Jessie Janeshek

Trouble in Paradise

Painfully glamorous    and/or I thought
                of responsibility.      And/or I thought
I’d write the Monroe poems while 36.
                I’d get out of this town at the Technicolor crossroads
just like the deer cross the creek
but the attic is so hot in my mind. The light shines through
                the round stained glass window
the spiders reject    artistic impulsivity.
                Jayne’s ghost says write this through eight days of medium vibes
stuffed elephants and canapés          carnage, dirty diaper vapors
                                shag carpet spirit codes
and at the pool party    the heart-shaped prophecy
                and maybe I don’t get what happened yet
except tanned legs      and fake IQs
                and cheap nail tips      and knocking out my teeth
on the real-time water slide 
                                                but we pretend it’s the Caribbean
                when the sun beats the waves a certain way
and I lie on a towel beneath the low-dive
                while my just-pierced ears pus
                but maybe I don’t get intensity.
I’m divorced from the payphone inevitability, the spectator seat.
                I eat a worry snowcone        in petite heart-shaped glasses
a 1-800 song but the payphone is dead.
                                                                                and maybe Jayne merged
                with those plastic pool bracelets
and bubble-cut country club wigs with thick bangs
                my too-fat pink bike seat
and paint growing soft on pool bottom
                and is it an M or a W    murder or woman
money here    money there?
                                                Money’s gaudy but we worked to beautify
the clink of clear heels
and the clear beach chair on the concrete
                and there is the man
who dug an underwater chunk of skin out of me
who said what emerged from the noir
                was only my girlish anxiety.

The Rope Trick Never Shows in Photographs

I write with a pen with a fin
the pen almost has hips
I think about pins      about being in charge
sweet little ladies      in oatmeal tweed
disappearing on trains
and if I’m gaslighting you stop touching my breast
like a magic act.      It’s okay to resist
to long for snow mysteries
almost victory rolls.    But no one believes
a blonde with a head injury
even if doves exit her mouth.
                                                You said the cat was made of bisque
her back end kept breaking off
and I kept gluing it back on like nothing was wrong.
I keep walking in heat by the creek
and I almost think I could be absorbed by
the trees and just fuck all of this
then a car honks and I lunge at it screaming
see a human arm peeking from the water
wonder what it is I’m walking toward
or even trying to burn.

You Said Break So I Broke

Cleaning my body feels frustrating.
The cat wears a bow.
The piano teacher plays a mandolin
since her grandkids are a let-down.
One’s stealing cars.
You eat me out so I die all over you.
I’m no little girl
I dig pinky fingers
and I want to marry my old poems’ naiveté.
I wish the sisters and I could pose
cheap white boots and guitars
a bad band in a wood-paneled living room.

Instead I eat pizza      get prison all over
my cold knitting needles.
I can’t count how many licks
with you at the ski lodge.
The glacier flips over
all the hens chase the foxes.
I’m not a baby girl
but I think in bebe vocé
fall asleep in an alleyway.
I know it turns you off 
so I can’t help myself.

Blonde and Sad Skeleton, Whistle Whistle 

                Show me how to do that trick
why it felt like grease and a question
                of riding the fire, a woman’s addiction to melodrama.
                It’s all self-expression
                the high and low kidnap and rescue
the candy-red roadster press/time and death
overturned in the cornfield/my blood soaking in
but now is the time/drag me back into comedy.

God wondered if this bride would tread
if this bride would leave her bed for adventure
like that blonde ice-skater crossed into noir
instead I slept drugged after a bloom of success
let a dog lick me shut. 

This was my press against Sunday dark
                faithless with 40 missed calls.
He watched my consequence until he left with some ingénue
                I felt clean for a second.

He’ll say the voice of an actress is best for our time
                and I’ll touch myself with hands smelling like lilac
and maybe I’ll be on the cusp of ghost-faced kabuki
and maybe I’ll be on the cusp of nothing but gesture
a woman disguised as a masked highwayman
swashbuckling as if this is the long game.

[Note: The title is a variation on a translation of a line by César Vallejo]Sexy Halloween Costume/Central Intelligence

A safe blanket wool-woof      on my bed/at my ankles
                a fake Coney Island           double-crossed, episodic
since I want to be Clara Bow      manproof in front of carved turnips
                or wear a deer costume      to the gurney party
                eat cheap chop suey      Carole Lombard in green scrubs
                that bring out her eyes.
                                And there are only a few more Sundays I can live-love the clock
there are only a few more Sundays 
where your visuals will match my excursions
                                orange cuts and that red stuff
                                                stabbing cabin in the day
                                talking lights and are you afraid
                                of the long walk back        after the scarecrow comes to life
                                on the porch with black sticks as fingers
                                and steals all your candy?

