Poetry / Jennifer Givhan
:: The Monster ::
orders something with pumpkin.
the woman in the Starbucks at the table beside me selling her house in three days & making a 30k profit is bummed bc she has to split that with her parents & husband & dairy flares her allergies & she’s doing good deeds in the community or the private school where her kids go I couldn’t tell if she understood the difference & every word from her mouth feels like bs today like some privileged shit though I too am dairy free & I bs with the best of them I’ve lied to my therapist on intake bc context takes time & my insurance only pays for an hour which means I don’t have time to explain why I moved a thousand miles to live with a married man so I smokescreen like I didn’t know he was married till I got there & the therapist agrees he’s a lowlife.
beyond the coffee date the status update the hourlong I have to myself between ferrying my daughter to appointments—the brightness of the yellow in the bosque leaves this fall. gold, truth be told. vibrant sulphur. though they’re dying. seaweed washed up on the shore before we moved back to the desert. the reddest, the most beautiful, meant death, & the stench, o that fucking stench. & the addicts on their bicycles ferrying their disappointments into the forest beyond.
how part of me wants to follow them the way I followed my old addictions to Texas.
there’s cheaper tile at Lowe’s or some bs hardware store & the Christmas Eve party at the renovated house of the bs lady beside me in her mostly bs jogging suit.
& I can’t dislike her, you know. I would lay down my life for her, I’m fairly certain. if I know anything about myself. if I cut past the insurance hour & the bs desire to make you desire me, that old desire swelling up, always, from a girlhood I’d give anything but poetry to pottery barn into a bs house, that old desire to expose my breasts for they were the first thing men wanted of me—12 & breasts swelling their cherried cakes, two perfect things I could offer. as those boys-to-men on their bikes making deals like the man who dealt my life & my children’s lives & I let him, of course I let him, man I’d first loved when he was a boy who wanted once more than the cherry-red things sprouting from me. as the butter bright trees. dislike is a mirror I’ve eaten.
if a monstrous creature came through the dinging door, & it was her or me, a doglike creature, a jawed, nasty beast. fanged or something. gourd-chewing.
I would want to pet it.
or swallow it.
if the woman were my daughter I would die so she could run.
And isn’t my daughter the parts of us I love.
if I could cut through the bs, I would go up to the woman & say You are my daughter & I will save you from the monster.
& this, my loves, is why I write you these poems.
:: we feel good when we do what we’ve evolved to do ::
& I’ve evolved to love you. Yes, you. I’ve just spoken with a grasshopper on a lilac brush his muted eyes like a mask his face one I conceive must be hatted when he dreams & I wanted to share this with you, I had to write a poem for you because my heart believed you’ve been scammed too have been sold healing crystals that turned out to be gravel from the snake oiler’s own slick driveway. This world. Can you imagine we live in a world with the word honeysuckle? The dog in the backyard uproots the rooted vegetables & gnaws on the dead varmint. The scientist explains our gullible natures as evolutionary tripwires. Don’t feel ashamed, dearhearts, you believed in something more beautiful coming your way.
From the writer
:: Account ::
These poems both come out of the same desire to mend the gap, to find the spaces of interconnectedness and hope, in spite of the ways our brains attempt to trick us with their evolutionary hardwiring or their social conditioning. I’ve battled depression and mental illness most of my life now, and yet I long to remain in this world. At my best moments, the realization that any spirit here could be my daughter, and that I stay here for my daughter, these are the moments I’d lay my life down for, by which I mean, stick around. Wait and see what happens. Relish in the word honeysuckle. Now in a time of social distancing, it’s perhaps more important than ever to continue discovering, with childlike hope that renews everything, that when we face the monstrous, we’ve also evolved to love each other. The kids and I have been learning trivia about neuroscience, and I’m learning how not to be angry at myself for the risks I’ve taken, the impulses I’ve followed, the signs I’ve believed in, when it all came to nothing, when it all crumbled around me. These days I’ve been singing quite a few Beatles songs, and whenever the beast comes baring its razor sharps, I try something so cliché as love—and it still works.
Jennifer Givhan, a Mexican-American writer and activist from the Southwestern desert, is the author of four full-length poetry collections, most recently Rosa’s Einstein (University of Arizona Press, 2019), two chapbooks, and the novels Trinity Sight and Jubilee (Blackstone Publishing, 2019 and 2020). Her work has appeared in The Best of the Net, Best New Poets, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, POETRY Magazine, The Rumpus, The New Republic, AGNI, TriQuarterly, The Nation, Crazyhorse, Witness, Southern Humanities Review, and the Kenyon Review. She has received, among other honors, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices fellowship, and New Ohio Review’s Poetry Prize, chosen by Tyehimba Jess. Givhan holds a master’s degree in English from California State University, Fullerton, and an MFA from Warren Wilson College, and she can be found discussing feminist motherhood at jennifergivhan.com as well as Facebook and Twitter @JennGivhan.