What is left, or how to save it

by Jenna Murray



I wish my father alive, even if it made him lonely.


I’m standing in the rain, in some parking lot, in children’s clothes and, as such, a child,
clutching my doll, looking somewhere. And I know this part, at least, is probable fiction,
but the town is burning down around me.


Time is a lie we tell ourselves to map the last place we were loved.


Let me say this better: I have tried to find love in the gutters
or off the sides of cliffs and I keep falling only to wake still looking
in gutters and off the sides of cliffs for the same thing.


Did you fear before your mother showed you how? Did the mountains call you down?
Do you remember his hands, warm, holding you up like a soldier, showing you your first
glance of sunlight?

Do you remember the first time your father gave love its name, Jenna;
meaning, the little birds in the sky; or, little heaven.


I am a failure. A big cloud full of missing fathers and mothers.
A flower stand in the midst of torrential downpour. Origami swans floating
in the black milk rivers. Pregnant with crows and lollipops and abandoned carts in big lots.


I am a fake-activist, pretending lightning grows first in my heart.


I break warm fires into handfuls of disastrous light. Spread pollution to the stars.
Swallow candle wax            mothers            lovers            bourbon            fathers
burrow myself in the black soil, finger by finger, in the spectacle of day.

I am worms in the skin. A slow, continuous note on the piano in a childhood
home full of mirrors. I am what came out of loss, what words were born
from flowers, the pile of rubble and women left after gravity said


I stopped. Stood where my heart finally grew lightning.
I stopped and I felt my father, in the soil,
but still here, still holding me upright.

I played all the piano keys at once. Filled my chest with birds. Let myself feel mad for good.
Climbed the stupid wonderful mountain and shouted Jenna; meaning, the little birds
in the sky; JENNA! meaning, little heaven, little alive, little learning my love is big
and never alone.

I stopped time.
Said, stop, you stupid thing, let me map my love into this very moment.


back to University & College Poetry Prizes