The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2018

All Issues
MAR 2018 Issue




Lost Illusions

“No sense like license”

on a vast little plane of hostile wonders

as day or daylight
by the scrub jay and her supporters

whose episodic memory is said to be a stunning

like that woman we never knew
where to go

or what to do when we got
there diligently copying the masters’

for a few cents and a bed probably

blond or blind undecided
leaving no stone unloved

ousters questers quitters all
like butter in our determination

to never die and just go on ahead
to fever

at some idiot
nankeen trousers. Your realism

would send anyone to spasm.
How dare

the service dog
refuse to serve?

I will steal everything Old Navy has
to offer and still

come up short
in the unoriginal gargle of the wave

receding from the shore
in the rough applause of pines

we’ve had enough of
if and when

the wildfire attaches and
possesses us

in its rush to ruin the tiny actresses
who serve

to bring the play about
under their curls

of smoke. That’s a metaphor
if I ever heard one.

like the line of mortal sweat
you wake in

cast as duff
you can’t control

if the phone’s too near its cradle
to speak its piece.

The Uber comes to chase
the Minotaur to his hedge

leaving us eccentric
if exposed.

This is going nowhere.
The excess peplums (plums, pearls)

from someone else’s poem
are just a distraction

How little we know
about the soup that is served

at the daycare center
Does it meet our needs? Wants?

Desires? Here deer are sparring
to mate

We call this grabbing at straws
with wooden spoons

but I don’t hate speech
just its bloody show

of fits
when the going gets ecstatic

or rough
I can’t embody anything imagined

because nothing new is really nothing known
especially when

nipple to nipple

the gift of gram turns
out a distraction—or outright

loss of function
(bowel, canal, commode)

I could take you anywhere
and yet I choose

to prefer not to
though I know I’m not the first

to exile the dog
against federal law

from the car when it arrives
to take my body to science

and finds it’s all
full up

The early adopters
have won the day

in squirrels, rats, and wrens

were we not
shown the way

to the hayloft?
Say something. I could go on:

The slave university thinks it’s brother
to us all

not evolution’s
own conclusion for good

and all of us a meme
next the ear

adhered to
as the belly of content

from which it shall be rent.
Why not state the obvious?

Hasters gotta haste.
You wouldn’t say you wouldn’t stay

but swallowing the hay-
seed became too difficult.

How much the past has come to define
the present

when we call the clouds “Turneresque”
in the middle of a gale.

I would have to read them all
over again




from “Fallopian and What For”

When did the world first go to the dogs?

I mean when did the glacier take out the main PO

whose people long ago threw in

the towel? All the entrances to the tunnel

are flooded to keep us out

votes scattered behind sheets of PVC

There is nothing to be done in this version of history

as petrified forest

but scratch. We know time’s lazy

collapse When latex snaps the bitter trees

in half

Clouds attack.

What shall we do?





To the players go the spoils

and the grass that writhes underfoot So

if in the transubstantiation of materials

zebras belong

to an odd-toed order

we turn fond of our systems but don’t believe them

significant, aspiring to the church of quiet sanctuary

to witness, register, mother, who enters

if only to exclaim “Mmm—mine!”

The proposition lasts longer than the chorus that greets it.





To see is to belong

to the genus chrysanthemum

hospitable if a little sour

getting no closer to the hour

when Trotula the doctor will be in.

For time travel is formal (story all one)

as horizons retreat repeating

into nights

when the animals come to lick at our feet

in the ER, the OR, and the rave

The egg ovarian arrives by Greyhound as a guest

disembarks confused

mistakes our vermin for pets

then bursts almost naturally





into unprotected

song. For everything inside the egg is personal

I couldn’t stand aside if I wanted to

Meanwhile the scout returns with nothing to report

falls off her horse

Some women only want a love note to engorge

this foreknowledge of fate

Me, I bow like a break in the Oroville Dam

So multiples stand

at the spillway, I

make stuff up but so do my friends,

cutwaters like gladiators

plowing the sea.

leaving it all behind.





like wishbones in the heraldry of dull afternoons

white bison glass over

the Last of Helena’s Chances

Do you still want to go there

with your needle-nosed pliers trained in the shape of a hook?

Say yes.

Melania, blink if you need help.

The meal refuses to cook itself

The beaver tail will never be done

to our satisfaction

When the polar ice melts

the bears come into town

so hungry





For power sees itself coming.

You arrive by palfrey

but must sooner or later dismount

give up your purse to the riposte of compost

interpreted in dance by an ad hoc band

all big shoes and pleated skirts

What makes you think the Rostovs any happier

in their peasant getups

than Kadiddlehoppers in their bright rigs

eager themselves to take the stage?

It gives you pause because

arriving has to do with satisfaction beyond the status quo.






Here the frame tale runs out of gas.

Citizen author stalls in her crusty cap

The ivy envelopes us in green twilight mesh

a lull in a tumult unless

we come up with a gist for this pulse

the nurse will soon be taking

hand over fist like the rope we pay out

to secure our place on the pile

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again

The traffic on the rim has come to a halt

without satisfying our place in the world

If there’s going to be trouble

You’re my bitch now





And I’m the Queen of Sheba.

Meet me in St. Louis, Lois

we’ll call ourselves we and take it from here

to Were you there

among the rubberneckers? When the saints came marching in?

If you think we don’t suffer making paintings of suffering

Get your head examined by a cow in the labor of throes

whose headdress is a crow

deadname the deadnamer and hope

squatters don’t follow

How it ends you don’t

want to know

but do



Jean Day

Jean Day is a poet, union activist, and editor whose Daydream is just out from Litmus Press. Recent poems can also be seen in Chicago Review, The Delineator, Across the Margin, Open House, Breather, and Jongler (French)--as well as in her Triumph of Life, soon to appear from Insurance Editions. Earlier works include Early Bird (O?Clock, 2014) and Enthusiasm (Adventures in Poetry, 2006), among other books, and her work has also appeared in many anthologies, including, most recently, Resist Much/Obey Little (Spuyten Duyvil, 2017) and Out of Everywhere 2: Linguistically Innovative Poetry by Women in North America & the UK (Reality Street, 2015). She lives in Berkeley, where she works as managing editor of Representations, an interdisciplinary humanities journal published by UC Press.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2018

All Issues