Two Poems

Poetry / Perry Janes

:: I have lived my entire life inside the movies, ::

          —after Diane Seuss 

their orchestras hiding around every corner. Where boom 
mics lurk between building girders, sidewalks uncouple 
from gravity, Cosmo and coffee cups clutter the skyline. 

Yes. I have lived leaping from one moving vehicle to another. 
Often in peril. Often unable to free scarf from steering wheel 
even at cliff edge, ripping clear to jump the gap from Jeep to jet, 

jet to yacht, from yacht to any stable shore. I have lived here 
learning, each day, to strike my most heroic pose. To love 
linearity! There was a road I followed. From gray sidewalks, tinted 

SUVs chasing me down highway clovers, to a countryside of quiet 
settlers. Finally: a silo I could hide inside when the storm came 
looking for me. Storm of rain, sand, men, yes, I have lived 

where every turn is a wrong turn and only bad choices take me 
where I need to go. Where I am strong but never too strong, 
barely enough to best a one-armed shooter, to grip the slick 

sides of the subway as it hurtles past. Where, some nights, 
the thing I love is a ghost, pixelated fingers brushing 
through my hair. Where, some days, the sun rises twice. 

Some days, if you squint, you can see, in the distance, 
that cut-out where one lost extra ran straight through 
the horizon— 

                           theirs is a shape I yearn toward. 
No acetate sunsets catching flame. No cellos 
playing from the cemetery, cymbals clashing 

me awake. You should know: there are others, 
like me, who have slipped the edges of our frame. 
Slipped to where, I’ve seen, another world waits. 

Though the people there sit, watchful, in the dark. 
Though it is dark there and this world is the light 
they see by.

:: Creation Myth ::

          —beginning with line by Joy Harjo

there’s no more imagination 		we’re in it now 
                    reader 		the storm’s light rising as a boy 

in his father’s too-large leather apron bends 
                    above the sheeted workbench 	steel rod 

raised up through the roof for lightning 
                    to enliven his invention 	how clouds cauldron 

and spark    the edges fade 	the flash resolves 
                    and now we see it clearly 	little bones 	little chin 

not yet scarred by acne       a child I guess 
                    except for the flesh-mitten fingers stitched together 

except for the collage of random raccoon and possum 
                    hide patchworking its back 	  there is of course 

the moment of inspection 	the boy pinches the child 
                    that isn’t a child        flesh that isn’t flesh 	can’t be 

flesh 	those wire-like hairs already sprouting between 
                    legs that raise against his touch 	and if I stand here 

with them      if I watch from the corners of the room        corners 
                    the light doesn’t reach        I’m in this for keeps 


                    the boy tucks his shirt 

he steps into the rain 
                    left alone the child-thing rises 

to test its newfound feet       rubs cocoa butter between its joints 
                    to hide the smell of musk 	wet with what it knows 

marks the body as belonging 	      watch       the light 
                    shifts 	   factory lamps dimming as a sun dazzles up 

and reader      you should know there are no bystanders 
                    here 	outside the boy snaps his half-split thumbnail 

against a matchbook’s flint 	I pull my ragged tee 
                    on top my lotioned chest      when I join him 

the storm washes smoke from my hair

From the writer

:: Account ::

These poems explore an uneasy rela­tion­ship between auto­bi­og­ra­phy and per­for­mance. I cur­rent­ly work as a screen­writer in Hol­ly­wood, where the life of a writer requires I pack­age, pitch, and sell my projects to pro­duc­ers, exec­u­tives, and con­sumers. With time, I’ve become keen­ly aware (and deeply sus­pi­cious) of the mytholo­gies I’ve learned to build. I notice how skilled I’ve become at posi­tion­ing myself in a cer­tain light, in manip­u­lat­ing the details of the sto­ry toward hero­ism, sac­ri­fice, bold dec­la­ra­tions of fact.

Notic­ing these ten­den­cies has led to an obses­sion with assem­blage. In the midst of craft­ing the poem, I’m con­front­ed by the impulse to step back; to inter­ro­gate the speak­er; to look close­ly at those moments where rup­ture or arti­fice appears. Who do I become when I shed my per­for­mance of good­ness, right­ness, cer­tain­ty? When I exam­ine the flaws in my own con­struc­tions? How did I learn to posi­tion the prover­bial cam­era? What are the moral impli­ca­tions of such craftsmanship?

Despite these ques­tions, I find I’m unable to aban­don allu­sion, mythol­o­gy, and arche­type. These struc­tures aren’t only familiar—they’re often play­ful. They allow me to dis­charge dif­fi­cult sub­jects with won­der­ment. When writ­ing about child­hood in par­tic­u­lar, they restore a fun­da­men­tal ele­ment of child­like imag­i­na­tion into expe­ri­ences I might oth­er­wise recoil from. Ele­ments of fan­ta­sy, fable, or (more broad­ly speak­ing) enter­tain­ment enable the poem to hold para­dox and con­tra­dic­tion. What does it mean to con­front trau­ma and nos­tal­gia in the same breath? Shame and wist­ful­ness? Vio­lence and tenderness?

Some­where in this ten­sion, these poems emerge.

Per­ry Janes is a writer and film­mak­er from Metro Detroit, Michi­gan. A Push­cart Prize and Hop­wood Award recip­i­ent, his work has appeared in POETRY, Beloit Poet­ry Jour­nal, The Michi­gan Quar­ter­ly Review, Zyzzy­va, Sub­trop­ics, The North Amer­i­can Review, West Branch, The Adroit Jour­nal, and oth­ers. He holds a BA from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan, Ann Arbor, and an MFA in Poet­ry from War­ren Wil­son Col­lege. A recip­i­ent of the AMPAS Stu­dent Acad­e­my Award, he cur­rent­ly lives in Los Ange­les, where he works as a screenwriter.