On this page, Jennie offers audio clips and text from some of her favorite poetry readings.
Following are a few recordings from her Occidental Center for the Arts performance/birthday party on July 29, 2012. Thanks to the fabulous collaborating musicians: Jeanette Isenberg, violin; and Karen Zimmerman, bass.
Argentine Tango Suite
I lean over the precipice—
balance and wait, frame
defines the world in our arms
for three minutes
of intimacy. You open
door after door,
invite me to step through,
lead from the center,
your chest, my breast, the poised
pause between. We are
each other’s wish;
violins, polished light.
I look, not over your shoulder,
but in, toward our clasped
hands; my embrace silk
at your neck, a flutter along
your upper arm. Your embrace
a ruthless tenderness, no way
One backward step, cross
at the ankle, figure eight, a sidelong reach;
legs hook and lift, pulled by the soaring bandoneon—
melody of exquisite torture. Her left foot
touches his right, slides along willingly.
His steps enter her steps
like swordplay: sacada and arrastre
the slash and drag; molinete,
two dancers in an orbit of desire.
Red, the shoes, red
the shirt, black crepe
the cape of stars
she wears. Why does
the music make
feeling sad feel good?
You say, my skin calls to you,
a full-blown rose; you say,
a continent to explore
in the small of my back.
I say, to be beautiful is a practice;
ignore what has been lost.
Go ahead, look, when I lean over
to fasten my black suede dancing shoe.
It takes two.
A boom box powers up;
ferry horns moan at the far end
of the mall, tall windows,
big boats on one side, caviar bar
on the other. Women sit cross-legged,
flexing impatient feet. Astor Piazzolla,
seductive wail of Gardel
rub floors to a gleam.
Round and around like street-flow.
or step out of the way.
Zebulon’s Lounge/On the Brink
As she sips warm sake, jazz chords smoke
along the floor, out the door,
a sidewalk seduction Tuesday night,
tiny town closed up except for the bars.
From seven to nine this one hosted
local literati, who then stayed on
in the votive candle light, leaning with relief
on the warm plush of booths or leaning
to each other. As she sips warm sake,
the musicians spend themselves like
inflated currency, six hands working it
from the wrist.
How she wants this one moment
of feeling good, as her generation drifts
on unparalleled melody and sweet smoke
toward the brink. Like the final concert
of the string quartet on the deck of the Titanic,
Zebulon’s makes pleasure in catastrophe—
a home for genius to sink deeper in,
there, where the girls riff, and the boys,
they play and play.
Of My Own
It’s time to start thinking about
how I want it to be for me—
like a true pearl, or quarried alabaster,
like the long tone of a gong, and of my choosing
as if going to a feast, where every morsel
is something I’ve never tasted.
It’s time to commission my memorial,
inspired by the guardian of ashes sculpted
on the lid of an Etruscan funerary urn—
if a scholar was enshrined, the figure held a book;
if a writer, a tablet and feather quill; if neither,
then a woman lounging on one elbow, as if
gazing out a window. The right exit would mimic
the little death : a shudder, a sigh, a leap
into the abyss. And please
no extraordinary measures, just the comfort
of my daughter holding my hand, papers signed
and notarized to prove that I was sound,
and one last wisecrack before I can’t swallow.
Hearing, they say, is the final sense to go.
So, when I am ready, let the keening begin.
If that woodpecker turned his busy head, he would see
a middle-aged woman on her back on a towel on a plastic lounger
on a south-facing deck at eleven in the morning, wearing nothing
but a gold band on her right second toe. Her arms are over her head
in a submissive gesture that reminds her of how she’s been bound.
Her face is angled left to catch a whiff of musk,
recalling the lover who said don’t wash just yet.
If the breeze, if the long-haired cat clawing in his sleep,
if the tweezers of doubt were not amplified now by the calling of crows,
she would be at peace, and draw a hush around her
like the redwoods draw—these ancient trees whose branches
reach out and down, instead of up, in such supplication.