Two Poems

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 as well as Face­book and Twit­ter @JennGivhan.