Dust Up

The stakes here
are very high; 
let me begin

by giving
agency to the
smallest thing.

The dust is
easy enough
to discuss;

after all
it's made
of shed skin

and the snake,
he’s fucked me
again with forked

tongue whispering
Please, someone
get this woman

a dick. Dear, I
have one everywhere
I look: my mass-

produced lamp,
warm bulb
glowing usefully

on my desk
and, Oh,
fat neck

I hold embarrassed
of the guitar
I never learned

to play. I've broken
every promise
I've ever made

to myself, it's
a shame, too
lame to fix

a popped string—
Would it be self-
indulgent to sing

I want to be
what's working?

Not a contrived

device with which
a word stands
only close to

a thing— merely
evocative of something
you felt once

in a wet dream—
but Truth I
personify here

as a She wondering
How does she
look? Something like

she who wields
the scales of
justice, blindfolded

so she can't see
you trying to peek
under her robes—

thighs of stone, hard
to penetrate
as the Sphinx

with her riddle
you think you
have the answer to.


The Gift

He found a flat,
brown, heart-shaped
stone, drew

in red a smaller
heart within
the larger, scribbled

I love you. It must
have once belonged
to some other

rock, chipped off
by time, which worked
to smooth it down

to what had to be
used for confession
when found on the beach

instilled with our knowledge
of hearts, all crude
curves and lines

reduced from far
more elaborate shapes,
prodigious ranges

withstanding steady beating
waves that by nature


Good Morning

I woke to find your one gray hair
like lightning slice through the dawn

of your head. We were facing the wall,
had formed a knot overnight. Half awake

I wasn't sure what I was looking at at first—
Soon I registered your snore, your shoulder

fall. Felt your radiant heat. I pushed
the covers off then lay there nude and cool

looking at the back of you, remembering
your face. When the sun lit your skull

through the blinds, that new shock
of white, the girl within me

died, bid the old crone


New Years in New Orleans

Marching at dusk,
they clutch Christmas tree trunks,
browning bodies dragged behind
like thoughts one forgot
or ought to forget,
so heap tossed,
that heap sprouting higher
past telephone wires strung
neutral ground around.

Mid City rat meanwhile
scratching toward pile
unnoticed, itself not noting
preparations for fire,
gas cans uncorked,
clock scanning seconds
toward annual flame.

Sky turning darker,
turning black.
No stars for the rat
in there gnawing at
needles, wood rot soaked
for bonfire burning.

Beer cans blown
over grass. Greasy plates
spilling beef scraps
pulled or clutching bone.
Whiskey bottles drained
but for sips
swimming at bottom.

Hot from drink, from fat,
neighbors peel layers,
winter coats mud-soaked
picnic-blanket style.
Glass hides inside
paper bags, spouts
peeking out.

One flag, Confederate,
flies above ten flags,
American. Glowstick-crowns
cap sweated foreheads, silken
angel hair gone wind-knotted.

Mouths yawn
calling out to the year,
nothing new but its number,
higher, as Christmas trees blaze
in heat guaranteed to breed
fear anywhere but here.




[Jen DeGregorio's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in A Narrow Fellow, Breakwater Review, Cake, and Lyre Lyre. She has been nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize and is a recipient of the Academy of American Poets' 2013 college prize, the Catalina Paez & Seumas MacManus Award. She received her MFA from Hunter College (City University of New York), where she continues to teach. She serves as poetry editor of Chicken Scratch Lit, a new literary magazine that will launch its first issue this winter. ]

Copyright © 2013 by Jen DeGregorio, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.