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J.L. Conrad

The houseplants, you are saying, / when I turn them around, I feel like a god. All those faces.


Poem in Which I Try to Bring Back the Dead

It’s a question of loss. Each afternoon I phone
from the glass booth beside the ocean, wind
driving air through the door-cracks, sky flung haphazard.
Each night we enter the casino, taking our chances,
traveling the long corridors of lit stars. When it’s clear
something else must be done, we remove
our names from the waiting list. Wearing bracelets
fashioned from spoons, we approach the truth-
tree seeking to open the question, to settle
our differences. Later, as we eat breakfast, flocks
of nightingales cloud the air. There’s no coffee to be found
for miles, and all signs point to walking: jaunty figures,
leaping deer, an air of yellow danger. A sense that
we might arrive at any one of our pasts is brewing.
Because we no longer need our bodies, we’ve
sent them packing. We try to name this grief. The day
holds thick as feathers. Your voice hums without breaking.

Poem in Which a Decision Has Been Reached

One Tuesday furled on another. It is
a Jubilee year, complete with waterskis and a cake
ten layers high. Our niece is a carousel horse
named Jewel Diamond Flowers. She has gold hooves
and wants to head toward the playground
where a hunger moon approaches, grimacing.
We find ourselves in heavy foot traffic. Time slows
to a muddle. The houseplants, you are saying,
when I turn them around, I feel like a god. All those faces.
It has come down to this: the bright seed
taking root in the body’s damp heat.
This thick-skulled darkness heading into night.

Poem in Which Everything is At Odds

History doesn’t leave us much to go on.
Its series of locked doors, false walls in which
witnesses hide for years. A forced resettlement
with no view of trees. Desire seems to melt away.
I memorize the ceiling and plot my next move.
Rabbits sit chewing at the corners of houses.
You could call this a fascination with hiddenness.
You couldn’t see a whale if it were right there
in front of you, skin glossed with rain. But then,
who would? I wear heart-shaped sunglasses,
rhinestones lined on each earpiece. I have various
optimisms. A little glitter keeps one moving.
A flash of light can at times suffice for knowledge.


J.L. Conrad is the author of one full-length collection, A Cartography of Birds (Louisiana State University Press, 2002), and a chapbook, Species of Light (bellywater press, 2004). Her poems have appeared in H_NGM_N, Pleiades, Columbia, Third Coast, Beloit Poetry Journal, Mid-American Review, The Cream City Review and Forklift, Ohio, among others. She currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where she is working toward her PhD in literary studies.