Jessie Janeshek

Picture-in-Picture/Our Dancing Daughters

How do you handle                                      starting out late
                past the time of the platinum wink
the sadness of the frozen blonde               Xmas tree fever-tease
                               the sadness of fortitude?
                Any process is aging. Any process is weird.
I feel no need to stomach             cheap cigarettes, purple ink
                               I don’t know how to pace
                bondage, cryonics, or tears.
I feel no need to share                   a living doll story
                a birdcage-shaped ass
long-legged nightclub dancers
                sex shame or my pubic hair.

If I died today, my bones too boozy
                you’d say leave me your gangster
or at least your gangster movies
                you’d sleep all day           say how to fix the broken strap
came to you in a dream.

                If I died today                  my stardom surrounded
by a micro-charge                               by a bone-in-bone frill
                you’d be well-dressed                collecting eggs
dressed like a moth                         I would bind you and blind you
                but this is not my sister              perfect grave
peaceful rain. This is not the longest day.
                This is not black-lipped, faux-bobbed
modern maidens.

This is just another me                   sans wink in her skin
                calling you daddy                 timing my life by the deer
on the side of the road.
                I step in what’s rotten                   and even my voice
comes in after death                        helps you poison your mind.

Say my death is foul play
                say hidden hustler             a freckled relic
                               or an optional paradise.
                To avoid having your baby            I flew into the sun
                                              or you shuttered my corpse in the rumble seat.

[Our Dancing Daughters is the title of a 1928 film.]

Messy Wife/Messy Life/Daily Motion

Platinum is my element                               and at least I have my health
                vanitas, a diminishing vision.
I’m a novella                or a plaid playsuit
                or they must have devised             another name for me
                               bone-bed, semi-swine.

Don’t dance where you eat. I look at the slop
                               understand why women               give up, disappear.
I look in the mirror                see jewelry, no face
                               a tramps-in-the-tropics                melodrama, cocaine
                cellulite, sentimentality                               coming in stages
                               all motives trace                loving or money
                semi-sweet lightning strikes east.
                                                             I reply with a drink
                               don’t fuck where you eat.
                                                             I become more than muse
when attention-seeking’s genetic                  I don’t want to bathe or smoke cigarettes
                depression that deep.      I become more than muse
on one meal a day
                                              when your porn is greater than my porn
                my sailor dress                  my sea-going cat
                               the Hollywood fog                the tarp over the sunlight
pink muscles and what?                What are you basing this day on?

                               I only abide by                       black-and-white miniature challenges.
                I lie and say I’m writing a book
I’m buying a haunted apartment or I pretend I’m your criminal
                               and I lie in a cave                               of porcine saints
                               where it doesn’t stop raining                (fuck me with stalagmites)
                                              or I’m a fat planet                with rings tilted your way
                and I lie when I realize I already gave it away.

Strange Interlude

They say civilize your rituals
                no makeup on the first night
cheeping through black netting
                light a candle, make it better.

Legs open and the clock                 and the Dom Perignon
                for the Harlow RIP scene                               red dress and bloody kidneys.

                                                             I start to sweat and swell
                when I think of telephones
girls getting picked up                    in saddle shoes at Venice
                hair rolled up in bobs                    lemon dresses and the flailing cryogenics.

They say exit the abortion               and civilize your rivals
                live until the 70s                              in a wood-paneled hotel
in Milwaukee lighting candles
                                                               but I dropped out midcentury
                                              in pert orange capris
                no shortage of sex               syringes or money
                               a sordid bikini                   but she was so fit
                blue lipstick and time                stuck between blunt objects
                                                                and obligations
                               now my cognitive dissonance
                                                                             a green Pucci shift dress
                                              no Jayne Mansfield panty line.

                They say civilize your bitches                study all the old scenes
                                              but I don’t like the old scenes
                               a little blonde in pink flowers                swinging on a tire swing
                                                                catching all our tears in a poison ring.

[Strange Interlude is the title of a 1928 play by Eugene O’Neill and a 1932 film based on the play. This poem channels Marilyn Monroe.]