Maybe someone will pay you back and take my identity
                then Madame X-ray will slice me open on the zeppelin
my thoughts will splinter under the memory swingset
                and there will be conscience, convenience, protection
and my thoughts will be the old cat’s orange bones
and I want it all            the tin clock girls with mallets
                                and upstairs the pinky joints
                in the collection plate
                                tick-tocking my ghost poems, noose and nostalgia.

                My ovary calms but I’m still afraid of the year
silent-film cat-house authority.
                                Blue wreathes the blood girls in the woods
                of how long, how long
                                is it ok for women to live with this pain
                of the how long, how long
                                will the nicks on our necks look like sunset? 

Sexy Halloween Costume 1

How much of a sinner am I
                praying for the non-time? 
It might be in the beer box
                or buried in the hay
in the barn on the top of the hill
                where it’s ok for the man with the red zither to rape.
I switch from jumpsuits to skirts        god, it’s more pure.
                Join us: six women with wretched breath out in the forest
                a fox collage but nostalgia is getting away from me.
I miss 90s psalms        and thick blood with pain
                and wearing my burgundy sweater set
                cream corduroys          button on my bloating belly
                and stained glass turtle lamps and more books in boxes.

How much of a sinner am I?
                It’s in the Dracula scraps/read them like tea leaves
and Jayne Mansfield in the kitchen
                squeezing sweet cream from her breasts or strawberry milk
and only two weeks ago        I was crying suicide
                twitching my nose/could it be between codes? 

How I once read a woman lost a two-carat ring
                doing the dishes
and it got pushed up through the earth by two carats
                and I twitch my nose      and slide in the needle
the sad mess of my own myth/a little pep in my step—

It’s a reinterpretation of time
and vampires cry suburban
                and in the middle of the mid-century séance table
the crystal ball is a panopticon 
                in it I see all my scratchy VHS tapes
                Tallulah Bankhead’s gestures crushed velvet
                too big for the screen
I can just understand them.

How to Make Summer Last Forever (When You’re Secretly Helping the Killer)

                convince myself the film won’t stop if I move slowly
                convince myself the lost footage will be found
in the permafrost surrounding the swimming pool.
                I stopped watching when I figured out
it was all gold rush
                but I’ll forever investigate nostalgia
at the séance    or at the disco w/ my kissing stick
                who needs heat in California
                who needs fire so closely?

I pose like Clara Bow in an egg
                but I’m so above faces
I wear green to the axe murder house
                dream a living room bewitched
mid-century modern    but how do I move forward
                like a clown?
It’s a good thing I don’t have time
I don’t know what to do with time
                I want to skin myself
                all those scenes at the end of the line
and I forgive all obligations    and an experimental circus
                and my ovary aches    a sad caterwaul
and I cry all the time

                                or on a dark autumn day
                walking home in the tightest of equinox sweaters
                when he’s stabbing me
                or choking me behind the trees
                and I’m kind of bleeding out
                it’ll all be worth it.

You Don’t Own Me but When Will You Let Me Go? 

I should care about something      polka dots, lamps
as I braid my hair but I can’t.
I’m afraid of Civil War ghosts and gullets
late nights and Time Life alien lights
two suits in a black car following us on our bikes
as we eat powdered donuts.
It’s easier to decide when we’re fighting
clear the way for our fucking
                every morning dream a man
                storming upstairs through a white room
                smoking to take me.
Every night I eat      all at once like a snake
art is resolute    I scream at passing cars
hear the gas well pumping    try to solve this hunger.
                How does it feel at heads of days
                keeping track of the heat with baseball schedules
giving up fake jewels and playboy criminologists
trying to find the sweet spot
when the sky releases water?

Is it a bad omen that my wall-watch stopped?
I claim I’m bored of everything
                as one cat turns 30
                and another one dies.
I burn the therapy worksheets that say
yes, you can change how you think.

Jessie Janeshek's full-length collections are MADCAP (Stalking Horse Press, 2019), The Shaky Phase (Stalking Horse Press, 2017), and Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010). Her chapbooks include Spanish Donkey/Pear of Anguish (Grey Book Press, 2016), Rah-Rah Nostalgia (dancing girl press, 2016), Supernoir (Grey Book Press, 2017), Auto-Harlow (Shirt Pocket Press, 2018), Channel U (Grey Book Press, 2020), and Hardscape (Reality Beach, 2020). Read more at jessiejaneshek.net.
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