A handful of Jen's poems
and I dug graves
in the backyard
hidden from view
we opened the earth
with stolen spoons
made monuments from
popsicle sticks drove
sticky ends we'd sucked
in the shade
bush and our
like little hands
A concrete poem that first appeared in the Hartford L.I.T. Anthology, How are the Children? 2019.
A Larcenous Streak Runs in My Family
My grandmother ripped off a pair of candlesticks from the Yankee Pedlar
Inn, stuck them on her mantlepiece. She hustled a crystal punchbowl
out the front door another night, right past the maitre d'. Never would
say how. My mom's a master too. Flatware. Small statuary.
She slid a platter into her purse at the rooftop café of Le Pompidou
while asking directions of a Frenchman. I watched her do it.
Thievery slinks down my maternal line. "I'm liking the look of that butter
dish," Mom murmurs out the side of her mouth, elbowing my eight-year-old.
We don't just steal from strangers. Nanny once stood at the Smith Street
sink elbow deep in Palmolive as her living room rug bobbed
past the kitchen window rolled over Uncle Kenny's shoulder.
Boompa worked at Hendey's machine shop then. With three girls
to dress and feed, a decent rug was no small thing. But crying -
in stitches at sneaky Kenny's nerve - Nanny could only watch
mute as her rug made its getaway up the drive.
In the years my mother and I didn't speak, I broke in on Thursdays
when I knew Jeanne the woman who cleaned would be in the house
alone. I slipped inside while Jeanne vacuumed acting like I still had a key.
I stole my mother's earrings, her sweaters - two sizes too small for me
but smelling of her, her perfume and breath. I grabbed the 8X10 of my sister
and me posed on a tan carpeted Olin Mills step. I purloined lawn furniture
Wheeling a metal table off the deck and across the lawn I wrestled it
into the hatch of my Hyundai drove back to the city where it wouldn't fit
on my porch. So I stuck it in my cramped yard and watched it from my window.
Nine years later when my mother and I reconvened
over grandchildren and what we thought then was forgiveness
we were eager for reparations. There were daily phone calls
books of pasted photographs, trips to a house borrowed
on the shore. Mom wrote out the steps to Nanny's
apple crisp - the kind with oats, for the ancestors'
rösti and the sour cream twists baked only in mid-winter -
We never spoke of what was stolen or what is still
missing. That's the code among us thieves
This poem first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Gyroscope Review.
Speculative Real Estate
Jen's first published poem,
Speculative Real Estate
is a prose poem
that first appeared
in Panoply in 2017.
and dreams of houses
in a former mill town.