We're launching the BillyBlog-Tattoosday National Poetry Month project with the following poem by Jill Alexander Essbaum:
She Was Driven By a Thousand Desires, a Few of Them, Decent
She was easier done than said.
She was oftener sad than sunny.
If she dealt a round of rummy,
It was simply for the gin.
And she let everyone win.
And she led everybody on.
She was on every body like hide on a hog.
Her climate a hybrid of chaos and fog.
She measured her weathers in knots and lunar spools.
And whether or not you wooed her,
She’d swoon. She mooned for the scrub
Of many tongues and manly tamps.
Lovers with archer’s arms and matador hands.
(She landed doormats and saps.)
She meant no harm. She hummed no tune.
But O, what blues she succumbed to.
And O, those fools she would run to.
Hers, a strong will, but a very weak won’t.
A cog in the wheel of every damn want.
And wherever she went she got caught,
Caught cold. She grew old, old, old.
And she groaned. And she grinded.
(Nobody minded.) The bone
Of her heart never mended its break.
Her boat sprung a leak in the lake of Too Late.
She chased what she craved. It left her winded.
Her grave was left untended.
The poem originally appeared in the online journal No Tell Motel, an awesome site that features incredible work by some phenomenal poets.
Jill Alexander Essbaum is the author of the No Tell Books published, Harlot, and most recently, Necropolis (NeoNuma Arts, 2008).
"She was driven by a thousand desires, a few of them decent" may not have anything to do with tattoos, but the poet does. Go see her ink over on Tattoosday here.You can also read more of her work here.
Update: It's a long story, but Jill goes with Jessica Piazza on this post. If you head over to Tattoosday, you'll see why.
What I Hold
by JESSICA PIAZZA
A glint—an intimation of what gleams.
Just the incidentals; nothing grand
in pomegranates, Coney Island, reams of
of new newspapers hitting dawn—dark stands.
The birds I hear don't sound like opera, not
like flutes or piccolos at play. They sound
like birds. Sometimes the birds are all I've got.
There's nothing grand but wakefulness, the ground
I jump from; nothing but the shining air
which might be a light left on for me. A glow
that may be small, but bright and worthy of care.
I pity the fragile, but I still forgo
the sturdy cup and choose the demitasse.
Whatever's in my grip, it's made of glass.
Whatever's in my grip, it's made of glass—
blown promises, assurance that forged skin
will harden, change to something that might pass
for beautiful. But though I know that in—
side every crafted sphere there is just air,
I cannot love the space between the words,
can find no pleasure in the silence there.
And if the point is trusting what's unheard—
how every stop, in time, will yield a sound—
the shape I seek is not one I create.
Thorns twist around themselves to form a crown;
they frame an emptiness we'll consecrate.
Without the skips, the beat would not exist.
My hand grasps nothing and still forms a fist.
My hand grasps nothing and still forms a fist
for me to rest my heart against. There's doubt
in everything but what I own: the trysts
I thought were trusts are minor—they amount
to nothing but a blink over the lifetime of the eye.
When subject fails to add up, there's the sum
of my own fingers, vanities, the way
the body shows me just what's mine: the run
of timid freckles sprinting down an arm,
a clavicle to climb, the bones that hold
my weight despite themselves, despite the harm
I've caused. And every story I've been told
is hidden in my spine, a refugee.
Worry my backbone like a rosary.
Worry. My backbone, like a rosary,
cannot withstand the press of all this faith.
I've wrapped myself around the things I see
so tightly that my stories feel like breath—
beholden to them, I inhale their rich
minutiae desperately, but when I let
them out they have been changed. This is a switch
that stripes my best attempts. I need to get
perspective now, and so, unusual
as it may seem, I'll stop to look outside
these lines; to ask if it is sin to pull
myself away from this, or prayer to ride
the story out. But who will answer me?
I'm not a girl who has epiphanies.
I'm not a girl who has epiphanies,
but once one happened, waiting for a light
to change. An ancient woman raised a weak
gnarled fist to tap my window just as night
pressed on. I lowered it. She spoke—a voice
as thick and cumbersome as wool. My feet,
she said, I can't get home. I had a choice,
but I said no. And she went down the street,
the queue of cars…they all said no, and no
and no. I knew this damage was my own;
I had been taught such fears. I knew. And so?
Perhaps I changed my mind and drove her home.
And maybe to this day that choice still seems
like a hint, a minute's inkling of what gleams.
Jessica Piazza is Founding Editor of Bat City Review and Co-Founder of the Speakeasy Poetry Series in New York City. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, she is currently pursuing a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. Among other places, her poems have appeared in AGNI, Indiana Review, No Tell Motel, and Pebble Lake Review.
Thanks again to Jessica and Jill for participating in this National Poetry Month project!