Jennifer Wallace



If I were a gardener I'd worship shape and color,

make paintings with petals and light.

But I don't know what I am doing.

Needing to clear a 60-yr muddle,

I pull weeds without stopping, yank the tops.

I clip the woody stems too low, too high. I am on a tear.


Insects interest me; I let them eat the roses. Likewise the slugs.



What It Must Be Like


Talking to you as if . . .

or thinking of you

as if you could talk to me

from the other end of the can and string.

I'm sure that over there

you are shown to each other as you are:

more light than bone and photons streaming.

Look! That normally bland finch

ablaze with what you have added to the sun.





All it takes is one look at their monumental bodies,

bare-chested, hammers pounding on the fence.


A mother's not supposed to see that bit of belly hair

where their denim waistbands dip low.


What do the tattoos that stain their forearms proclaim?

Their miraculous freedom? A confinement in their inherited days?


All it takes is an oak bud rising from the acorn that survived

the squirrel. Or a blue gill, wake-tossed and self-stabilized


by the minute fanning of its cellophane fins. Evidence—

under my nose, its needle under my skin. Ha!


What's the matter with me? Did I suppose the proof

would tumble from the bookshelf and shout my name?

Jennifer Wallace teaches at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD. She is a poetry editor at The Cortland Review and a founding editor of Toadlily Press. Her chapbook, Minor Heaven, appears in Desire Path (Toadlily Press, 2005). Her poems, essays and photographs have appeared in artists books, exhibition catalogs, galleries, museums, anthologies and literary journals. CityLit Press published a new book of poems and photographs, It Can be Solved by Walking (2012).



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