Two Poems | by Jesse Rice-Evans

house fire (arson), or a partial memoir

1. Jesse Rice-Evans
saw everything in Technicolor, was filmed in
Technicolor – the green dead grass, the hound
dog red shadow of the moon. She would say Probably Not and
everyone would laugh –
jewelry was always a political thing

2. and when She came (is this the ending?) (acknowledge my lack of consciousness)
firm on the beach under cracking moon
there was a treasure box
of photographs – memories She’d lost in the house fire
(arson)
petrified now in the throb TRACKING MEMORIES I CANT REMEMBER

3. Her parents
ate dinner from trays
before the news in the big flutter of blue and
sound – cheering, the tinkling of ice on glass,
slippers shuffle like something else that shuffles,
whale-mouthed yawns

She went upstairs but the door wouldn’t shut
and she heard it all, the new words spat
into empty plates

4. Jesse Rice-Evans thinks about dying
and She can’t decide between hanging from a
twisting live oak at the confederate fort and if
She had stayed in the kitchen
after the film reel birthed orange tongues
as they licked everything into ash;
instead She looks into the eclipse

5. and then about changeable fate
of the dead brother with the squished soft skull, the religious older sister
with curtains for hair, both imagined, Her
only-ness heavy with ghosts scattered Polaroids
across the
the way light pressed in the dwarf windows shouting Take Me
(there is fire under the floor boards)

6. in the sky
the stars spun into arcs behind quiet rumbles of heat lightning
and from the hood of the car She
took respite from hands blistered by hot plates and the spit of river
water, surf
swallowed by the storm

7. the long weekend, hot-cheeked
and flushed with rain clouds
as She reads on the porch
says Hello when the phone rings,
rips paper and asks When tonguing the unhealed cut
like licking a knife exhumed
from sandbox by archaeologists in a hundred more hot years

8. Her father
eats peanuts, clinks ice and shuffles,
talks too loud and when confronted,
bristles

9. Jesse Rice-Evans’s defense mechanisms
come in bottles, flames, tulips, mugs
and the softness of plaid laid down in dirt

10. Education
is a loaded political tool in which Jesse Rice-Evans
is successful despite Her quick red hands

11. Fact,
when the shadows breathe
and the cats tinker like watchmakers,
glass rattles like ghost chains but When Will We Know?

12. Her mother
touches the heads of children in shopping malls,
grocery stores and under the fishing pier

13. the better poet
incensed Her but She stared at him eyes hot dinner plates
wanting to put that blond streak in his hair,
settling for metaphor games

14. the one who wasted time
could tell you the most about Her: She loved thunderstorms
and pool halls, old book smell and laundry
let there be nothing on earth but laundry
touching leaves of vegetables delicate as babies’ hands (if She
liked babies)
these were things that She did alone

 

 

 

A Conditional

Something about gladness is grimmer than ever, but the shells we stole will still rim our neighborhoods, the tweezers I gulped to find the love of my life drenched in driveway, shrunk into bonds we failed even the things we said we loved lied humongous

When shake snuffs haunt, it’s ok to remember that I am here and will stay with you , a crust of tarragon shrimping our nest, waft relentless, make happy but forgive fast except for some things, you know the ones: the ugly but you already gave us incense, beaded truth rippling with yawning breeze so before

Say what you believe in out loud into my mouth and I will grant your every thing

We were burning long before you thought we were, fish-lipped gridlock drenched quiet: what are you thinking on the silent train?

Working to grin, trudging Thursday, my god they’re everywhere

I felt looser after, like the way I fell into sleep, crystalline, was less temporary, my body less of a tomb, more lagoon, more brackish gulf. I knew before, the way time drips a storm

 

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Jesse Rice-Evans is a queer Southern poet and rhetoric scholar. She collects round stones, teaches writing at City College of New York and the Cooper Union, and loves pitbulls. Read her work in tenderness yea, the Wanderer, Monstering, and in the chapbooks Soft Switch (Damaged Goods Press) and The Rotting Kind (Ghost City Press).

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