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POETRY
When I am Not Joan of Arc, or You Bring Me a Bowl of Green & Purple Olives
Jennifer Givhan
Writer of the Month

 Photo by Shutter Runner

Photo by Shutter Runner

I am made for our own goddamn kitchen     
            I’ve wrecked us &
cannot light the stove      pilot out

& clicking      box of casino matches     
            my hands juddering       Sometimes you carry
watermelon      not gently      not

to protect it      not like a baby      & when
            you slice I’m aware of the tattoo
you’ve sharpied on your forearm      numbers

of blood sugar levels      correct doses
            of Clozapine & patient names      
I need this care      the candles you light     

my hair caught in the flame      remember
            our first unholy apartment      
we watched      another girl like me

learning to fly       We thought
            she was learning to fall      
That ledge      remember       My novice hope

in tarot      my resolve     in history      in 1867     
            a French pharmacist claiming
five stoppered bottles contained

the charred bones of my teenage saint      remains
            of my maiden       You held
my hand as the Catholic church accepted                                                   

but the bottles were misplaced
            they were shelved     until a forensic scientist
unpinned them from legend

& tested their promise       If I were
            the scientist with my white coat & clipboard
I would have done the same      

You’ve assured me I’ve ruined myself
            with a need for proof       A human rib      a small
leg bone      not human       Lord      that cat’s broken

femur tarred black       The bones couldn’t have been
            merely burned       The scientist found
bitumen      pinewood resin      gypsum      

Embalming       They were mummy bones      
            Not my sainted girl     
schizophrenic heroine     but a hoax      

I nearly cried when I heard this       
            Remember       You had to stop me
from excavating my own bones     

I wasn’t always a nonbeliever      Remember
            how I wanted the bones
to belong      to the dead girl     

 

 

(First appeared in Fairy Tale Review (Charcoal Issue))


Jennifer Givhan is a Mexican-American writer and activist from the Southwestern desert and  the author of three full-length poetry collections: Landscape with Headless Mama (2015 Pleiades Editors’ Prize), Protection Spell (2016 Miller Williams Poetry Prize Series), and Girl with Death Mask (2017 Blue Light Books Prize). Her honors include a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices fellowship, the Frost Place Latin@ scholarship, a National Latino Writers’ Conference scholarship, the Lascaux Review Poetry Prize, Phoebe Journal’s Greg Grummer Poetry Prize, and the Pinch Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in Best of the Net, Best New Poets, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Ploughshares, POETRY, TriQuarterly, Boston Review, AGNI, Crazyhorse, Witness, Southern Humanities Review, Missouri Review, and The Kenyon Review. She is editor-in-chief of Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and teaches at The Poetry Barn and Western New Mexico University. www.jennifergivhan.com