The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: My Tarantella by Jennifer Martelli

This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from My Tarantella by Jennifer Martelli, released by Bordighera Press in 2018.


A mouth just bloodied.
—Sylvia Plath, “Poppies in July”

A year ago this summer, I grew
Genovese basil in a fake clay pot I’d move around my home to follow

the arc of direct sunlight. I’ve thought of Kitty Genovese for a long
                time: her mouth.
How easy it is to open a mouth

anywhere, to split it & split it. I can’t love what I don’t fear.

For my “Plath’s ‘Poppies in July’ Party,” I bought fake rubies shaped
                like pears,
wore a red skirt, hung lanterns

from the maples in my backyard. The skirt=a poppy,
the lanterns=love, the pear-shape=eyes or a womb. The rubies?

The first time I was slapped in the mouth.

A year ago this summer, I saw
a man wearing a silk-screen t-shirt: Trump that bitch.

Hillary’s mouth was a red slash.
                I saw a woman wearing a silk-screen t-shirt: Trump that bitch. So I
knew it was over.

After the solstice or before the equinox.

I thought of Kitty so hard, I was afraid she would manifest, smiling—
in the dark corner of my laundry room, from my closet hook where
                belts hang—

I thought of her so deeply, it was like sex, far up & slow &
violent. And then I became unafraid.

I knew she was gone.

This is how the Queen of Night tulips toppled: first, their lips
let loose the dark petals:

they puddled like a silk gown. Then from the dug-up dirt,
grow four rock cairns, high as my knee: beach stones gray

with white veins stacked.

I still can’t love what I don’t fear.
Even though I’m throwing a party, we all know

there’s sadness underneath the flagstones.
It’s a farewell party. We’ll leave claw & bite marks.

In the future, someone might know what we meant.

Jennifer Martelli (she, her, hers) is the author of My Tarantella (Bordighera Press), awarded an Honorable Mention from the Italian-American Studies Association, selected as a 2019 “Must Read” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, and named as a finalist for the Housatonic Book Award. She is also the author of After Bird, winner of the Grey Book Press open reading, 2016, In the Year of Ferraro (Nixes Mate Press, 2020) and The Queen of Queens, forthcoming in 2022 from Bordighera Press. Her work will appear or has appeared in The Tahoma Literary Review, Thrush, Cream City Review, Verse Daily, Iron Horse Review (winner, Photo Finish contest), and Poetry. Jennifer Martelli has twice received grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for her poetry. She is co-poetry editor for Mom Egg Review.

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