Jennifer Givhan

Jenn purple


A PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices Fellow, Jennifer Givhan is a 2015 recipient of an NEA in poetry, as well as the 2013 DASH Literary Journal Poetry Prize winner, an Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize finalist, and a 2014 Prairie Schooner Book Prize finalist for her collection Karaoke Night at the Asylum. She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College and an MA in English from California State University Fullerton, and her work has appeared in over eighty literary journals and anthologies, including Best New Poets 2013, Prairie Schooner, AGNI, Southern Humanities Review, Sugar House Review, Four Way Review, Indiana Review, Rattle, The Collagist, cream city review, and The Columbia Review.



Last night in the backyard, your shawl
flung across the swing set, I found you

gnawing carrots from mother’s garden
with such a simple grace I believed

that moment you were a white rabbit,
a sweet phantom animal come to lead

me somewhere strange. Moonlight greased
the mountain ranges surrounding us

gunmetal gray & fettering us to this home
we once shared—Nieve, sister new as snow

returned like the red rash on my neck,
may I ask your blessing to leave?

Will you answer me? Surely those aren’t worms
chafing your eyes. Not your shucked

remains littering mother’s soil. Slotted
between hedgerows you abandon me again

gone clumsily as childhood. What wonderland
we might have made fades. I am alone.



for the runaway, for aphonic choirs, for vinegar
flies in tangerines. Prayer for hassling into
lingerie a size too small, for pinching elastic thighs.

Prayer for the suicide, the chronic angel, restless
spirit of toxic nights. Prayer for rivers
flowing with waste. For bees in their cases

of thirst. Prayer because I’ve forgotten
how to pray. Because the hymn says I’ll praise
in darkness, because I’m afraid. Prayer for monsters

masquerading as love. For bodies. For tongues
like guns. Prayer for commandments and the strange
prayer gods. Prayer for two or more gathered

in prayer, for shuteye, for danger, for rust. Yes,
prayer for the rust in the back of the throat
for praying, for mouths, for crusted with hope.


I’m Tempted To Tell You I Love the Coyote

But she is not a metaphor—
the female we saw three afternoons in a row
and after the second I said if we see her again
we’ll know she’s a sign
but the coyote is not a sign
even after the third time we saw her
eating rabbits, hunting stray house cats
I’m tempted to become something other than a woman
who watches for a wild animal in the empty lots
encircling our home—where the desert shrub ignore us
but the desert will not become scenery
with its sleeping volcanoes sprouting cactus flowers
and field mice even after the late-autumn frost
even after the buzzards settle into their nests
on the volcano shaped like a breast
that is more than the cones of light shaping my neurons
their molecular dance regular and irregular in my eyes—
shadow the only substance I know
but that coyote at sundown feels her prey
feels her prey and stalks the rocky hills
as I slip from imagination—a woman breaking vision
for a tawny coat and brushy tail
whose survival is a tempting metaphor
but redemption, its dead rabbit.



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