Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Jennifer Givhan






My daughter in her white-washed jean dress w/ butterfly skirt says she wants to stay home from school w/ me, & my immediate thought: pull the car away from the drop-off curb w/ her still in it. Adulting, I’ve heard, is understanding our mother’s anger when we forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer. I’m not a grownup mother. I never let anything thaw. I won’t even handle raw poultry. I wanted to bring my daughter home because I’m lonely & she says the loveliest philosophical things in the way of an eight-yr-old girlchild I don’t think I’ve traumatized or injected w/ the venom of girlwounds as I was in my wired girlcoop. No backhand popping her mouth. No sick hand pulling the gauze of her butterfly skirt. I sometimes re-live through her. She takes me through dark forests, teaches me which wolves are prey. How not to be afraid. Still, the motherfear returns. It never fades, that tummysick, as if I was walking on my head. I don’t say this aloud but wonder if she’s portending a terrible fate, the way of empaths & witches, which I’m gathering like dandelions in her sweetfields, relearning what my battered mother stripped. I almost drive away, my girl beside me. Instead I open the door & spill her out. From cavemouth or into I cannot know & haven’t known since she slid from me screaming, but so damn brave I follow her, my motherheart stringing behind her—kite of stillwet wings she holds & says into the future of sky this way


Sonnet as Corrido for This Busted Mamí, y Yo

I’ve been thinking of cutting into fractals my poems & sewing
them into a papel picado strung from my bedposts, night-
red scalding as the lobster sunburnt to my cheeks & chest
when I fell asleep in the yellowed grass dreaming myself whole.
All I want to eat lately are California rolls piled with thin
white rosettes of ginger, as much ginger as I can stuff into
my grubby, chapped lips, seaweed for tongue, avocado for love.
A city human resources employee allocated public
assistance funds to friends & family, 300k dollars, a fat sum
of which she gave to a supernatural specialist for
a voodoo hex on her ex-boyfriend & in the Daily News pic
all I’m thinking is how much I love her bustier & thick gold
hoops, & how I almost scorpion-hexed the man whose divorce
I paid, cash, before he left me to my fiesta flags & cheap-ass sushi.


Two Poets I Admire, Women,

when I click on their websites to read their words & buy
their books, I find their thighs, their feet, their fishnets or bare
skin, their skirts. Beach-colored driftwood. Half a dozen half-
drunk bottles. In the span of two days what catches
my throat, what culls the hook in my unshaved naval, the peach
fuzz turning to coarseness in me: They are headless. As I am too often
headless. As women are wont to be.

                                                    I left a marriage & then returned
& at one of the two pay-to-heal therapy sessions we attended, my ex-
turned-precarious-partner-turned-comfortable-as-a-worn-recliner said
When I took her back with such cold-salami-factness the therapist laughed
uncomfortably & asked if that’s how he saw us getting back together—
Reclaiming me, a sack of lost goods, & maybe sometimes I am.

                                                                 Did you know you can brush your teeth
with black paste? Scrub activated charcoal & spit responsibly, the box
advises, for a blackened sink would turn anyone away. If I were Cassandra
I’d auction my wildest head on eBay, black teeth as pearls,
& no one believing it’s me, the bodiless woman when too many women
are all bodies no heads. Sold!

                                                                               Then I’d request a refund.


Photograph of Jennifer Givhan by J. Andrew Givhan.

Jennifer Givhan, a Mexican-American writer and activist from the Southwestern desert, is the author of four full-length poetry collections, most recently Rosa’s Einstein (Camino Del Sol Poetry Series), two chapbooks, and the novels Trinity Sight and Jubilee (Blackstone Publishing). Her work has appeared in The Best of the Net, Best New Poets, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, POETRY Magazine, The Rumpus, The New Republic, AGNI, TriQuarterly, The Nation, Crazyhorse, Witness, Southern Humanities Review, and Kenyon Review. She has received, among other honors, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices fellowship, and New Ohio Review’s Poetry Prize, chosen by Tyehimba Jess. Givhan holds a Master’s degree in English from California State University Fullerton and an MFA from Warren Wilson College, and she can be found discussing feminist motherhood at as well as Facebook & Twitter @JennGivhan. More from this author →