Previously published in Digital Americana (“Summer Version”) and included in American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, 2016).
I. Summer Version
Upon waking, it’s time to take my pills.
But first, I pick from my lashes the pills
of cat hair and cosmetics I’ve failed to wash
down the mouth of the drain like pills;
I pee and read People in which people like me
and also not like me complain about their pills;
I walk the dogs and collect dozens of mangos,
those overgrown, puckering pills;
try to persuade my husband it’s his turn
to filter water and grind French-roasted pills;
I drive my kids to soccer camp so they can kick
into nets and heads the bloated pills
that give them aches and pains in closed-up places
like stubborn, blistered packets of pills;
throw into the dishwasher a few plates
and powdered detergent compressed into pills;
head to my office to answer the phone to listen
to the automated message informing me that my pills
are ready to be picked up, start the computer
and stare at the words staring back at me: black, bitter pills.
II. Winter Version
It is not Alice who grows but the pills
I swallow like foul language, pills
half as big as the size of my thumb,
capsules I could open into a drink, pills
filled with poison, when someone’s
back is turned. Nor is there a pill
of hope that I can ever stop washing down
not just meds but these oblong and opaque pills—
vitamins, antioxidants, supplements—
that accumulate on my chart like pills
on a sweater. It’s as if I wear my cells
outside in, or my skin with holes, pills
pricked into its whole so miniscule they can’t
be seen but also can’t be sewn, pills
that let everything valuable escape, pills
for which there are no plug-shaped pills.
Adult Congregate Living Facility
Previously published in Isotope: Journal of Nature and Science and included in American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, 2016).
Peacocks nest on the roof on Nightingale Manor.
Beneath them, the inmates practice their manners –
the screamer, the barker, the wheel-chaired tree hugger
who rolls mechanically to all manner
of reachable trunks. The barker woofs at whoever’s
near, his yips and growls merely a manner
of speaking; the neighborhood dogs clear
fences to find one soul so canine-mannered,
gathering, it sounds like, at my house next door.
The screamer roars prayers with the mannered
consistency of a gas lawn mower
despite the aides reminders to mind his manners,
and I shout, too, to any god there is for a measure
of silence to pervade my own echoing manor,
until the peacocks reproach me with tail feathers
housebroken as wood, from what I can see of their manner.
Ghazal for Vine-Pickers and Wine-Drinkers
Previously published in Alimentum and Brie Season (White Violet Press, 2014).
You need to drink a lot of good beer to make a good wine.
Consider also the blush you need to make a good wine
drinker, at least at first, to ease the palate into bouquet and brix,
to teach the throat to be receptive, the saliva to mix, sweet with wine.
Call it white zinfandel after you graduate to chardonnay
and pinot noir, or rosé after the diploma you receive in wine
hangs on the wall of your heart (though not vin gris unless
the pips you pick are in France), but know there would be no wine
without the explosive, malty sugars of introductions.
We are all more welcome with wine. Any kind of wine.
The Interview: Uterus to Ovaries
Previously published in Chile Verde Review and Brie Season (White Violet Press, 2014).
Not yet, so far – my familiar brag.
I am the chicken. You are the egg
tricked onto this moss like a tooth
that has lost its mooring, a hollow egg
from a shallow yellow goose.
And how many of you, the eggs,
do I think myself to have left
uncracked by late-night blunts and eggs?
Hundreds, maybe. To use to leaven,
or to bind. Late every month, the egg
permits definition, then begs release:
I am the chicken. You are the egg.
BIO (as of April 1, 2017):
Jen Karetnick is the author of seven poetry collections, including American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, May 2016)–which was a long-list finalist for the Julie Suk Award from Jacar Press–and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, September 2016), which is a 2017 finalist for the Poetry Society of Virginia Book Award. She received an MFA in poetry from University of California, Irvine and an MFA in fiction from University of Miami. Her poetry, prose, playwriting and interviews have appeared recently or are forthcoming in TheAtlantic.com, The Evansville Review, Foreword Reviews, Guernica, The McNeese Review, Negative Capability, One, Painted Bride Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Prime Number Review, Spillway, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Waxwing and Verse Daily. She is co-director for the reading series, SWWIM (Supporting Women Writers in Miami).
The winner of the 2017 Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Prize, the 2016 Romeo Lemay Poetry Prize and the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize, Jen has previously won the Portlandia Poetry Chapbook Prize, two Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Awards and the “Piccolo in Your Pocket” Contest from the Alaska Flute Studies Center. In 2016, her work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and two “Best of the Net” awards, and featured at The Fourth River, JMWW, Yellow Chair Review, Red Bird Chapbooks and “Literary Death Match.” She is currently writing a full-length spoken word play, set in Everglades National Park, with the help of an AIRIE residency. She is also working on her 16th book, The 500 Hidden Secrets of Miami (Luster, September 2017).
Jen works as the Creative Writing Director for Miami Arts Charter School and as a freelance writer, dining critic and cookbook author. She lives in Miami Shores on the remaining acre of a historic mango plantation with her husband, two teenagers, three dogs, three cats and fourteen mango trees.