gold steam, at the end of rope’s day
where harbor slurps at dusky wharf ledge
bordering bay. breakwater hems itself
around armaments to docks
frozen in fighting display. where we ransack
the shelves for the warmest coat
in remote consideration of long-term camping–
I’ve buried alive nine animals for you
all a shot to the hand, or calf
all glorious writhing knotted in red.
I take a shovel to this backlog
and dig through the night breached
by the likes of me unsewing beasts from
dirt underneath. elsewhere is tomorrow.
elsewhere sleeps the dogs.
photo courtesy of Kim Nagy
the sun set as birds flew over the Warwick on the Saturday
we walked the Highline, stopping for Long Island’s train
slowly crashing into port, a helicopter’s pulse at the
wave of a hand that wasn’t yours. seated at the bar
was a halo-blue vest boasting three gold chains
sitting thin and horizontal, silver mane and ivory cane
leaning against the stool’s leg.
from Virginia, he told us. that old tobacco money
cycling as silver cigar smoke in our mouths, double barreled
and stuck to the red hairs of the deep south.
we postured for his cavalcade of geographical references,
his refined beard, sturdy, in the silhouette of a brisé fan.
if I liked Jefferson, I need to go to Monticello, he said.
grew up only twenty miles north
of there. the canopy of leaves and litany
of jingling keys humming behind the groundskeeper’s bending
knees. James, and he shook my hand. dabbed his emerald
pocket square to the dry corner of his mouth and tapped the cane
on the bar’s ledge. Philadelphia, one day. I’d like to see the central
square’s mass grave. bowing, he left me sitting there
honoring each ancestor collecting as rhythmic likenesses
of generals, scholars, laborers of plantations past.
photo courtesy of Kim Nagy
a knock on the door and we knew who it was for,
the scale model of barracks we saw up at Valley Forge
dropped on the mat outside collecting snow in the cold. army
as they go, some two hundred years of formal winters stacking
bricks inside the home I surrender to the men whose eyes I close.
where an ocean away they stormed the King for his castle
and reclaimed, victorious, pregnant brides heaving armfuls of fresh lumber.
now I, the benefactor, who writes in my country’s colors, some
throwaway box of empty letters, hoping to sling a runaway king
between the sheets, besieged and breathless, behind winter’s wreath
nailed to a door that permits only sovereign applicants.
a field full of tired backs, how could they sleep? if I could sew
a crown of brambles, I’d lay it before the supplicants’ feet, entering for me–
a missile lost, some silver queen– remembering a notion
on fire of a mountain that marries those holiday hilltops to
Philadelphia’s streets. starving and asleep, is there a nowhere for me?
Jenna Smalley works and writes, paralegal by day and poet by night. Currently residing in Fishtown, Philadelphia, Jenna has contributed to the local Philadelphia zine Semi-Perfect and the University of Iowa Undergraduate Literary Review Earthwords. This is her first byline in an online literary magazine. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in Journalism and English Literature, Jenna moved back to the east coast and funded her legal career by hitting the trifecta on the Kentucky Derby. Jenna gathers her inspiration from the city in which she resides, along with adventures into the unknown of wilderness and mountain alike, pairing industrial experiences with rural imagery. You can find her on a bar stool at Little Pete’s, Graffiti Pier, or the race track.