Four Poems by Jessica Pierce

How to Be Mugged

Open-palmed, my heart my heart my heart.
Am I speaking politely enough, giving
enough? Will I ever get up from
this sidewalk? So many hands. None
of them my own. My pulse has never been
so loud in my throat, my spine,
my fingertips. The men leave. I cry for
my mother. Name, address, what
was taken, name, address, what was taken.
All night, someone is coming.
No one is coming. I want to get up. I want
to breathe, clench my fists and run
until I kick against the sky, quenching
my thirst with my own sweat, my body mine
my body mine my body mine.

The Facts

Far away, a man sits still
with other still men. He begins

to cry as the notes rise and then
drop. He had not seen and

had seen this coming. Closer
by, in a yard in front of a house

that is not shabby or lovely
but is a place to wait, a small girl

picks a dandelion gone to seed,
blows the seeds into a woman’s dry

hair, taking note of flight. The woman
thinks of the long fingers of a longed-

for hand. Even closer, the doorbell
rings. The notes keep dropping, become

a rush that brushes away his stillness, casts
it out into the world as the finest of dust.

But Still

“I am resolved”—Beowulf, as he prepares to battle the dragon

Today was as bright a day as any I’ve seen.
I spent the morning in the dirt, one
of my haphazard bursts of tenderness.
Seedlings tongued the air, and I sat
back on my heels trying not to ascribe
too much but still, they did bend
and sway as though taking pleasure in
the brightness of the day. Now, this sprawling

gnawing city floods with lit filaments,
hums with hoarded molecules. I hear
the air thrum as it did when I was small
and had scrambled beyond my parents’ voices into
the thick tangle of living and dying that wanted
nothing from me. I listen. I am not afraid.

How to Survive Postpartum Depression

in reference to “Mindscapes: First interview with a dead man,” by Helen Thomson, New Scientist, May 23, 2013

Everyone told him he
survived. He had climbed
into a full bathtub,
pulled in a toaster.
He could not believe
them. I killed my brain,
fried it, killed it, killed it.
I can’t smell. I can’t
taste. I have no
thoughts, no pleasure,
no desire. I’m not
awake. I’m not asleep.
I have no brain.
Write the pronouns over
and over again. Talismans
of existence: he
he, he. She.
She. She. I.

He waited for the last
rhythms to cease, wandered
the local graveyard,
teeth gone black.
His brother sent the police.
Forced him to eat,
to drink, to lay down
and attempt to sleep.
So on and so
forth. You’re alive.
You’re alive. You.

Did his brother, lifting
a spoon to that cavernous
mouth, contemplate
conceding the point? Ferlinghetti
proposed a recipe
for happiness which
included a grand boulevard
with trees, strong coffee
in small cups, and someone
who loves you. But what
do you do when
your brain only sees
death, no matter
how many leaves
shimmer in the sun?
Give me a recipe
that lets me see these
grasping hands as mine
and hers and his.

Jessica Pierce has been published in a variety of magazines including The Madison Review, The New Haven Review, Tar River Poetry, JMWW, Euphony, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mead, Illya’s Honey, and Northwest Review. She earned her Ed.M. from Harvard, and is the Dean of Students at an alternative school outside of Portland, OR working with students at high risk of being pushed out. She comes home to two wild and wonderful children and her sitar-playing husband.

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