The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2021

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OCT 2021 Issue

The Autobiography of Jean Foos

Part II

II Pages must show

                             JACKSON HEIGHTS

Out of season meditation contains curtains and faux auto guffaws
notes sodden or articulated risen up as material’s minus hour
the project will require her to travel to Scotland
waters of The Minch a strait a ramble a loam
absolute boundlessness, groan, safety-pin “my own youth” practice
history of bridges notwithstanding pastime tics pause the astral frame
and since the wind blows in my face, I sail

Readying for liftoff black wings skew in downed light
word follows word in a small bookstore when we meet
as to redouble “‘tween times” decades fall at our feet
[pointing]: Look over there, towards Tamalpais. See them coming
creosote smell late summer rattling empty road arbitration ploughs
by marching together they do not feel so all alone
dust rising up then settling with the anachronistic light rain

Not a tradition to write an autobiography in my family
each life still, a planar projection on the rough hills
watch out or you’ll get sent to Napa it was
so hot the dirt yard cracked be my urgent noun
sunny brother big sister fun windowsill nothing renovates world
dead end town sleepy eye detecting norm, long walk off
first recall that I am one (please excuse the melodrama)

Berkeley’s dull flats sidewalks sloping slightly down or slightly up
red clay roof tile mythology “mission” drenches junior high decor
courtyard preamble haunting simple inability to learn to properly swim
mysterious often to my undeveloped understanding and imperfect feelings
such repetition as fog spelled, summers; tiered roses tinting slowly
begins to suspect while cycling preteen detective joins the case
east bay contusion typical of adolescent revery upgrades to do

Best thing is to enjoy to do as much as possible
hello to the people in the back tall row cranky set
want to be here filters through me, under working conditions
knowing details detains federated self at cloud level, bravado drainage
multi-etage stratiform more than oneself, something to stand on
sallow bridge in the distance a harbinger a hellbent harpy
— goes itself; what I do is me: came for that.

More arid south than known scrub oak poison ankles
flame drawn dragonflies, roundly flung mortal thing does one thing
soothsaying chlorine cure re-trips nostalgia plunge, industrial kitchen perks
agua escondida montaging mid-desert pawned landscape of what
vesting terror with cute panticles of color-attuning compost
quonset surprise doze the little graph sky turquoise math scan
high desert malapropism scans trail, my pulaski please

My boss “well-scanned mate!” to compost what perk things remain
stations of young adult blank tote propaganda in the miles
serve oh bondage up yours oh form vertigos I’m yours
lines underfoot a sodden mantra gem store aura abeyance
suffocating fluctuating one’s self center aspirational metrics travel far consume
sunset grays within which the red coat tails the altar girl
on this work her name and the date in gold letters

Cliffside jukebox scrappy eye on horizon numbs Laughing Sal
building exposed to the sea was always damp exuded salt
plot taps maternal gloved benign, falling away from such icons
gambling great-grand 2nd woman to get driver’s license in SF!
brightest satin puddles urine stank on the So. San Fran veranda
Monday gypsum is a drag, intonaco powdered brick powdered worker
not able to predict explosions my form a bright huddle

Notes on autobiographically reversed rear window plots throw its voice
vantage darkly clear and trussed with 21st c. chaulklines
downtown ironing paper money just back from Reno suit’n hatted
Texan interlude handicaps peaceable franchise, go hum to the fields
nope, derogatory references to ladyparts don’t enhance freedom fighter stance
negotiating coast past or aquatint flames on the mythic moors
news is the poetry that stays poetry, daydreaming like we

Startled anon thrush argyle meta-fractal pilfering images for schist
no, my mother was not in prison, just the world
seeping cold stone beeswax lord the load was fearsome light
the singer sounded like she had just returned from night
measuring pumice fragment chucked by posited volcano, trailer park Tepic
she herself was a mythological creature, no realm for geographers
on the straight open desert road drive test mangles teen ego

