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Jessica Lanay 
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A Poem About Loneliness

This is a poem about loneliness,
it is a self-conscious poem,
a stomping through space poem,
with not an ounce of poetic subtlety.
I am not a poet who is good
at burlesque, at gradually slipping
off veils that billow seductively
at some truth revealed, some secret—
this is not a secret, not a valve,
that palpitates and closes, not a nervy cervix;
I mean to hold up loneliness as one
does a snow globe, a bit of miniature
kitsch, swirling in a silvery patina, a tear
of craft glitter stuck on the white of the eye,
which you will try to rub away, but simply
enough, I am lonely, like a mirror facing a white wall,
or the snow globe with the tiny city inside,
but cracked, leaking baby oil, left to seep,
and what about it—This feeling, weeping
into the niches of everything—
since this is a self-conscious poem,
without any ending punctuation, only
prepositions and commas, it is also selfish,
and puts off deep breath, and there—
just there is the trick, if this poem,
which stomps, with no subtlety,
makes you feel as if you have to gasp,
then my job is done, and hopefully
you have had a second of loneliness too,
the kind where your heart syncopates
to a spinning fan in a dark room,
and now, I feel a little less lonely,
because you’ve met me here, in a spot
I cannot measure.

 

 

Dream Pastoral with Bull

My plow is spotted with rust
from the rain. I hitch it to my hips,
bow my head, and set to splitting
the tight earth. I do this
until the golden horns of sunset
bow to meet my common horns.

Then stumble—weak—muscles
squirming, not towards the wild garden
by the newly filled creek, but to the dark
barn. I stuff myself with dry grain,
fall into the throat of exhaustion,
sleep there. Then I dream; I dream
of my plow.

My Father says, “You are made for this,
made for hard work. You will never want.”
But, oh, I want. I do want. I do not dream
of the apples there grapes there blue corn
there fresh water there I will not drink.

I hear a bird pulsing or maybe it is a woman
screaming—either a bird that sounds
like a loud clock or a woman screaming.
The green pasture hides what seems to be a fact
of nature. Tomorrow, I will return to the plow.

The plow handles, made of wood, split and slide
into the skin of my hand. I sweat down my flank.
Foaming at the lip, and at the bit—with want—

as I push the plow that is a rifle that is the plow
that is a rifle that is the plow that is a rifle
that is the plow that I suddenly want
to turn on myself.

 

 

And Then There’s

I.
After I left you—
(the punctured bathroom door, the caved bookshelf)
the silence tufted    sea urchins
in all the corners of my room—
you run down the wall—
mouse up the clock—
or your name shouted
into the dust, an imprint
on the wall—mouse down the clock—

2.
In a hard bed with polyester sheets,
I tell a lover, who I fuck, once
a year, about the universe:
I say, imagine a bookshelf
is the universe, I say,
with three books, each book
is a different time, now
put your ear on one side, now
knock against the other side.

Were you in between, could you hear me?

3.
Thinking of you—a hammer slapping
in an empty gun—all the light
in our room looks like something wasted,
lying spine to spine, shelved things;
you aren’t him,
but I fucked him longer—loved
him a third as much.

4.
Feeling like a leathery sea
creature—beached with mouth
facing a monsoon ocean, falling apart
in tufts of quiet, seagulls hungry.

5.
He says it was like a dream, tilting
back my head, finding clusters of purple
nail marks from you—he grabs me
there, tries his fingers—
they aren’t long enough or big enough.

6.
He does not mind when I say
your name, this is why it works.

I go in public with a bruised
mouth, drag my shame through a town

no higher than a steeple,
wearing men’s boots—keening,

trying to rip up quiet
like an old phone bill.

7.
Once a girl put seaweed in her mouth and mine,
told me it lets us breath under water, I tried,
and when I almost drowned she said,
you are not that goddess.

The air inside of me is not phototropic.

8.
I dream of swimming
for too long, too far,
I wake in the night—finding
I am falling from mid-air.


JESSICA LANAY is a poet, short fiction, and art writer. Her work focuses on architectures of interiority, escapism, history of psychoanalysis, and southern culture. Her poetry has appeared in Sugar House Review, Fugue, THE COMMON, Indiana Review, and others. She has work forthcoming in Prairie Schooner. Her short fiction was most recently published in Tahoma Literary Review and Black Candies. A short autobiographical essay was also published in Salt Hill Journal. Her writing can be found BOMB and ArtSlant. She is a Callaloo, Cave Canem, and Kimbilio Fellow; she is also a 2018 Millay Colony Residency recipient.


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