8:4: “Nettled”, by Jennifer Jerome

8:4:  “Nettled”, by Jennifer Jerome
  I only do this because I have to. There’s no one else
  who can. Eleven swans wheel overhead, bright wings

flashing as feathers catch the sun. I piece together
shirts from nettles. Green needles pierce my fingers:

blisters swell up, fat as bread dough. I do not fly
at this. My tears soak the harsh plants, keep them

pliable. The salt burns. The birds scud down around me,
watch me while I work. Their dark eyes never blink. I can’t

tell which brother is which, they look the same
to me. They squawk their terrible squawks. I could

sob and sob and not make a sound around the stone
in my throat. I don’t bother. I rest my hands and watch

the swans preen; beaks curl down to polish sides as white
as snow that’s bound to melt. What would happen if I stopped?

I still remember love, rough hugs, the endless clatter of boots
on the stairs. What’s left now, a house of dust. The gate

gusts shut; the great birds fling up into the sky, a flurry
of feathers and wind. I’d give my own strange hands

to be there — I’d flee the wind down if I could, screaming
out to every other wild loosed thing, never once looking back.


Jennifer Jerome is a native New Yorker. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications, including The Pedestal Magazine, Flashquake, ChiZine, Pebble Lake Review, and Goblin Fruit. For more about her work, cast your ‘net at www.jenniferjerome.com. She says:

“I wrote this poem because I wanted to know what she’d say if she could speak, this good girl, this responsible sister.”



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