Today’s temp drop somewhere tiny feather bundles sit tight biotecture
habitué of currents arching under the door, country road redux
almost always reading through key hole seize Tree of Book
as if seizing an act itself repeated to equal memory
one gal calls another and the opening sound of seagulls
layering narrative sounds “desolate” or “confused” or bad sibling syndrome
roll out the sky as if it hopes, a scroll

Geographical inscription worn as fog bright happiness-phobic barometer
whence not wince, joy to begin, domestic and obscure clip-clop
sensible librarian stilts don’t get me anywhere near the ceiling
a woman sits wrong in a room writing. Nothing happens.
black-bound spines pneumatically hushing echoes off tiles, swinging gates
benign asterisk signal of a treasure which is not analog
soft-soled and equidistant dreams trip subterranean stacks, motes flying

Outskirts of sun encyclopedia dots sprinkle across infant’s face
quiet of a summer day is the cool of wooden floors
don’t know if prepare narrative is a garden exit strategy
I am in no position to construct my own story
technicolor iris aura in lieu of an ordinary elevation
consigned to the daylight wishes fall in a dead heat
stars and stripes house streaming war texture hit her news

Glow-in-the-dark saint watches over the acreage
heard the word face to face acetate no boundary line
predicated on loss explorations lean toward the middle, pure light
out and about revive fragments live out our precise experimentation
time-lapse funicular, follies adapt to reason of semi-sheer century
truck through disasters of peace in good heart wrote trip
calamity normalizing dense inches of dust then surround them

Only thing to do, unfold words in the continuity queue
behaving as instructed except damned tilt toward norm bunching up
passing back and forth, flat tire w/popcorn, panoramic movie candy
the scene floats above their brows by about 50 yards
pop goes library space imagination shelves 1000 books occupy
connected at the spine the forever train leaving the station
diverse tales clash intermission past present, imaginary space, childish eye

Aplomb nation me upon the land they upon the land
misspelled psychology familiars too rich and strange for synopsis
notary dust in which the hot wind spelled desert mouth
pseudonyms at night glittering “I“ and ”I” day-to-day
addictive nods to roadshow step-personhood out back Iowa way
now elevators dialogue in sword subtitles to the street
mid-range grain pebbling path to the stars O Lord

In a neighboring office a power-driven machine vibrated dully
steadfast midwest rumble a clarity achieved for sons of ours
still see Big Allis the power plant’s billowy thought pillows
pre-offspring canopy floats indigo an avenue turned too bright
all more present, arriving, I step off the metaphysical plane
head full of others’ heads a spill I can’t contain
existence of reader this is happening real electrical lighting

A seizure of disappointment put the man to sleep
warlike age imprint the days themselves wisps psychological library thriller
bright finish of the planes as in “render them tractable”
smiting sun face against a city, other pines cool channels
respite proxy tiered labor antigen, shallow pools of calm sparkle
new and neglected long takes just existing unravel next door
while forward tilt deposits fractious fall from both coasts gently

Facing something new through distorted prisms peculiar to their age
which is to say the first wind upset the apex
I would’ve circled back if the shadows weren’t so voluptuous
ephemeral road torches steps so inward is the path
with help we can together uncover new things about you
when my idiom parka billowing took a turn against me
meanwhile cheese sauce packet mixed well via Queens kilowatts

Cycling into headwind flips migraine switch tantalizing partial to hips
breathing, then I understood it was the time to “cut!”
looking for a word again after all these years
I know by the eyebrows that I look like myself
a slow heart beat a low pressure data comb-over
euphoria sentence scenery with two wheels peeling is happening
orderly process of chlorophyll loss pt. 2.6 swept me flat

Recognized as their common bond of childhood in battlespace, CA
dull streets pinch unfurled scent of sourgrass, dandelion, summer damp
receipt sweet smiles under shepherd’s sky on bedroom television
code for grievous chlorine sprain docket in teen chain shrubbery
now that there is something for us to stand on
something to lift up off the ground and fling down
for cameras pull plastic-wrapped pieces from a hope chest

