November 23, 2011

Brett Elizabeth Jenkins


Some things do go wrong, just not in a way I can explain.
Shirts go missing. Red balloons escape
the fat hands of toddlers. Things like that. On any given Friday,

there is a fourth-grade sleepover somewhere, gradually
going awry.  Jonae Smilax and her mother are fighting again.
The screen door has a hole in it so the bugs come in.

Pale women everywhere hastily apply sunscreen.
An important post-it note falls into the heat register.
Things go wrong so regularly, and no one stops

to bemoan the mishappenings. My big wolf tears,
I assume that is what they are doing.
I have no other explanation.


First, you must rise very early in the morning for thirty-five years.
Consider how much your body would weigh without a heart inside

to keep it down. You must feel okay with this figure. Get rid of your
books. Stop thinking your marginal notes will be found useful by others;

waterlog them. However many will fit in your bathtub. Forget
the quadratic formula. Forget all those phone numbers you still remember

from when you were a kid. Gradually erase other, more important things:
your mother's middle name, family recipes, your social security number.

Lose your favorite coat, your Bible, your car keys. Don't look for them.
Get your gallbladder removed. Schedule an amputation.

Think away your top layer of skin cells. Then the next layer. Your skin
will begin to redden (it's just the blood cells showing, no need to worry).

Remove the rest of the skin at a comfortable pace. These layers
no one has touched, no unwashed kisses here, those were gone

long before this. Hit bone. The rest of you will fit in bags and boxes.
Take apart your feet first and work your way up like you're putting

away a puzzle. Pack the bones tightly together; the smaller ones will fall
to the bottom, there. Before you know it, you've finished.

Someone will be along shortly to pack up your hands.


Brett Elizabeth Jenkins currently lives and writes in Albert Lea, MN with her husband and no children. Look for her poems in Beloit Poetry Journal, Potomac Review, elimae, PANK, Neon, and elsewhere.


Heather L said...

I sat reading these two poems forgetting to take a breath, holding it all in until the end. Wow.

Irena P. said...

I loved both poems but especially "How To Die". I'm not going to forget it.

donalmahoney said...

This is very fine work by a poet whose name is new to me. I certainly look forward to more poems in the future.