Poems: Jessie Janeshek

Bite the Bullet

I get in this rut

            of hiding in the woods with my purple basket

still looking good         hobbling in a black bikini

            on crutches with my selfishness.

Human life matters      on this river of no return

            but all cats are dying.

The summer inside me    is unnaturally cold

            the summer interlude

is where I could drown in my blood

            despite the inner tube

but there’s always this weird urge to preserve.

            Human light-time        afraid of books about aliens

            in love with/afraid of the night

I fall out of this pattern           onto shag carpet

            my legs are broken       or my legs are open

clutching the rubber rat in the basement

            or swinging from rings

or hiding in the dog’s house by the violets

            the rock-rickety ribbon.

            I was drinking martinis from a straw

my face wrapped in bandages

            the night the gray tabby died.

You’d just cut my hair             you’d hidden diamond water

            I’d lied to myself                that I was trying to do something bigger

but who could take this gallery of my childhood photos

            in the wood-paneled basement

            the sweat of routine

and not shoot at me?

I’m behind in my movies

            but every story is a different face

                        a well-mannered bag of bones

                        a woman losing her breasts.

I remember blue ruffled bathing suits

            and drinking from the hose

and how I had to plan time

            swiss-dotted but hemorrhaging in handcuffs

and how if it started raining

            I could always run inside

I could have a broken face or a list

                        but she has a way about her

                              some odd kind of mind control

and I guess I should have died on the longest day

if I didn’t want to be left holding the bag.


Queen Bad Seed

Well, it’s Rebel without a Cause season again

            starlet blue       starlet noir

pale nails and Vampira     between my legs a mix

            of stink-fizzy grapefruit

slight chance of shadow.

            In the drained swimming pool

I surround the tiled heart with candles

            think Mickey loves Jayne like Jayne loves sun-tanning oil

            or like Jayne loves pink shag         and you can have some

of my milk or hormones          and it’s good to eat food

            wild w/out labels        under the moon

in the shape of a star.       It’s good to feel full

and maybe it’s true I did see the ghost

            but I didn’t have patience

and maybe she stood in my doorway hole-eyed

            blue kaftan and silver cat necklace

and maybe my life-sized plastic solder lamp glowed

            as I taught him to masturbate

in a silky nightgown     and ’50s tiara

            holding a conch shell   pretending Lady Liberty

and there’s only one hole you cannot climb out of

            and by then it won’t matter.

What could I grow up as

            beating men off with my snoopy snowcone machine?

My cry-sigh at the vanity

            double eyelids and flying a flag

made red with ketchup or blood

            the wish to stop hunting

so unanimous I swallowed your stone?

Getting my ears shot    w/ 14-karat torches

            at Piercing Pagoda

and fucking the lifeguard in my green-checkered bikini

            could be my acte gratuit

except I made up the lifeguard

            and the dark paper lanterns

same cups        same cupboard

            I got sick of charades.

Can my Hollywood friends come to the party

            while I leave the fireworks

for the convenience store parking lot

            and wash down a handful of sunset barbiturates

with a slush puppy?


I’d Be Safe and Warm if I Was in LA

            half girl, half ostrich.   The address says Anytown

but I’m not good at loss.

            You say it doesn’t sound so hard

                        and aren’t there still sex murders

            behind the Hollywood Bowl?

                                    But non-sleep is so bad

so are gold satin curtains          bloody slips and black magnets

            in this deluxe pink bathroom.

                                    Maybe I started in the corner of a big dept. store

selling celluloid. Like a cameo, maybe, behind robot TVs

                        with dark purple eyes.

                        Maybe I haven’t told you about my death

                        a special kind of seahorse

                        swimming mornings alone

                        since it’s always evening in the disposable zone.

                                    I gave you all I wanted                my guilty surprise

                                    the deer moving in and out of the water

                        the anachronism of my tartan dress

                                    crossed with polar fur in the summer.

It’s not funny, really, thick socks or diurnal feelings

            a vitamin shot in my ass

                        but what does it matter                   summer’s always over

                        eclipse or not               36 times.

You make blue moons blonde.    You finish religion

                        choke me with a phone cord.

                                                            Lucky duck 13.                Lucky car wreck.

                                                            I vow to lie in the sun

                                                            with my fat bag of makeup

                                                            in my gingham dress

                                                            wishing I believed

                                                            in a doctor, a god, or astrology.

I vow to kill a fox with my bare hands at a pit stop

            end my depression, white vans driving by.

I vow to take poison behind the motel pool

            die flat on my face and show everyone.


(Note: The title I’d Be Safe and Warm if I Was in LA is a line from the song “California Dreamin’” by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips.)


Jessie Janeshek‘s third full-length book of poems MADCAP is forthcoming from Stalking Horse Press in 2019. Her first two books are The Shaky Phase (Stalking Horse Press, 2017) and Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010). Her chapbooks include Spanish Donkey/Pear of Anguish (Grey Book Press, 2016), Rah-Rah Nostalgia (dancing girl press, 2016), Supernoir (Grey Book Press, 2017), Auto-Harlow (Shirt Pocket Press, 2018), Hardscape (Reality Beach, forthcoming), and Channel U (Grey Book Press, forthcoming). Read more at jessiejaneshek.net.

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