The fields just north will still be there, release
birds like balloons, your mom, tough broad, a tease:

the way you picture her, a homesteader,
one hand up in greeting, the other: anchor

for her flyaway hat. It’s that bluegrass
station; it stayed on (when you checked last)

all the way from Cuyahoga county, Ohio
took you to Pennsylvania, just below

the New York State line. You’re starting to see
blue-tick hounds along the highway, cliché

after cliché. Her strong heart is a lie.
Instead, you’ll pay a dollar fee: goodbye

Midwest, hello Atlantic. You drive toward
your mother’s blocked artery. Your old Ford

stutters on hills. Its right window’s busted;
you hat’s pulled low over your right ear. She’ll fuss

when you arrive but you should be the one
to fuss. She’ll tell you: “No. Meet me, Honey

at the new condo.” She’ll ask you to heave
desk, buffet, your dead father’s clothes in sheaves

and, after, make sure your fed: fries, filet
mignon, its lines of fat the map you lay,

Ohio to Jersey, along your lap
when you stop to gas up. You count back,

how many miles you’ve come, how many
left. The doctor will say she can’t have any

cookies, deep-fried zucchini. You’ll remember
the pies she’d kept frozen since December:

apple and peach neighbors had brought over.
You’ll talk about Ohio, distract her

as you throw out chips, whole milk. She won’t hear
when you say: You’re sick, or Just one light beer

a night. She’s busy boxing her mother’s gloves:
leather, meant for small hands. They were like doves,

she’ll say and start to cry. I can’t have meat?
You are the bearer. You’ll fold up the sheets

when she can’t, when she falls asleep, a lull
in her anxious talk, when her veins are full

of age or fat. You’re the revelator
they sing about: no white sugar, no white flour.

Lesley Jenike


I couldn't chase after something that wasn't going to manifest itself in the physical.

— Tori Amos

Behind that nest of trees is her house,
inside, the Bosendorfer to be played
later over a programmed beat. For now
the famous pianist will walk the dock
as far as she can into the river.

She sees her drummer fishing off the bridge
from here and sends him, somehow, a message
telepathically: Give me what sounds like
the breast-stroke; give me butterfly. Later
in the studio he will lay down tracks

for her and she will add the melody:
Something like drowning she’ll call it and dance
around the piano bench.

But this is all speculation. For now
birds crowd the cypress trees, land on her roof,
Florida vultures with dark shoulders. For now:
the Indian River which, drawn on maps
is just a time signature,

becomes the backbeat, speaks without speaking:
I’m no kid anymore or I lost my kid.
So she asks the lead guitarist playing
solitaire on the dining-table: Give
me wah-wah but like eerie, like gulls

a few miles off the coast and he’ll hear
despite her shut mouth and, in hours, play
what she desires most:

solace like her producer fast asleep
in the hammock that hangs between grapefruit
tree and grapefruit tree. Solace will come as
the whitefish her drummer will ask to cook
for dinner: skinned, de-boned, grilled on hot coals.

She doesn’t know though, that it, like her, rocked
unwittingly when reeled from the river.
But the drummer will say it was painless,
little blood and she will be comforted
enough for lyrics, a chorus, a bridge

to come after dessert and chardonnay.
She will call for live snare, no faked whistles,
looped bells. Above: piano. She thinks, switch
a few letters, get O, pain, what builds songs,
causes fish to writhe on the hook. For now:

the unconscious rock of bodies and tides
that, at its heart, nurses the wordless,
the dumb.

Lesley Jenike
LESLEY JENIKE is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cincinnati. She's had poems published in The Alaska Quarterly Review and The Beacon Street Review. Her chapbook Famous was a finalist for Kent State's Wick Chapbook Contest.