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About this poet

Jennifer Givhan grew up in Southern California’s Imperial Valley. She received an MFA from Warren Wilson College and an MA in English literature from California State University–Fullerton. She is the author of Protection Spell (University of Arkansas Press, 2017), selected by Billy Collins for inclusion in the Miller Williams Series, and Landscape with Headless Mama (Louisiana State University Press, 2016), winner of the 2015 Pleiades Editors’ Prize. Givhan has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices fellowship. She currently serves as the poetry editor of Tinderbox Poetry Journal and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Rhinoceros Calf

that failed to make a strong bond with its mother
& was shipped from a Florida zoo to New Mexico’s

(they’d struck a deal with the dairy farm for that baby
would drink thousands of gallons of cow’s milk)

that calf in the corner who doesn’t know I’m watching her
or thinking anything at all      & will remember her for years

will think of her often with her sugared substitute her dry
high desert air      & wonder why on the coast

in humidity & hurricane weather in an enclosure
like ours                      
                          & my children sitting beside

me on the bench where I watch   tears down my face    my
children asking why are you crying      mama     & the truth

is I don’t know      did that mother with her body
say nothing     say no      did that mother really just let go

From Girl with a Death Mask (Indiana University Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Jennifer Givhan. Used with the permission of the author.

From Girl with a Death Mask (Indiana University Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Jennifer Givhan. Used with the permission of the author.

Jennifer Givhan

Jennifer Givhan

Jennifer Givhan is the author of Protection Spell (University of Arkansas Press, 2017). She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

by this poet

poem

*To gradually steal all the possessions out of a neighbour’s house by borrowing & not returning —Anjana Iyer

Your mother slaps a frenzy of honey on her plain soft bread
asking where the toaster’s gone & where’s her thieving

poem

Come find me under the black persimmon tree    Mama
where prayers bear wrinkled fruit     bear messages home

Come tend me at sunrise    like sweeping
a grave    offering fresh tortillas

rolled each morning

poem

When I was eleven, Mama sang karaoke
at the asylum. For family night, she’d chosen

Billie Holiday, & while she sang, my brother, a
fretted possum, clung

to me near the punch bowl. I remember her
then, already coffin-legged—

mustard grease on her plain dress,
the cattails of