Sunday Rumpus Poetry



is a curve

with a caveat.

Love can’t stop it,

pause it, or posit

a theory of

recursive pasts.

Baby: Ain’t a entity 

that lasts. 

Carnations go mum,

tea turns cold,

all bright stars

become black holes

and even

paradise paroles

its tethers. Like

the man

who coos always.

But means for never.


The Run-Down

Cold, but she never wore overcoats.

Tired, but her cot was rotten and worn.

At a quarter to ten she tried every door.

She had two dry eyes and a mute, mocking pout,

And six dire doubts and seventeen heavens,

And a Jesus who wouldn’t commute her sentence.

She was taxed in a bracket and tossed in a bucket.

She cheated on husbands and sought out her exes.

They didn’t quite hate her so they didn’t quite hit her.

She sloshed through mornings with tonic and vodka.

And her coughs were chronic, her symbols iconic,

She rationed her reason in droppers and thimbles.

She wept when she walked and the law tried to bust her.

The library shushed her and slapped her with fines.

Her fingernails spiked like tines on a fork.

So she sated her sorrows in sewers and brothels

And hated the answers her brothers denied her.

She throbbed like a wound that swallowed its knife.

And her butters were margarine, her jewels were paste.

The worse the poison, the sweeter the taste.

Jill Alexander Essbaum is the author of several books of poetry including Harlot (No Tell Books, 2007) and Necropolis (neoNuma Arts, 2008). She teaches in the UCR-Palm Desert Low Residency MFA Program. More from this author →