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The Channel U Poems by Jessie Janeshek

She Who Gets Slapped

I guess I would have heard if she were dead
         hanging hankies from the clothesline
it’s the fear in the red dress
         complicity/complexity                keeping me away
or my misunderstanding             of hot consomm√©
a rose-colored marquee      and silent movie faces
         and why was she trying to woo him
with a ripped silk shawl       and pilgrim imitations
         as a little girl watched the screen
and left to pick some violets glass slicing through her ligaments
         almost lost a finger.

The burdens are broken        the cat’s meow buttons
         and/or the blondie from Brooklyn
                  in the graveyard with gold heels
                          or a throwback trap trampling
                  in a green evening gown
                          overplaying the teeth
                  in the light of the evening.

She was a pretty girl             her gold was comedy
         her gift was associative          birds and a cold
a live wire gone dead         were it not for connections
         or bloody cookies.
The truth was she got old     and never won over her public
                 and pre-code was a man’s world
                          and blood ran over the moon
                  and through the pink lambs
                  suspiciously backlit
                          and cameras were heavy
                 so she gassed herself wrapped in fur.

Note: He Who Gets Slapped is a 1924 film.


Nothing Sacred

I never promised you a rose garden
         or a ladder to climb                 up from your radio waves
or a ladder to climb                      up from the grave
         where my father made and married a windmill.
I dream of an easel                radium glowing
         a match girl tap tapping     big sheets of paper
madcap give me faith           as I cry, cry cry
         mop off the poison
                  fire planes fill days
a bag lady at Our Lady of Lourdes
        slashing the amniotic sac.

Do you want your pink dog in a sack?
         This part is broken        sliding bed pans
under the shadows                taking my temperature
         with the false thermometer
turning the red strip            to say I’m burning up
         tied-on tags or jokes       apples quiet on Saturdays
                  oh, it’s a big fire.

This part’s also broken         lightning bolt on my shoulder
         spelling blonde with an e
showering ten times             to take up more time
        lying in bed               to read forever
the children’s book on the murder
         half-back shoulders and lipstick
the purple horse waiting      for me to be wrecked.
Reality is what’s seen
         applejack good legs     my face slice/long takes
a sunset resistor        a teenage room corner
                  trained on my knees
                  to take sentiment.

Note: “Oh, it’s a big fire” is a line from the film Nothing Sacred.


BUtterfield 8

I was going to identify         walking to the aviary
        w/ a double set of eyelashes
under the bridge in the dirty steel city
                  a tube in my throat/milk on my tongue
        or broken bones     or scotch for breakfast
one red riding hood                      and three men in a hotel room.
I meditate on the fact           that thinking of you might be bad for me
        or I meditate the immediacy
that this song only works if there’s shame.

We meditate on immediacy
        how you thought I was someone else
from the eyebrows up           in the bar bathroom
         sudden showers I wander
I’m sick w/ three x’s.

                  I wander the snow       showing shrift to our sex
         and how I think my death
         might have something to do
with my car                 fire and ice         lips and tips
        a leopardskin coat
        and the primary color of winter.

                                    After the crash it’s bathetic
                          I’ll live for an hour unconscious.
                                    Yet in the dream I pull you to bed
                          past the gold and the dogs        and you hesitate.

Note: This poem gleans some of its ideas and imagery from the 1960 film BUtterfield 8.


Fly Me to the Moon

The first autumn I spent      afternoons crying
        then rallied in high boots
blonde crazy in burgundy light
        then walked up the hill
my heart-shaped neckline too summery
        or I wore a corset brace
sad jazzy music           to work myself on
        and off in dark houses of therapy
or I worked on the zombie collage in the hammock
        thought I was safe in this fiction
since you believed in time-sensitive philosophies
        not images milling around tiny lights.

In the red car carpe diem      over and over
glitter on my eyelids            the same denim dress
        you said my belly looked good as I let
the plastic vampire pretend to gnaw off my finger
        leave the cherry-scented adhesive gems
and hello operator       in the hospital I played my horoscope
        or the olive green switchboard

You said use your acting skills               or in other words strum the guitar
        in front of a primitive backdrop   relationships are mercenary
                           sticky chocolate for the patriarchy
and you said the abortion             sent an unwanted soul
        back up as I fainted
and how did I ever               believe in crushed velvet
        the valley of summer larceny
brittle 8-tracks in the basement    or the erosion of community memory?

        You said the abortion            sent an unwanted soul up
and I identified its pearls     the perils and furs of the hard way
                 seven girls posing in front of the witch jail
        with dead lips and victory rolls
                          or seven girls snapping you off at the knee
                 so your corpse would fit in the bathtub.


Jessie Janeshek's second full-length book of poems is The Shaky Phase (Stalking Horse Press, 2017). Her chapbooks are Spanish Donkey/Pear of Anguish (Grey Book Press, 2016), Rah-Rah Nostalgia (dancing girl press, 2016), Supernoir (Grey Book Press, 2017), Hardscape (Reality Beach, forthcoming), and Auto-Harlow (Shirt Pocket Press, forthcoming). Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010) is her first full-length collection. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and an M.F.A. from Emerson College. You can read more of her poetry at jessiejaneshek.net.