Winter wheat on my road turns fall a fiduciary green
swoopy lifeline has coke bottle styling and drinks it too
pragmatic bellows blew out the small charm of possible lives
ahead the quiet February moonlight, the various universe making
and unmaking maternal transoms -- a daft linger, a shared frock
bad hierarchy, new baby next door cries poetry roars red
unafraid and fractured, the gaps in the viewfinder capitulated

All aboard the duodrama train, the greenhouse forever needing paint
if only, in the long-run, abstruse cliffs strewn as decoy
Prussian Blue commotions paging New York Public Library grainy still
refuge in books smoothing fear into margins, then off-page
music, prefer to drink coffee and write my own way
from institutions, parks, crevice of time a person can coddle
“First minute on the page I thought, ‘Bing! This is it.’ ”

Perhaps my rusted trestles flush after-world capillary fundament afterall
Bermuda green marble leather with cream trim Samsonite overnight bag
underwritten diadem beckoning come ON, life: morsel, seascape, step one
fog lifts itself like a gauzy veil to touch her face
an error, concave in form, barely moving the dawn forward
here’s movement of silk painted in streaks to represent waves
verge depicted as a series of lines which nearly intersect

Time swimming engraved eyes’ algae surge on distressed sentence
to tamp the gray a keen pull south still carries
pencil stops beat beat LOOK quasi direct pouring you try
armature intact for time travel, if only the memes behave
it’s 16 with the wind, lotsa listening body totters sense
camera obscura’s lens an eye on my past, fettering bright
vied view bird Oberlin accordion, sew grate J so great

Tracing in the missing parts of “a modestly regional life”
into close-up sunlight glinting on water and begin
anodyne town which smallness will interest with quotidian regret
a midwest peculiar to the one who has invented it
affixing sound to location as ordinary life unbends and refolds
we write of autobiography by being busy to avoid autobiography
as lapsed tones heave when it comes down to it

Tell somebody the plot, Her Gal Friday in ten words
cadence of the Stars, a show to melt snow by
[kick the tires] in a gas station “My beautiful car.”
roadie to self welcome high desert boot camp waltz dream
the automobile is the untrue protagonist, earrings, the road poem,
outdistanced already by small life doldrums & trenchant fireball sightings
duets & daisy dailies venture, three ride technicolored into March

Loyal to having been there a shout out to destiny
gambling house grandmother thwarts easterners eyeing California redwoods
drive-thru tree dent annoying my fender murky in the rain
reader’s head occupies more or less the center of the page
its marginal scope fancies within its range bliss ever after
into circles good try, oh hi Giotto, on harmony stereo
genetic ideation trap for cloudless lapis ceiling, radiant eye

Infinity sway lived love searcher words on Oberlin sunset surface
kilter resting alongside Great Lakes Plains tilth meets sublime spring
outside bandana a bridge is a bridge, creaking inner sanctum
along Erie shore detain ambitions in swampy whirlpool mind fuck
opens her set ever-swinging diary to cumulus clouds
rancid bling, spoon-fed raptor, trusty volunteer loosens in snow
11:43 AM all is Boswell in April, pamphlets in blossom

An end to not knowing why receding into the acres
fair archive of intrepid friend panoramas, my how they hypnotize!
our lady of the city, the road, next thing gazing
now pacing over and over again congratulations it’s a book
where I am waiting to learn to walk as measure
twister fastened to a car, it moves along the track
headwind plows under soft content shaping odd-edged happiness stain


Jessica Grim

Jessica Grim is author of Vexed (BlazeVox, and /Ubu Editions), Fray (O Books), Locale (Potes & Poets Press), and The Inveterate Life (O Books). She lives in Ohio.

Melanie Neilson

Melanie Neilson is a poet. She lives in New York.

Melanie and Jessica co-founded/edited Big Allis (1989–2000), a magazine focusing on experimental writing by women.
Additional excerpts from The autobiography of Jean Foos have appeared in Bomb, Conjunctions, and Chicago Review.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2021

All Issues