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Poem by Jennifer Jean


May 28th, 2014
                                      ~for my husband Sebastien

Maya Angelou died today.
Farzana Iqbal was stoned by 20 men with bricks today.
Boko Haram hides and holds 219
school girls today. It has been 44 days. Maya
Angelou died today. 137 pages of
Elliot’s Misogynist Manifesto have been
shredded—it’s 6 days since Santa Barbara, since
he ravaged 19. Not all men,
some say. Yes all women, others say. Maya Angelou died
today. She was happy to go, I hear. She slept through it,
sweetly. The writer of
the “Rape Joke” poem made the New York Times today. And, I cannot
love you. Would you say
what the song sings, when the song says, “You
are every women in the world
to me?” When I don’t know you? When I can’t
gift myself? I don’t
have words for you. I know
Maya Angelou died today. It’s all over
the news. I know there are tender men.
Some are famous. (I’m thinking—Gandhi.)
The others die unknown. Like women,
they have moon faces. Phases. Everything
depends. They can be war. And I’m not anti-war,
per se. I just look like I am, like I look
like a vegetarian. I love
men, I think. Digesting is the trouble. I love you. 869 men
earned their honor by killing 869 women
in Pakistan. That’s the number we know today.
But night is dark. We know Farzana died with the day-
light, on the steps of the highest court, in the 2nd
largest city, in front of 52 police, lawyers, kin,
men. What can I do? What
does loving you do? Should I write? I stood up today
at an open mic and someone said, Maya Angelou died
today. The poetry there was terrible.
But the 28 poets were happy. Ms. Angelou
was happy too. Poetry makes
people sappy. And why should I care? What do I know? I get up
after 15 readers to read some righteous page poem and
I’ve no power. I’m not happy. Farzana was
3 months pregnant. What good
are we? I’m not right. Maybe I’m not people. You are
every man. You are ugly. You’ve done nothing wrong.
We have a son. He’s 11. Can I forgive him
for being a man? Not yet.
But you///Beautiful, did I tell you? Maya weeps
at 86, telling Oprah,
“God loves me!” She says it over and
over and over. And I’m not thinking, Oh yeah, Oprah. It’s more,
My God, where are you? And,
He’s all,
Where the hell are you?


Artwork © Ira Joel Haber
Artwork © Ira Joel Haber


Jennifer Jean’s latest collection, The Fool, can be purchased via her website. Jennifer blogs for Amirah, a non-profit advocacy group for sex-trafficking survivors; she is a key organizer of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival; and, she teaches writing and literature at Salem State University.

Ira Joel Haber was born and lives in Brooklyn. He is a sculptor, painter, book dealer, photographer and teacher. His work has been seen in numerous group shows both in USA and Europe and he has had 9 one man shows including several retrospectives of his sculpture. His work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York University, The Guggenheim Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum & The Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Since 2007 His paintings, drawings, photographs and collages have been published in over 160 on line and print magazines. He has received three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two Pollock-Krasner grants, the Adolph Gottlieb Foundation grant and, in 2010, he received a grant from Artists’ Fellowship Inc. He currently teaches art to retired public school teachers at The United Federation of Teachers program in Brooklyn.


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Stone Soup Servings Presents: Jennifer Jean


Stone Soup Servings is a regular series for Oddball Magazine that features upcoming performers at Stone Soup Poetry, the long-running spoken word venue in the Boston area that has recently partnered with Oddball Magazine. Stone Soup Poetry meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery at 106 Prospect Street with an open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m.

Consider April 21 as a prelude to the upcoming Massachusetts Poetry Festival with Salem State University instructor, poet, festival volunteer and activist Jennifer Jean, who will be reading this Monday from her latest collection The Fool. Below is an excerpt from the book, which was first published in North Dakota Quarterly.


Wreck Things

The last time we were driving in the city we fought over words
I can’t remember, nearly careening off an onramp.
He insisted I said yak yak and meant blah blah, vice versa, and so
rim and axle were wrecked. Our car shambled
down to a city mechanic and crashed
at his place for the weekend. I was stunned silent, imagining
our Blazer in flight. Apparently—triumphantly—
some lowdown spirits attached to city-stink and domestic ferocity
had slyly spurred us, hoping against hope
to reaffirm their own earthbound happenstance,
their own sad resignations.

But this week—this time
on our toes—we crossed the bridge, skipping over the city.
And I warned those pitiful spirits, “We’re here to play
together.” We all behaved. We let the radio talk
and drove straight to Ocean Beach where half way down Pier 42,
a few notes I had taken— incomprehensible
villanelle conception or grocery list—came loose,
lifted off. So, I stepped out on the water

at once. We had come to an open space
along the quay, where fishermen could cast long lines out to the farthest
possible facade of the sea;
where the splintered barrier wood dwindled, unable to keep me in
a standstill. My first step on water was for balance—
my arm arced, clutching after the folds of those notes.
The second step, for fright, caught me fast—
divided between two surfaces. This seemed wrong so I tiptoed,
following the paper’s flux for a few yards,
scooping it up when the wind was lazy.

It didn’t take long to come back. I hauled myself onto the pier.
He’d been watching. Maybe other people were watching.
He said, I don’t believe you
almost let it get away. I shook my head and opened my mouth,
then closed it. Not one spirit clamored through salt-air to speak,
not one battered grandmother, jilted great-aunt, ancient suicide maiden
came around to spit through me, join me, wreck things.