Word Poetry

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Site design: Skeleton

Sample Poems by Jessica Goodheart


Advice for a Stegosaurus

Never mind the asteroid,
the hot throat of the volcano,
a sun that daily drops into the void.

Comb the drying riverbed for drink.
Strut your bird-hipped body.
Practice a lizard grin. Don’t think.

Stretch out your tail. Walk, as you must,
in a slow deliberate gait.
Don’t look back, Dinosaur. Dust is dust.

You’ll leave your bones, your fossil feet
and armored eye-lids.
Put your chin to the wind. Eat what you eat.



Earthquake Season

We can hardly tell anymore
whether the earth’s trembling wakes us
or my seismometer heart.

Sometimes your aftershock footsteps
make me cry out. I’m not talking
about anything as trivial as the sun
but the loss of it.

What if I die without you
on the greasy tiles of a Taco Bell
in that radioactive light
where no one ever hopes
to look beautiful?

And yet this morning,
the floor rocked me
gently to the breakfast table
and you were there
with sunlight on the cactus.
And the only death I found
buried deep in the paper
as if beneath the collapse
of a house: a boy not yet fourteen
shot in the neck
under an open sky.


After Touching Down

The man seated in 22B cannot speak in words.
He makes the sound of a smooth landing,
like the boy he once was, the boy he is now.

His hands ride the updraft his mouth has made.
Then, fingers first, they plunge into a darkness even our pilot—
with his upbeat forecasts and sun-dipped vowels—knows is there.

In a stage-sized gesture, the man wipes his forehead, relief.
Tired, packed-in, ready for open spaces,
we do not smile at him or wipe our brows.

So four times more, he enacts the safe landing,
all 100 tons, the godly geometry of it.
Four more times, disaster movie-style: the crash.

His prayer hands turn upside down and inside out.
He’s teaching us something, this man, about probability,
something we suspect but dare not say.

Tails we go down, into a night of scattered parts and fire.
Heads — wheels on the tarmac, crescendo of arrival —
and we are on the scarred earth.



A Dry Cleaner’s Love Song

The air was filled with chemicals.
The fan blew acrid and cool.
His love for her was a great big drum,
a gaseous, dizzying pool.

She clasped his fingers, pulled at his sleeve,
said, “Let me live again.
My past is like a house fire
that singed my delicate skin.”

“Lie flat for me, lie flat,” he said.
“I’ll press you crisp and smooth.
Your tired eyes, your cracked, scarred hands
will be mended, made like new.”

He knew cures for careless lives
for girls led astray.
His hands were rough as a sailor’s,
his eyes the color of clay.

“Speak of the past. Don’t speak of the past.
I can see it on your dress:
stains of mascara, gin and tears.
Hush, No need to confess.”

“I long for a love, a simple
love, a love of me as I am. ”
But he pinned her down to his steel steam iron
and grabbed her soft, white hand.