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Jennifer Grotz

Jennifer Grotz

Jennifer Grotz is most recently author of The Needle (Houghton Mifflin, 2011) and translator from the French of Patrice de La Tour du Pin's Psalms of All My Days (Carnegie Mellon, 2013). Her poems, reviews and translations appear widely in journals such as The Nation, American Poetry Review, New England Review and Ploughshares as well as in Pushcart and Best American anthologies. She teaches at University of Rochester and serves as the assistant director of the Bread Loaf Writers Conference.

The Broom

Just jet lag, but these sleepless hours turn it
existential, that is, sad. Out of synch with time:
that's a man-made loneliness.  It feels like
waiting to be let back in, but it's waiting for
something in me to change and until then,  
it's lying upside down in the bed and hot, using
the blanket as a pillow, the pillow as a blanket.  

Flutter of curtain in the blue light, the dry
sound of brushing from below, it's a broom on the sidewalk,
meticulously brushing clean my mind,
sloughing off everything that still clings.

I should be happy. On this fourth floor,
probably seventy-five feet in the air, I'm
at the altitude of the birds in the Pisgah Forest,
the ones that show how stirring it is to live
in the middle of the world, where there are
whole realms too high for humans, for animals,
too low for the tops of ambitious trees, just branches
to navigate through
exactly unlike an arrow,
trying never to reach a mark, just to fly gracefully above
the understory of rhododendron, the crinkled faces of the ferns,

the lake blurred, an oil painting stroked into relief
by insects, wind skimming the surface.

On the Library Steps

The way the lips siphoned a stream into my lungs
and the body ever-so-subtly convulsed
in what was never actually pleasure but involuntary relief,
a shudder as poison moved steadily into the blood stream,
so strong that the body mindlessly did it again, or the mind
bodilessly willed it again, then again, until the actual sensation
of smoking couldn't really be felt, and grey-brown clouds
filled the winter rooms, soaked into our coats and dresses.

That is what I remember this morning when I see
the leftover tobacco crumbles students stomped out
on the library steps, the abbreviated butts
excreting urine-colored stains into the snow,
the paper linings of filters all unglued,
pale and wet like raw calamari, and I suppose
there is a Buddhist click of recognition:

what I had desired had turned undesirable, yes,
and this ugly mess did not represent my sadness,
it only illustrated how catatonic it had become,
the mind numbly staring at it, and the convex globs
of spit nearby, not the sky, not the snow, gone
the reflex of shirking back. Don't do it, just write it down,
is what I had decided, but that just kept it lyric,
how I didn't want to live.
No attempt
in the poem for transcendence.
Just to lock up something wild.

Because a poem could still be good for
suffering. Choosing precisely how to.


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