February 2003

Joelle Hann


Joelle Hann grew up on the west coast of Canada and now lives in Brooklyn where she runs the waxpoetic poetry reading series. She has published widely and currently has several projects underway, including Reliquary, an artist's book project. She has received two Canada Council grants, residencies at Banff Center for the Arts, Yaddo, and MacDowell, and holds an MFA and an MA from New York University.
Small Gestures    

Mosquito larvae "may be the leading impediment to economic growth in the developing world."—New York Times, July, 2000.


It begins with small understandings,
then rises to the size of Ganesh's phallus.

You are at a dim cafe. Lightning splits the sky.
You are eating spiced olives with someone you desire.
The door is open but she doesn't love you.
A white streak burns into your retinas.
The taste of cumin and paprika salt you with a shriveled pain,
you have bought it and you must pay.

ii) The Mosquito

It begins with a billow of evolutionary hubris,
then sweeps the body with encephalitic fevers.

Larvae hatching in old tires
don't threaten anyone
busy behind their screens.

But she's a democratic insect and she insists;
she sips blood in
to gestate her young,

for this gift she repays in flames
shooting in yellow fever, malaria,
a vast swelling, transnational,
the sting and buzz of generous disease.

The democratic insect. Fair exchange.

iii) Mayan Scribes: the Red Murals

It began with a talent for figures, gestures,
then grew into civil war.

In victory, the Mayan scribes were drunk with their King,

wrapped in long scrolls of their work
and rolling around the palace.

In defeat their fingers were ritually broken
in front of their enemies,
their genitals gashed
and their fingernails torn out.

In the Mayan dictionary "fingernails" means lament:

"I have no fingernails; I am no longer the person I used to be.
I no longer have power or authority
or money. I am no one."


It begins with simple gestures,
then swells to the size of Nietzche's madness.

The mosquito either infects
or it doesn't.

The scribes are either drunk
or they are dead.

She either loves you
or she is lightning.

There is great thirst, even as the bloom is on the larvae.



Joelle Hann: Poetry
Copyright 2003 The Cortland Review Issue 22The Cortland Review