poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Jennifer Militello was born in New York City and grew up in Rhode Island. She earned her BA at the University of New Hampshire, where she studied with Charles Simic, and her MFA at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She is the author of A Camouflage of Specimens (Tupelo Press, 2016), Body Thesaurus (Tupelo Press, 2013), and Flinch of Song (Tupelo Press, 2009), winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Award.

In her review of Body Thesaurus, Cate Marvin writes, “In the face of supreme, and therefore extreme, quietude (‘The mouth of me is bitten off’), Jennifer Militello’s poems hand us over to that other life we nightly receive in dream, a dimension at once seamless and yet so strange.”

Militello is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Millay Colony for the Arts, New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, and Writers at Work, as well as the 49th Parallel Award from Bellingham Review and the Ruskin Art Club Poetry Award from Red Hen Press, among others.

She teaches in the MFA program at New England College and lives in Goffstown, New Hampshire.


Bibliography

A Camouflage of Specimens (Tupelo Press, 2016)
Body Thesaurus (Tupelo Press, 2013)
Flinch of Song (Tupelo Press, 2009)

The Pact

Mother, I have destroyed you. Forgive me as I am
destroyed. The submarine of you, mother, has, underwater,
shipped me off, has fired on me, is nuclear. Mother,
the gold tooth of me is stolen, the frayed cord of me
is broken, the scored record of me is frozen, the scratched
recording of me is full. Fire on my self pulled from
a pile of the wreckage, fire on my plumage-self
planned in advance. And decorated for the homecoming
and sheltered by the colors and the blending in with ending
and the touch of a Cyclops to the backs of wool. Clinging
to the belly of the sheep, I come home. Mother, my blood
is the blood sum of you and my father. I have no choice. I need
your rules. And now the tides come in and, like driftwood, I
drift, and like summits I rest and like the Eucharist I am blessed,
and like the lost reflection I am lit from below by what
appears to be light. I say my name and it ignites. I say my name
and it tires like a rower on a stolen ship or lags like
a haggard sail. I lost my veil, I lost my bed, I lost what I thought
had been said to you to make you understand. You, the shape
eating waterfowl with bare hands. Mother, your grand chandelier
of lies has so many eyes it sees like a spider or a fly in every
direction; it decides, goes for miles. What opens before you
is my smile. Empty as a room. Empty as a foot. Empty as a ruse.
Empty as a lung. Empty as a tongue that has not said. Empty
as a vein that has not bled. What am I, mother, but the undead
walking the way you want me to walk, the way you want me to
talk, up from the grave at your command. The zombie I am, covered
in soot. Soon I swoon and faint and fall. But that is not all. I am
the spoon you cook. I am the food you concoct. I am the line
you lost with the hook at the end, meant to sink into a mouth.
My cheek is set, my wretch is good, I am not what wooed you. I am
no good. This I know. I had to sew myself shut. For years, I was
the rut in the good old road. Do not trust the old, do not trust
the new, there is nothing to do and nothing can be done.
The two were one, now they are two. I was born, I was new,
then I spoke, I was no good, I was me, I had flaws countless and
contagious as disease, not the least of which grew. I was me, I was
mine, I was not yours. I could not be you. Mother, you took from me
the drought and gave it meaning, you smacked the pout right off
my feeling, you kept stars lit on the ceiling so you could navigate
out from my room. It was noon when the sun set in you. I felt
the earth cool. I felt the fires lit so those of us who survived
could go on living. I felt the beasts arrive when night was confirmed.
You killed us off. You felt you’d earned it, the right to make us
into what fears and what crouches and what grows cold. I could not
grow older. I could not mature. I was sure there was nothing
left. What I felt in the end was the blow of yours
sent across the miles to find me where I lay spent
and desert-like in the heat. Keep me here. I serve
your needs. The edges of me, mother. I cannot be
until you let me recover. I cannot run to the subset
of another. You are too wise, you know what the constant light
means, you know what grows where and how to twist it
when the darkness meets it so that it can moss over and meld
into a growth that will melt it down. You fungi plus silk,
the lurch of me is trying to unlearn all the confusions of you.
Mother, mother, quite contrary, how does your deadliness
grow? With a tooth and a rack and a craw and a sack
and all the daughters caught in their rows.

Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Militello. “The Pact” was originally published in American Poetry Review. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Militello. “The Pact” was originally published in American Poetry Review. Used with permission of the author.

Jennifer Militello

Jennifer Militello

Jennifer Militello is the author of A Camouflage of Specimens (Tupelo Press, 2016), Body Thesaurus (Tupelo Press, 2013), and Flinch of Song (Tupelo Press, 2009), winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Award.

by this poet

poem

Once you were a god I could feel
enter the house from my room.
Once I knew to shut the door
when you returned. Once my muscles
tensed in anticipation of the moment
you came and rained your anger
down; my sister and I cringed.
We’d hear the car pull in, snap
the television off

poem

Take the man you think you love and his
fabulous lips. Take him from one place
to the next. Let him drive your car. Let him
drive it through the mood-crazed woods
until it overheats. Let the nights feed
from your eyes as you look at him. Do
not turn on the heat. Do not spill
the

poem

Place its toothpicked pit in water, watch the grist
of its insides grow. Witness its populous bloom,

honeycombed with rough. Its cobblestones grip
the heart in its mitt, a closed fist thickened

and gritty as silt. The swamp of the plumb beat
adamant as weeds. The dish of which is salted