Jeanne Julian

Let Them Eat


And so, my love, let the ants

make of our humble picnic a feast

as we lie here on the quilt

finding, elsewhere, luscious treats to nibble.


Your earlobe a tender hors d’oeuvre,

my palm a savory saltine,

your kneecap a cupcake,

my breast a cone of soft-serve.


Let them eat, with their pinchy mandibles,

while our recipe for open-mouthed joy

seems too sweet to bear in silence

and becomes a hymn upon my tongue.



Unwanted, but once there


Not again.


We look outside,

up street and down,

and wonder, who

left this for us?


A random generosity.


Feral gray gift,

unwanted but once

there…. Well,

we need it.


It’s almost comforting.


Rain

on our doorstep

like a stray cat leaving

pawprints.


Think of a name for it.



Visit to a Granite Island, Maine


We get there by driving a rollercoaster rise and

descent on a narrow bridge built in the Depression.


Breath comes back on the causeway,

but even that feels dicey, like a storm could sink it.


Spruce and lupine hide the underlying shelf of stone

once quarried for a Rockefeller fountain.


On the main road, banners share smiling images:

each face of the 30 high school graduates. Now what,


for them? What’s it like to be a child, here?

Two dentists and a toothless grocery clerk.


On Friday night the lobstermen crowd the bar

itching for a fight. That’s when my wife lost her toe,


one says, swaying. After a fresh haddock dinner,

we walk a steep hill by the old clapboard Opera House.


Yellow buoys heaped like unexploded ordnance

glow in the twilight beside a red barn’s open door.


Within, backlit, a woodworker bends over a cabinet,

sanding cracked varnish, smoothing away the past.


Next morning, we’re extras on the mailboat’s earnest errand,

scudding over deep indigo galaxied with buoys rigged to traps.


Nice day! my friend says to the tattooed dockhand. He replies

There’s still time for someone to come around and mess it up.



Birds Remind Me


of you, and how we tried to make a household

of that peculiar shabby apartment, where finding

the kitchen required traipsing through our bedroom.

Off a cramped deck atop back stairs (only for emergencies),


I hung a feeder for the birds, in imitation

of grander domiciles more capable of largesse.

With an elementary guidebook

I learned finches, sparrows, chickadees.


When the feeder was nearly empty, you’d tease me,

pestering in words half-whistled, mimicking

those tiny needy creatures out in the wintry void,

with a cloying, repeated entreaty: Please.


Feed us. Feed us seeds. Please.


After I took flight, abandoned you, I’d rest

assured that such customs shared in our shared days

lived on, nested in your sensibility. But now only I,

in all the human universe, hold our mutual memories.


You have died. Migrated into mystery.

It’s hard to unlearn any litany. Birds remind me,

in whistles partly words, of how I left you

empty, uncomforted, your anger an unheeded plea.

 

Jeanne Julian, from South Portland, Maine, is author of Like the O in Hope and two chapbooks. She has poems in Comstock Review, Kakalak, Poetry Quarterly, Naugatuck River Review and elsewhere and is co-winner of Reed Magazine's Edwin Markham Prize (2019). She regularly reviews books for The Main Street Rag. www.jeannejulian.com