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.”

7:1: “Expecting”, by Jennifer Jerome...

for J, after two miscarriages

What genie do you go to, where

is the fish to grant you your three
wishes: a child, a healthy child, one

who will live? You would take anything—
a boy with swan’s wings, or a bull’s

head; a girl with snaking hair, perhaps
a tail that curls and scales the air

behind you. Where is the witch
you must face, the riddle that needs
undoing? You’d eat every poisoned apple,

fight through thickets to towers, rise
up to battle dragons with just anger
and grief to ride on. What god

wants appeasing? The third time’s

the charm, and bad things come
in threes. This bridge you keep crossing,
you are crossing it again, at a pace

you can’t quicken. No one can spell you. But
there you are: expecting the shape—
the smell—of the troll that waits below

your feet; still set on besting that cobbled arc.

Jennifer Jerome is a native New Yorker. Her work has appeared or isforthcoming in various publications, including The Pedestal Magazine, ChiZine, The Comstock Review, Pebble Lake Review, Goblin Fruit, and Astropoetica. For more about her work, cast your ‘net here.

This poem grew out of pain and desire. It was inspired by how they feed—and feed on—the choices we make, and by how we manage to keep moving.