Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Jennifer Givhan

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. I haven’t the heart to bury them yet. __i. ~
Lazarus butterflies! as I unlatched from mine         for she was damaged
for she pressed her belly to kitchen tile & let
a father man a tin-can man a bearded silver steak-
knife man call her fat call her shit call her
mine was glorious once     I’ve heard
the night insects & the bats screeching toward nectar
their offspring clinging to their bare chests
as they fly toward the cacti that only bloom one
night a year      & they do drink & they do drink
for they have starved in their caves to make milk
by now the threat has passed or the cacti have needed
us too              what fruits we’ve collected
we squash into our mouths & the daughter asks
juice dribbling down her new skin        where has she gone? One’s wing is curled completely into the other, as if still wrapped in its chrysalis. ~
I’m so relieved I never took the plunge:
my neck, the cord. she whispers    faceless     & I sing
yes darling     keep the grass to your belly     don’t let go
__iii. __iv. The children say he’s not ready to leave. The shock made her stomach ache. The two butterflies emerged. We’ll bury them in the backyard, at Lina’s request, sending them back to the earth. Damaged wings but reborn. through a grove of oranges       bright globes
against the rind of moon we’ve implored not
for metaphor but for food      our bellies bulge
& the little dog is chewing our calves our knees
we bend to set her gnawing tree bark instead
we cannot bend & the world is rising
as another morning      the hot air balloon
outside my bedroom window on the ancient mesa
I told my baby daughter of the ones I’d dropped
when I was a girl child & when I was a woman
with a tractor man a plough man a man who dug
into the rocks & weeds where I was hiding
__as we’re hiding? She is Editor-in-Chief of Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and teaches at The Poetry Barn and Western New Mexico University. Her honors include a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices fellowship, the Frost Place [email protected] scholarship, a National Latino Writers’ Conference scholarship, the Lascaux Review Poetry Prize, Phoebe Journal’s Greg Grummer Poetry Prize, and the Pinch Poetry Prize. We were just readying the funeral when I picked up the jar and Lina exclaimed There’s butterflies! All the other butterflies flew away but the one the children named Wilbert wouldn’t or couldn’t so we’re keeping him. ~
Good thing we hadn’t held the chrysalid funeral yet. The two greyish green chrysalids are brittling in the backyard. &laquo Previous post like this

Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Jennifer Givhan

By Jennifer Givhan
May 17th, 2018

 
 
 
The Butterflies
Two chrysalids didn’t make it through their rebirths. the tarot grubs spread in the wound
everything breaks          the house smells of garbage
the miniature dog has eaten splinters
they root in her small stomach
another night we rubbed essential oil
on a grungy green paper dollar      folded into
triangles in a stout copper pot & lit it
with matches my baby girl in her footy pajamas
used to set the incense burning & my hand
slipped       the fire caught her foot & scoured
a hole through the flame-resistant fabric
clean through to her new skin   then comes Death
the final outcome: what should’ve been freely given
will be taken by force      we peel our faces off & run
__ii. I must steel my nerves, for Lina. They both drink sugar water from a sponge. More from this author → ~
Wilbert has flown away. Now she’s crying happy tears her butterflies are back from the dead. I have feared                & I have feared the question
was coming

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).  
The Baby Monitor
The neighbor    off to the market for bags of salad         leaves
me alone with her baby monitor I’ve set on my balcony
splintered with jags of wood sharpened by rain & rot leaving
scars of yellow paint         I ponder what husband or party or
dinner plan would warrant leaving one’s baby in the hands of
a black & white device crackling static in the hands of a woman
who stands on her balcony at night in nothing but stars & the
oven of July         pink as the innards of poultry
I’m misrepresenting myself         I never owned a baby monitor
Could never leave my babies                long enough to need one
The baby sleeps for hours the mother tells me         Only call
911 if the house is on fire
Over the muted gray waves of monitor that baby keeps balling
her fists         pulling the cross-hatched blanket over her head
It seems too thick         The screen goes black sometimes & I
click an eye-shaped button         fearing what I’ll find when the
fuzzy baby reemerges         I haven’t seen her melon head in
minutes         All blanket         She rustles as a small mammal in
a cave of her pack-&-play crib         like the portable crib we
took to Michigan when we adopted our boy         carrying
through LAX all those empty accoutrements of small life: car
seat         stroller         diaper bag         pack-&-play         No baby
People kept glancing skeptically at my squishy midsection
in confusion or grief or pity         looked away
I was a motel bed         a rental space       a mother of loss
sheened of wet leaves waiting for paperwork to go through
no idea what to do when the baby kept vomiting his fawn
Enfamil bottles the hospital had sent us home with
The months before his birth         I’d tried hormones for
stimulating milk flow         suction-cupped my breasts until my
nipples went from sore to numb         Still nothing
That child has grown so tall         He’s a mass of unkempt curls
he will not let me brush & shirts-off         shorts-backwards
all summer         He says he may move to Michigan when he grows
up & doesn’t mean to hurt me
The baby didn’t sleep nearly as long as the mother said         It’s
a burden        all this watching         all this distance         A cloth-
draped chair         or maybe a vacuum         appears to me as a
ghost
Of course none of this is about the neighbor mother
A light flashes         A blur         The baby may have woken
May have found the monitor          & with her dimpled         baby
hands         knocked it over
If I were a machine I’d make babies every year         one new &
shining unbroken thing a piece
Who knows what happens next         What smothers or burns
 
M o t h e r!