part and parcel
                                                          since it’s like being drugged
                             no desire for sex        and there are deaf cats        dumb underwires
                                                          no health anywhere

                                                                                                       since the summer descends
                                                                          like an alien ship
                                            no food for six days.          Your wife runs away
                                                          since my patterned stockings weave some magic around you
                                                                          and I squat to pee
                                                          bangs blunt and French              on your canopied bed
                                                                          and I wear my skull necklace
                                                          and then you run away              without seeing me.

~ ~ ~

Close-up Nocturnal

Right there. Turn your head. You will not cry
               with joy or shame

                                                                      watching the rabbit
                                                                      die to the side
               of the stunt girl’s hairy back.
                                                                      The stunt girl’s name is Key
                                                                      her gun glowing green.
               Her brain is too small
                                                                      and she does nothing
                              for your toyshadow                   the luxury
                              of your sweet infertility.
                                                                      Cicadas fly limply at night
                                                                      they’ve lost all sense of time

                                             The murderess was young once
her hips growing bigger             dive-bombing sex             with every existence.
                              The sun doesn’t penetrate             the chartreuse lagoon
the grass widow’s war wound             the low burn of complicity.

                                             You tire of black exoskeletons
                              want your hair white                 like Judy Jetson’s.
Your long sleep is denial             in the nymph stage
                              a weak heart                a bad cough
a Jean Harlow death double.
                                                          The sun is an animal.
                                                          and what can it mean
                                                          when you exit the crime scene untouched?

Jessie Janeshek’s Comments

I’m ardently interested in nostalgia in general and pre-code Hollywood in particular; my first book, Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010), was very much “about” this.

Because I felt like I’d already done a pre-code Hollywood book, I didn’t let that stuff in my work for a while. Summer 2016 was the first time I allowed myself to revisit that era. I reread several of my favorite books on the period, including Mick LaSalle’s Complicated Women and bios of Harlow and Crawford and started to let some of what I was absorbing trickle back into my poems. Rereading the poems, I realize that’s probably not even apparent.

Simultaneously, I was nostalgic for the time (2007–2010) when I wrote the first batch of starlet poems; I always see past times in my life as gentler than the present whether that’s true or not. So these poems are kind of personal nostalgia heaped on cultural nostalgia, if that makes any sense.

The other thing going on at the time I was writing these was the Brock Turner rape case, which incensed me and still does. I hate that dude and the systematic white male privilege he represents. So these poems are sad in that way, too, as they attempt to explore the mindscape of victims (not the young woman whom Turner assaulted, but victims in a more general sense), which is why I submitted them to be considered for the Shame Issue.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 48 | The Shame Issue | Spring/Summer 2016