April Poetry Month (Day 3): Jennifer Morales #npm16 #wppoets

[April Poetry Month 2016 Table of Contents]

Morales-Jennifer-2014-g Jennifer Morales is a Wisconsin poet, fiction writer, and performance artist. Jennifer received her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University-Los Angeles in 2011. She served for eight years as an elected member of the Milwaukee Public School board, the first Latino/a to hold that position, and in posts in education research and publishing. Meet Me Halfway, her collection of short stories about race relations in Milwaukee, was published by University of Wisconsin Press in 2015 and was selected as University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Common Read for the class of 2019. Find out more at www.moraleswrites.com.


Mother presses the creases
Mother staples the daylight
Mother starves the floorboards
Mother stares the hidden
Mother packs the sunlight
Mother cracks the windows
Mother registers the cost
Mother ingests the dust
Mother slips solo
Mother considered suicide


Mother traced the table
Mother braced the chair leg
Mother, lifted and laid
Mother draped the memory
Mother grasped birdsong

the Mother
sees crows sweep by

the Mother
a shadow leaps

the Mother
a shudder breaks

Mother ties the memory


Ego, Trouble

I married a man
whose name means “Trouble,”
so all this
was to be expected.

When people asked I told them,
“My husband has strayed.”
How else to explain
away 20 years, each day
unmoored in the market,
on my arm an unfilled basket,
the strap embossing me with the crisscross of rope?

I don’t want to hear about your sirens.
Let me tell you about sirens.
A table of sweets,
streets of open doors,
and boys
thrusting their honeyed hands through my window,
busting in
to eat your dinner.

Men are never full.
Sirens aim straight into the echoey hulls of their chests
and, oh, the pretty resonance.
My advice to wives is this: Weight the hull,
fill the cup. Left empty too long,
he will top them up them with blood.
Look at Odysseus’s ocean now, a marrow soup
well salted.

I’ve been weaving your shroud.
You were not the only thing I was burying at my loom,
the shuttle cocked, the fiber snaked tight around my fingers.
I promised I would marry one of the honey-boys
when I was done,
but each night I unhooked my work,
tied the trailing thread to our bedroom door and slammed,
as if pulling a rotten tooth.
Then I walked the frigid halls,
unsure if you should be dead.

Here, I’ll sing you a different song:
My parched throat, this remote skin,
vibrated with your absence
— mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm —
In your absence my tissues
— mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm —
hummed hard until the sound took on flesh, a bird
perched in our olive tree.
— mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm —
until the whole sky moaned with birdsong,
every long day and blameless night,
all the cloud-whisked mornings,
every star-punched sleep —
until I resolved to kill it,
to crush its neck with my knee.

I put the bird in a box, locked it down with magic,
carved on it Penelope,
then swallowed all the keys.
The keys became a cage of bones around my heart,
ribs of my own making, so that when you came back,
you couldn’t find me


[April Poetry Month 2016 Table of Contents]

Woodland Pattern is nonprofit book center in the heart of Riverwest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We are dedicated to the discovery, cultivation and presentation of contemporary literature and the arts.