Laying Down the Veils
“Accuracy is always the gateway to mystery.”
Poised is the word most applied by others—you
who makes even a sweatshirt look classy,
these forgotten bristles. Your holdover pronunciations
that oomph voluptuous into volumptous
or ask, Why thaw a frozen chicken breast
when you can dethaw it instead?
Each fallen fantasy,
for me, another fact to keep. The near
endless time you take before
a bathroom mirror, before deciding
anything, or finding all those right words
to say. The sags and wrinkles I hope to be
around to see. And most of all, how you
know me, too—my clutter and sweat, my need
for now instead of later, how I cry
during the rousing speeches
in action movies, how my gentleness
is more learned than given—that you
know all this and love me still.
Ignored, any difficulty can become
the small thing that is
the only thing, the lichen that shears
the mountain in two. The world
can have the air-brushed models, faces
firmly in place. Here, the mystery
is dead, long live the mystery.
October 18-22, 2013:
Little Rock (LIT)à Santa Barbara (via LAX)à Little Rock (LIT)
Because the day after we married
we were scheduled to teach, our wedding night
was pretzels and hummus from a plastic tub, a cup
of cut fruit, and a midnight flight. Thus, a Boeing cabin
as our marital chamber, all the standard humiliations
of a plane: snaky whisper from the overhead vent, seatback pockets
sticky as a kangaroo’s pouch, and the complaining bowels
of strangers, none of whom knew or cared
we were newlyweds—recognition of our marriage dependent,
anyway, on which state we were flying over. That
and all the crying babies, and row after row
of inflatable neck pillows.
But around her neck—my wife’s
neck—a scarf the goldenrod yellow of deep joy. Unfurled,
it blanketed us both. We pulled up the hoods
of our sweatshirts and I took her left hand
in mine. No party, no speeches, no gifts;
beneath the cabin’s din, just our simple silver rings
together, sending up their small chimes.
With her head on my shoulder, she slept,
while I repeated,
silently, our vows, the ones we’d struggled over
many nights in bed: Why a semi-colon
when a comma might do? Can we focus more
on promises than prohibitions? This was how
two poets learned to share. This, why
we’d needed to marry
as we did, without distraction
of seating orders or centerpieces. We had enough
dishes. No longer children, we knew
what we were getting into. Each of us
holding the hand of the most
stubborn person we knew, the only one capable
of wrenching the other
greater than the sum of her parts.
And so, awake and watching every moment
of that flight, I can say with certainty
we departed one day, landed in another,
and disembarked in another state entirely.
When My Wife Asks About My Tramp Years
A detail, a gesture—
how one spoke in accents when nervous, how another
kissed my knuckles every morning upon waking—
can be followed
like a thread through the labyrinth
to a scene, a moment
shared with one
of the ones I loved
before I loved her.
I learned comic timing, appreciation of sculpture, kindness,
culture, and, from the first, that I too could be crushed
by the unrequited.
But so what
if their tics accreted
like barnacles; so what if I’m coral—a small-beings collective
masquerading as indivisible whole?
If I am, then so
is she: the dirty rock star, the impetuous
artist, that kind boy who sold his car
to buy her a ring.
Each of us,
a tapestry rough with foreign fibers; each
with others layered like glass across our vision, fine-ground
into the lenses through which we see.
But still, sometimes
she has me press
my lips to hers until it hurts. Is it because she, too, wants each kiss
to re-make her? To change her back
into that uncivilized, original place
where there can be no footsteps
For if I can do it,
so can she,
each of us made new
by the goad of our jealousy.
Jessica Jacobs is the author of Pelvis with Distance, winner of the New Mexico Book Award in Poetry and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Her chapbook In Whatever Light Left to Us is just out from Sibling Rivalry Press and her second full-length collection, Take Me With You, Wherever You’re Going, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2019. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her wife, the poet Nickole Brown. More of her work can be found at www.jessicalgjacobs.com