Jessamyn Smyth

forestface.

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BIO

Jessamyn Smyth‘s writing has appeared in Red Rock Review, American Letters and Commentary, Nth Position, MiCrow, Taos Journal, Wingbeats: Exercises and Practices in Poetry, and many other journals and anthologies. Her chapbook, Kitsune, was a winner in the New Women’s Voices Series (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and she received honorable mention in Best American Short Stories (2006). She is the recipient of a long list of prize nominations,  fellowships, scholarships, and grants from the Robert Francis Foundation, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and many others. Jessamyn is the creator and founding Editor in Chief of Tupelo Quarterly as well as the Founding Director of the Quest Writer’s Conference at QuestUniversity in Canada, where she is a faculty member of the humanities department.
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Nightwalk

Yeah, so, the sadness comes
around the bend in the Mamquam,

full of silt and glacial. All I need
is that low sliver-moon and a man

who can stand a little emergency;
better yet, some Nina Simone & the dead

returned. I don’t recall giving permission
anyway, which makes it criminal homicide,

or at least theft—he’s calling, you know,
under that moon, and I can’t get to him.

In my empty hands, I have two real things.
The musculature of joy. His last breath.

 

This Dream Is About You

…………………………………………..These are the dreams we should be having. I shouldn’t have to

………………………………………………………………………………………………………..clean them up like this.

………………………………………………………………………..Richard Siken, “I Had a Dream About You”

A few months after you died, a Haida orca brought you back
from the depths, mouth gentle, spat on solid ground:
………..how we laughed, wept on the shore
and I said you sank, you sank like your bones had turned to lead
and you said not anymore they’re not and did you see the dolphins?

You were a cave wall of sandstone, and I couldn’t press
close enough, so I put my mouth to the skin of rock
………….and you dissolved, pulled back to tunnel;
from that narrow abyss you sent forth a vast, coral serpent
to breathe into my mouth and make of me a new creature.

On the sides of I-80 across Pennsylvania, coyotes: teeth bared
and midsections crushed. Deer with rubber necks, hawk
…………..catastrophes corpse-strewn—we drive past all of it,
grimacing and surely broken. At the rest stop, a guy says
can you help me, I ran out of gas, so I give him 5$ & a dream

about dreams,not lucid but waking, teeth bared in one last effort
to stop the onrushing grille: sometimes I can still see you there
…………..riding shotgun, even wide awake, your silvered eyes
slitted against springlight. Remember having brown eyes?
To the guy at the rest stop: yeah, it’s a bad stretch of road.

 

Black Dog in a Wash of Greengold

Onyx Anubis splashes pastoral / old bones gone vernal, turned puppy / the trouble is, I never was one / the things I could say about that are hackneyed / and pointless / in the lake there was a half-fish / a big one / hitched to a sunken branch / skin unfurling like paper birch / raccoons I guess / minks would never have left so much / must have dropped half the meal / too deep to save without having to go too far / at a certain point the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t bear it out / saving / being skinny and hungry and cold and belonging to death / it loses its shine / ceases to be good material / look I told the dog and pointed / rotting flesh / but it was now that interested him / not what happened before the thaw

 

Ghost Walk with Dead Beloved

This moose track, look,
still filling with water;

how we stalked that one
in Ripton for a silent mile

only to lose her across a pond,
ripples fading, leaves going still

across the water. Painted turtle,
look. We – I mean I – mean you

no harm: you’ll find the right spot
for those eggs you carry, go now

and find it. Miles now. Jump
this fallen trunk, scat-marked

by coyote, oaty horse piles
beyond. Miles more, worrying

about you pushing too hard.
Later, I’ll fix us something:

turkey. Gruyere. Some red-bean
treat, rice glutinous and sweet.

Your acolyte mouth
takes mochi communion.

 

Wild Birds

I watched a man who lived with turkeys
raised from down to differentiation and death
grieve the one he called Sweet Pea, nothing left
on a nest of shattered eggs but a primary feather,
run through his fingers, over and over. Inadequate
shelter, the shell of his back. A fragile curl.

My friend calls because it’s impossible, impossible—
another asks me to tell her what’s wrong with her:

once, coyotes took all the resident turkeys but the final
mated pair. They held fast, those two, in tandem always,
for as long as coyotes let them. It wasn’t long. I found her
on my stone step one day, keening. I hadn’t known until then
what they can say, turkeys: she told me everything,
sob-wracked, leaning into my ribs and wailing.

I sat for hours while she grieved, the last one.
Put my hand on her back, patting like a church-lady.
I didn’t know what to do. What to tell her.

 

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