The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jennifer Militello’s “Personality State: Persephone”

Personality State: Persephone

I have seen the silhouettes that bring me heavens,
I have seen my torso, in hours of torn,
ripple laden with captivity, rent with cries
and the sky’s white sheet drying in the wind,
weeping, a splash of oceans gone by, reeds,
and rains reciting an archery of wounds.

The twinned nights. In one I cry, in one
I recite historic tales. In both I never sleep.
My hands have the skulls of hawks. They prey
on those small bodies; they are blind, eyeless,
stars show them the way. Their sockets
see four winds as the directions of the earth.
Men on horseback. Forests asleep with the drums
at their hearts. The sky tells of its hooks.


Cast the spells that wend me shut. Sew cloaks
of cartilage for gathering courage. Bend the hand
where it moans in place. Pry open the jaws
of an average wolf and infest it with your breath.

Do not speak in riddles. Do not speak for days.
I have seen myself dead at the hands of the sea.
I have seen myself trembling beneath a streetlamp
while my waist cried out, while my eyes were black
as mandolins and dawn was the fall of breaking glass.


Punishment: carnivorous, its sunflower’s wilt.
The caged bird empties its image into wind,
its small heart a tambourine, its black tongue
a gypsy cymbal counting out the rain
into the gloom ripening at a gull’s pupil.
My hands, pale as ferns underwater.

I know the hours’ mummification by heart.
Some mornings, chaste as corners, leave behind
their murmurs like nostalgia or need, to ghost them
with my own mudless scatter. When the sea runs barren
as the possible bones, when the names are gone
from the gravestones and cliffs, when the long dry dune
can decay us at last, November: a rhythm of bells.
Images of distance burn to death. Weathervanes
lean. The wheat has a wind-violence in it yet.


This selection is from Jennifer Militello’s book Body Thesaurus, available from Tupelo PressPurchase your copy here!

Jennifer Militello is the author of Body Thesaurus (Tupelo Press, 2013), named a finalist for the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award by Marilyn Hacker, Flinch of Song (Tupelo Press, 2009), winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Award, and the chapbook Anchor Chain, Open Sail. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, The New Republic, The North American Review, The Paris Review, and Best New Poets 2008.

Mary Stone Dockery is the author of One Last Cigarette, a poetry collection, and the chapbooks Blink Finch and The Dopamine Letters. Her poetry and prose has appeared in Stirring: A Literary Collection, Gutter Eloquence, Arts & Letters, Redactions, and others. She earned her MFA from the University of Kansas in 2012. Currently, she lives and writes in St. Joseph, MO, where she teaches English at Missouri Western State University and coordinates the First Thursdays Open Mic at Norty’s Bar and Grill.


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