First: Jesse Burns – Three Poems

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There was wallpaper, flowered, lilacs, thousands repeating and wet
from every shower. The toilet avocado
or dusty blue. Tiles and formica. May,
no, November. It was November and I
was thinking of you, or not thinking of you.
You died quickly or you died slowly.
You are still there. I am gone.


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Dr. Karen worships resilience. Yesterday I was
a curlew, cinnamon bottomed, swallowing crabs,
an analogy, obviously, for this lump in my throat.
Today, I am shorn sheep, watching wool
scooped and stuffed in a sack. Dr. Karen says
regression, not shapeshifting from bird to sheep
to mourner to mother. She asks me to identify
the size of my emotions, but I hear shape
and imagine my devastation a trapezium,
an ugly rectangle, a bone in the wrist difficult
to fracture. I hear elastic, pliable, but I am water
carrying away bits of soil, bits of sand.


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Walking the fence line, I see the water
line is now knee-high and another six
boards have blown or split with rot. My stomach
spills over my jeans as I bend to break
the collapsed wood free. What grows here?
Lichen and moss, then a wave of slaters
feasting, followed by ants, millipedes, more
softening of wood into dirt. One summer,
I watched lightning strike a tree heating
the water in her cells past boiling point.
She still stands, though stripped of bark, near this fence,
where now I lean listening to the creak
of my joints, of this fence post, of the sky.


Back to First: Table of Contents

Back to Marian Kaplun Shapiro: Poem                     Onward to Ann-Marie Brown: Painting

Jesse Burns

When she isn’t writing poems, Jesse Burns is the Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. Her poems have appeared in Mead: The Magazine of Literature & Libations, This Broken Shore, Bird’s Thumb, and Naugatuck River Review. Jesse earned an MFA in Poetry at Drew University and lives in Ocean, NJ with her husband and daughter.