Channel U/Rebel without a Cause

The bedrock is believing                  we’re all well with God
                and maybe there’s heartbreak in California
but this show won’t get any better
                even with voodoo                or money to lighten the mood.
Hello psychological                a lost intuition
                blow out the candles                               you wanted the ring in me
headlights on the drag race                long gold velvet curtains but God knows
                good sex in painful                                  as the float breaks
and my loyalty                         is to red imagery
                and at the end of the movie
James Dean says this is my friend
                as if it makes any difference.

Improbabilia                             is the valley girl vampire
                and how did I learn                to be a French actress
mimic New Jersey                   when I hate my thin lips
                my needing sleep. The freak show is dead
the mall zombified                   cassette tapes chicken feet
                pizza and chlorine. Suburbia’s dried up and tired out
and I am too selfish                  to see out of myself
                I rot the mystery.

That day in the hammock        we hid from the robbers
                instead of Frank Sinatra records                mustard light in the basement
and I am not motivated              by the prospect of dumping a body
                and I am not motivated                by the promise of bringing you down.
I showed up at the fancy house
                to trick or treat as a geisha.
All I saw was the gold foyer       the full-sized candy bars
                how the old man died twice
playing “Anchors Aweigh”          shitting himself                sitting at the piano
                how we hid in the closet
                shot the girl in the stomach
but how we also didn’t want to get involved.

Madcap/Make Music I Can’t Understand

The fear of death makes me honest
                skeletonized                                     but the body in the park
                               doesn’t lie or deserve it
                and the crazy man with the stick
                                              scratches don’t go any further
                in the mud underneath                  the observation tower
                                              and I waste my green eyelashes
and I go to the pond in tight curls, organized.
                               I see nary a beaver.
                I sit on the soldier ghost’s lap.
I’d like to say                     make a child in my name
                the fear of death makes me honest
but both are a lie                                  and I’d like to climb
                on you or the bike                not breaking my legs.

In this smoke pink faux fur
                               I space out my days            I slush through the cemetery
                on Christmas Eve                 in my candle dress smoking
                                              in my crown of wet candles.
                               I shush your therapy
missing the hot springs                       and Edward G. Robinson.
                                              You say I get three dresses
                               and the smell of couch/crotch
                                    and the smell of Christmas
                shiny red lips and scotch
in the parlor where we seem like                     unethical diamonds
                bigger than horseflies.
In the pallor we seem to be entering                an era of surface.
                It’s like roots or mildew
how all of the sudden I notice.

Put Your Money in Your Mouth and Ask When You’ll Marry
and Have a Happy Home and Not a Happy Hour

It’s the thinner the faux fur                               you’ve had since 13
                               the Sabbath a promise of rest
but really the promise of death.
                Some say California                             is so bleak on Christmas
                                              but I know it’s orange glitter
                of course I only know                           one way out of here
oblivious to Coney Island                and the witching waves
                               saving cash in a cage.
I eat without thinking                       thick cream, a black bathing suit
                               but once I was comfortable
now too many lights                          no streets safe to walk on
                sticky lip lacquer                                  and crying so hard
                                              I can’t drive or dance.

We turn the heat up
                turn the heat down               smoke and fuck without thinking.
                               It’s the thinner your coat is the mist
                it’s the power flickering.
I sit on the soldier ghost’s lap                              over and over
                               walk past the Alamo broke.
                Everything here is mud red and I’m lonely
the man in spats doesn’t invite me                     to his gangster movie
                but how sweet to indulge in cheap beer and faint
like Lana Turner                or forage for food on Bullsboro.

                               In the utopia there are no footprints
the deer in the mirror                        and the glass hooves
                keep acting the snow                             queen in the rain
and I laugh at the thought that this is my bedroom
                a velvet settee                       and no bloodstains.

Jessie Janeshek's second full-length book of poems is The Shaky Phase (Stalking Horse Press, 2017). Her chapbooks are Spanish Donkey/Pear of Anguish (Grey Book Press, 2016), Rah-Rah Nostalgia (dancing girl press, 2016), Supernoir (Grey Book Press, 2017), Hardscape (Reality Beach, forthcoming), and Auto-Harlow (Shirt Pocket Press, forthcoming). Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010) is her first full-length collection. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and an M.F.A. from Emerson College. You can read more of at jessiejaneshek.net.
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