Jess June (June 5, 2017)

Dry Spell

It was the summer you
noticed neighbors selling
grocery store fruit outta
their car trunks –
sings hung, waving
You watched
the countdown of days.
You planned nothing.
He asked what color
described you best.
“You mean like, red?”
“No. As in,
Barbed wire forgotten.
Barn door wedged shut.
Window broken and whispering
cuts. Tailgate of that pickup
after ten years of floods.
Drought without warning.
Nightmares from vacant
dreams. That swing set
that used to mean

In the Juniper Trees

You’re the front row of a blues club at seventeen.
No door guy, no ID.
(No idea).
You’re the inertia from the spark of the match
that catalytically burned your lover’s mind
from the inside. The catastrophe of silence.
The wallowed brilliance of frozen speech.
You’re the initial let down, the final farewell.
The end scene with no credit roll. A one way ticket
bought with a stolen card. Shallow hands, heavy
shoulders, stitched heart.
A sympathy letter addressed to the symphony of decline.
The dirt pile under fingernails from the shovel of a sisters grave.
The solemn laugh echoed through hospital halls.
The blue peeling paint – the fake promise of “okay.”
The fallacy of normality under fluorescent lights.
I see you in open doorways, speaking metaphors of trapped
passage. You walk, pale & white & out of focus – still beautiful,
through the gray of winter. You talk of spring. You tell me how fresh
the flowers smell – how there are so many dandelion fields begging
for a wish. How you’ve waited so long just to feel the grass under your bare
feet – to feel your skirt dancing with the wind. & you explain, slowly & labored
& surprised, just how grateful you are, to have finally found some sun.


There are spider webs in the corner where you hide your demons.
I pick the lint from the dryer vent & stare at the cavernous
hole in the basement wall. The one that the energy company
told the landlords to fix last fall, but it got buried with loose snow,
& clouded breath, & late rising full moons, & temporary sanctuary
of concern. Or maybe they told me to tell the landlords to fix the hole,
& Iforgot. Like Iforgot to buy you that ice cream years ago in summer,
when the truck rolled by, singing that sticky song on repeat, slightly obnoxious;
out of tune, & flat. You laughed as you fell from your bike, watching me
try to pedal fast enough to keep the truck from turning the corner.
I skidded to a halt, making sure you were okay – promised if you got up
& we caught the doey-eyed, greasy teenager gunning that summer job down
to the metal sparks, thatI’d buy you every single scoop of cone there was to offer.
We never caught the truck. & at some point, (I’m not sure when)
you stopped getting up. & at some point (even further down the line)
I stopped asking you to. & then I stopped promising you prizes
if you took one more step.If we just made it in time.If you didn’t
simply lie in bed, waiting for the sunset, like you watched the sunrise –
from under the covers.
You argued that there were more burnt oranges & blood reds at night, & more
hazel greens & grapefruit pinks in morning. You said it was because
the day wasn’t jaded yet. & didn’t know the slightest thing about how
one simple action could turn its hue. You said this as you faught
the pills being placed on your tongue. You said you could taste
the white dissolve. & no matter how many doctors prescribed
a different cocktail of cure, you swore it was all placebo. You asked,
over & over & over & over ifI had placed your name, unwittingly,
on some trial study that the FDA had yet to fund. There are so many
synonyms for YES. There is one concrete syllable for NO.
So here I am again, daydreaming in dungeons & folding my clean sheets like yours
were never dirtied. Like you never left a stain. Thinking of how thick, & dense,
& unforgiving the Carolina dirt was, even before we laid your bones in a plot
you bought the morning after he died. Thinking of how your demons, in their spiderwebbed
& syrupped glory, have slowly, with flippant breath & fragile debt,
made their web in this corner. In my basement ceiling. As if to remind
me of all the things I didn’t bring myself to do to keep you.Insinuating thatI could
have played any other hand than the one dealt from your deck. Like I cheated in a game
where only you knew the rules. You’re still the only person I’ve known who could lose
everything, including life, & still call it a win.

The Devil Vacations Close to Home

The rain does not trickle,

it pounds. Like a hand fracturing
the wood of your front door.
Like the neighbors calling the cops
with noise complaints of broken
foundation & crumbled seams.

You, are a lover like an acidic fist.
The drenched silver of melting
wedding sets to savagely sell.
That turned profit. That supply
for demand. That buyer’s remorse.

You study me like a grave; stone cold
& serious. Silent. Wanting to refuse the intake.
Debating over which way to turn the soil.

I am not in you.

Even when you swing
by on an afternoon to casually catch me.
I’ve cut your line. Hidden your hook
in the garage next to the cement.
Buried your lust in the garden with orange
peels & jasmine.

You are not in me.

Not even when you enter
with force. Grabbing the back of my hips
like handlebars. Like you need a guide
through the drenched darkness.


You are not in me when I eat you for lunch.
When I lick the extra want from your lips
& smile with sanctified satisfaction.
It is your satisfaction.
I have never been sincere.

I have never left you wanting,
though I wane.
Though I’ve wasted days counting
how many different times you mention
another name. Like it’s an act of omission.
Like you’re baptizing yourself in your own
confession. Like I can absolve you enough
to guide you through your self imposed

Honey, you don’t know this – which is par.
But the grass on the other side is greener
because it’s hotter in hell. & the devil
gets off on mirages & mind tricks,

& teaching his seduction to eager students
who are willing to gain it all, by losing everything.