Monday 11 November 2019

5 Poems by JL Jacobs

On Wagner’s Die Walküre: Or Three Meditations on Love

Listening       tuned in
to that red radio box
that echoes
coughs in front rows
of the opera house.

Incest. Transcendence in love
through death.   Themes for today.

She longed for the book to read
since she could not see the opera.

She understood his  Tristan
running seaward       ripping
his bandages            last
hold       to earth       (both) lightly tethered

His aim ascension upon their union.

In all that darkness is more light
than we can bear witness
at this time.

On That Appalachian Wail

Two violins and a bass.  But we don’t call them violins.
We call them fiddles.  You might need a footnote for your refined reader on fiddle.

Like an instrument…like something you do in between other things….like fiddle around.

Tell me the key, Anna, is it a bright gold G?

Usher. She mean. The one who escorts the bare-shouldered ladies.

Like that young man Paul in Willa Cather’s story.  That’s you, Anna.

Another two tracked trestle
of love bridged
canyons thousands of feet
to ground.

“Leave him go, girl.”

On Cheerfulness and Forgiving in Advance

Sobered by her
words—packed down hard.
Belle Miriam Silverman
Brooklyn born      Diva    to become.

“I may not always be happy,
but I try to always be cheerful.”

Remember that day they would leave
off reading?
Paolo and Francesca I mean.
Caught whirling ever another around.
Winded. Tempested.

Spirits, drive on.

Test of her love and cheerfulness
yet to come.    Spread
under brilliant Finnish revontulet.

Stumbled when she saw “saw praise
is the gate” to enter in.

Emerald in her that green day spray.
Byron’s Aurora &
borealis quiet places
under an ever luminescent
sky.       These your humble dreams
of heaven. Christmas on earth,
as Rimbaud would say.

Live up. Love up. Fill up.

Anna, drive you on in.
Back you on in to that town
of reckoning.

Her disembarkment:   less
than theatrical.  No less

Slipped out the back
in Amsterdam fashion.
And Shakespeare’s in the alley
so the good poet says.


Everything is blowing
said Reneé Fleming that Saturday
to Plácido Domingo at the Met
live radio broadcast of Roméo et Juliette.

Sit round a spell. Fiddle. Pull up a chair.
I might tell you about a four year
to a full fathom five
whelmed, helmed over.

Might tell you
bout that second chair
stare    nailed to the floor.

Might tell you bout
breakin the glass door
on my ways outa there.

On Root Cellars
for my five year old nephew, Kade

Your Grandmother Lottie Marie,
she doctored with roots, baby.

Like sassafras, mandrake, snakeroot.

Remember that bag of asafetida
tied round her neck?

Could put’em on
if she wanted.
Work them roots
poulticed down
mirror boxed.

She could lift them too.

Gated all awake or Andante Festivo

There are hands around a small neck.

Climb in closer.
without line these your limbs, gills,
wrist a small cut on a mid-season day.

Now the squirrel arabesques
limb to limb
dropping      not falling.

Gated all awake. Eaten all your conflagrated hate.
Pulled down toward.    Pull down toward.
This your cord.
Wrapped round her neck.

Swallow contempt with a full glass of water—like your Thorazine, baby.

What would you have me tell you?    Do you want to peer in the window of anyone’s wreck?  Not just our good Lady Di.?   Just plain old anyone.  What you want to know?    You know it already.  We all dying of something.  Some just don’t know what.

“Feel it in the wind in the wind in the wind   and it’s upside down
feel it in the dust since I got off the bus…”
…yeah, she’d let them stand in good Rosemary
for her proxy.  She’d tuck the blessed handkerchief into her pillow.

 Swallow forgiveness.  Large gulps.  Stay with me now, Grandmother.  Help me for-give her sin. Un-remembered sin.

The surgeon would cut Anna’s throat.  Ring round rosey red.  Scar her pretty white neck.  Scar her pretty white neck.  It was called “playing the violin”.

The irony:  This was her neck job—performed by a neurosurgeon not a plastic one. This was because of her sin. Mistress-sin.  They often die young.  Young strung sin and all un-done.

The best hope:  To live long enough to make it to the convent.  “And give him up girl.  He is your own un-doing.  And don’t you even hold out hope that he get to Amesbury before you go.  Don’t hold out any hope on his becoming a hermit either.”

It’s time I be headin’ out.   Better get on down the road—they is some good folks up there I got to catch myself up to.  Anna better put her travelin shoes on now. We leaving Lafayette.

Originally published in Ploughshares, Winter 2008.

(* Andante Festivo composed by Jean Sibelius originally scored for string quartet in 1922, but re-scored for string orchestra and timpani in 1938.

(*Amesbury nunnery where Queen Guinevere retired after Arthur's death.)


JL Jacobs, MFA, Brown University, is the author of four volumes of poetry. Work has appeared in numerous journals including Ploughshares, New American Writing, and New Orleans Review. Representative work is anthologized in American Poetry: The Next Generation, Carnegie Mellon UP. She was a 2017 nominee for Poet Laureate of Oklahoma. She studied with C.D. Wright, John Yau, and Keith Waldrop. She serves as editor/art director for Abstract Magazine: Contemporary Expressions which was included in The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses Series XLIII, 2019. (

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