Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Jessica Le

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Farmland Arrhythmia

The best part of hospital nights belongs to room number ten: the sound
of Dad’s heart-beep, louder in the quiet. Steam slow-seeping
out of electric kettle, a dog-eared copy of Chicken Noodle Soup
for the Soul. Somewhere a farmer discovers his best sheep
coughing up moths in the hay, looking yellow and big and wrong.

Watch the mountain again.
No, wait, watch the mountains again.
The neon green peaks of them: careful, we’re hiking up
turbulent area. I wish it were normal. Wish it didn’t sound like
cashier check-out in here, tumbling rotten fruit onto the belt
and waiting for the inevitable.
This is not what you’re meant to be dwelling on.

Neon green in the dark, moths flying around your head, sitting hunched
waiting for a bus that never comes. The streetlights standing hunched,
coughing up dingy lighting in a steady stream.
This is not what you’re meant to be dwelling on.

In the distance we watch a sheep get gutted
by a long, shrill knife. Back to kitchen-dingy lighting
we watch Mom pour the tea out in a steady stream.
At the end of it all, we stand watching sheep’s throat spurt out like
a shaky hand on a kettle, scald splashing everywhere.

The steam wallows out of the kettle and your book’s pages
turn themselves. Dad was wearing his son’s shirt
and time had seeped out the window.

Back to the browngrass field, to the mountains,
back to the nearby farm. The sheep on the ground.
You standing up, watching the clouds roll by.
The sun is coming up again.

 

For my new year’s resolution I want to get a full-time job

on the edge of the couch, TV girl ponders cut fruit.
the living room is a display case of broken
peanut shells, orange peels, used napkins
lightly flickering in the aircon. the vacuum
in a place clearly not meant for vacuums,
the wall outlet upside down, her hands
pink with juice from the dragonfruit lying
sliced up in two pretty rows. on the right hums
the TV with music, a leak-scrape of sound
that judders the peanut shells. she sits sink-still
on the couch and thinks about moving in her head.
in her lap lies the sponge rind of a pomelo. “we’re not
fixing flowers, here,” says her father. she stops herself
from peeling another slice and makes eye contact
instead. he hesitates in wiping the table. she can almost
hear the stream of “happy new year” from the
closed front door. “come set the table, darling,”
calls her mom. TV girl gets up, then sits down.
joins her father silently cracking peanuts open.

 

Donnie and I discuss Earth’s destructive tendencies

Donnie’s vacation house sits at the base of
windblown beach, cracked windows agape
& wondering. The first time we drove up here
everything was huge green cliff & towering,
glistening wet trees, nutrient rich & damp with
life. We’d squeeze bloody figs from the tray on the
kitchen table & chew them slowly, letting
the sweetness seep into what we were looking at
outside. Wondering at our own sour relationships
and you asked me then if I thought
you looked recognizable. Compared to what
I asked. You didn’t answer.
& now we stand at the shore & listen to
the sea shredding itself black. The house
a glowing red fish tank, reams of overgrowth & wildflower,
windows fixed but murky. In the bathroom the small window
betrays the ocean, tearing up white like the earth
splitting in two; the sky grey, the sand grey, the sea
black & turning blacker still. It’s just funny you said
while we were brushing our teeth, blameless, staring at ourselves
in the mirror without recognizing our own faces.

***

Photograph of Jessica Le by Yiyong Liu.


Jessica Le is a writer from Ottawa and an undergraduate student at Western University. Her work has been published in Watch Your Head: Writers & Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis (Coach House Books, 2020), Western University's Symposium Anthology, and Cold Strawberry Collective's Alt Mag. Her poetry chapbook, Aisle Two (Anstruther Press) is forthcoming in fall 2021. You can find her on Twitter at @lejiexi. More from this author →