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Jennifer Givhan

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Jennifer Givhan

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.

by this poet


“It’s time you learn to scrub a chicken.”
    Mama rarely cooked after working all day—her heart wasn’t in it.
But a daughter should know how to sterilize

that pink, ominous cavern before she flew
    away to salt her own kitchens: pry its legs apart


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


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