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Jessica Weintraub


Listen to Jesica Weintraub read this poem:

The May Princess

We did get there
in the end
                                   (didn’t we?)
                                                love’s best substitute,
                                                love’s best vessel.

The ferry’s ‘ship’ wheel had
tattooed around its rim.
I pointed: That’s us!

Across the narrow deck:
a sour husband chiding his sleeveless
wife—even though it was May
I was chilly in my jacket.
A pair of 60-ish lovebirds,
glamorous in tweeds,
cuddling the entire hour ride.
She wore a chic shawl;
her arms trapped inside
made wings.

And the large woman in sloppy black,
raving about her brown-framed
Gucci sunglasses in American twang.
In gold-spangled script her T-shirt stated:
“The Search for Excellence Ends Here.”

(sleeves of spray brushed by, haloed hair                               there, there)

I was staring—clenched in thought—
at a sea so blue it must hold some sort of truth
when your knee pecked at my sputtering hem.
You just missed the seals. Everyone
was on the other side of the boat except you.

(puffins—“pocketsized”—Anna said,
whizzed by, thrilling as bullets)

I jammed my waist into the rail, scratched
my nails against its red paint,
holding nothing by an edge.
I laughed, shook my head.
I was just thinking that I can never make
 anything up!

Terns, razorbills, shags                                          (I took a photo of you taking a photo:
                                                                                         Closest I’ve been
                                                                                   to a shag in a long time.)

guillemots, kittiwakes, 55,000 pairs
of puffins, gannets galore, a well-placed
kestrel, tiger-striped…
           bunched into messy bouquets
           tossed over the lacy shoulders
           of clouds into a slavering crowd.

The Gucci woman shrieked:
They look like insects, a swarm!                                       (There!There!There!)

I shot her a stern glance, then looked back
at the puckering sky, its stuffing coming undone,
wingbeats like unraveling stitches.

           Sometimes: it is the perfectly
           obvious, not approximated
           mystery that rules the day.

She rose, proud,
as our bow nuzzled the Isle’s dock.
Her sunglasses perched on her head

like a crown.



Listen to Jesica Weintraub read this poem:

Sky Lark

The air hates you, and the ground hates you,
the trees hate you—there is no purpose
in your staying on this land.

                   — A senior aide of Yasser Arafat

How does mist divulge its disgust?  Trees drop
bombazine leaves, buds tighten back to green
bullets.  All things act concurrent parts in
two plays: a sky lark—summer’s herald—claps
its wings toward cloud balconies: flames, insects
and/or lambent warmth now a stone’s throw away…
Once-bulging waters suck themselves in, lay
low (the Red Sea Method).  A man directs
his wife down the subway ramp, “I don’t want to
talk.”  “We’re not talking,” he says.  All panting 
dovetails into landscape, cells… sunlight threading
itself through pear tree petals.  Props are cued:
I hate Arabs AND Jews slapped on the first
sign: Moving divide – Do not lean against.



Listen to Jesica Weintraub read this poem:

Fallout at MOMA



After seeing the disembodied, artificial daisy                                          jointed stem, the color
                                                                                                            of lemon meringue
                                                                                                            into seven paintings


mounted soundlessly                                                                                  one for each hand-
                                                                                                            ful of petalrays,
                                                                                                            ripped out like hair;

                                                                                                                    two for the starry
                                                                                                            center, hard-boiled,
                                                                                                            but flaky

on the validated walls, how


could you think we would fail?





The act of being alive is the navigation through parts:

                                                                            corolla                         caruncle

                                                            calyx                                                                stamen
                                                                                                  petals                       anthers

stem veins       leaves                           fruit                 pods




Even if my prismatic stamina
                        (a rainbow separated into its seven-note scale
                                    like inverse flares, dispersed
                                    soldiers—the bloom of nuclear families fractured
casts mutual love, how can my efforts project
credibility onto the vast exactitudes of your horizon?
            Immodest expectations shriek sforzando orange—
                                                                                                uranium trioxide:
                                                                                poisonous, radioactive orange
                                                                                powder, a coloring agent


Before reflection
swallowed the encapsulated moment

            : he intoned something about the atmosphere

                        moisture garlands the mushroomy strat-
                        ospheric layer—as “silver bullets”
                        of sunlight pummel the sky,
                        its transparent brow goes robin’s egg blue
            : he missiled new words for our armored half-spaces
(“vane”: a metal stabilizing fin attached to the tail of a bomb, see shooting star)

Most fell away, what remains is little pieces and the name:
“Mass spectrometers”—black boxes with vacuum-type attachments—

                        solid rocks are pulverized, then the powder is suspended
                        in water—light-waves pulse through the mixture, winnowing,
                        to find uranium specks hidden in the unruly folds of bent color...

I don’t want to look up the whole meaning—
I like how the body keeps bursting in.

Books don’t croon science; they’re too pure.

“Uranium” because Uranus—mythological god personifying the sky—
had recently been located, the seventh planet from the sun.
                                              (Oh, the irreverent outcomes of coincidental collisions!)


He told me about mass spectrometers:

                                    ... during World War II women used the appliance
                                    to test for the presence of uranium-238 in batches
                                    of carnotite and uraninite. (Leaving sleeping children, dirty pans)
                                    they picked rocks like roadside cactus blooms—similar scratch,
                                    new weight pressing their wrists.  Night after night,
                                    elbows on wood or Formica (yolky light
                                    orbiting bent heads), they detected (pies cooling on windowsills)
                                    the silvery isotope.  It’s non-splitable, but when irradiated
                                    produces (loneliness) fissionable plutonium-239.
                                                —“Appropriate arrangements” may protect
                                    against sustained explosions, see daisy chain.
                                                —Heed distractions of (isolation and) uranium-235.
                                    Underestimated, the way slivers always are (nein?)
                                                                                     pollen staining their fingernails...



the rustle of this glasswoven motherland
        (satin prisms)—the lacy slips
            we were lowered from


                                                                        I only want to know from his valved voice.





My habits of high bliss,
            like rain tumbling from galactic reaches,
                                              hiss against the dredged bed of mystery.



Scrape a Geiger counter across the fuming ground; it will tick
when it noses out uranium’s truffle-blush.
Imagine a rainbow glow.


                      Now, paint terralove by numbers:


1: public (law)
2: caution (prejudice)
3: opportunities for indigo, sex, or liberty
4: luck, connections, hard work, kitchen tables, and some red tape
5: dreams of flight, heaven, special effects
6: hope (that turmoil is temporary)
7: terror
                        (that it will never happen again)




One of the perfect things about living
near a creek that barely budges
a town flat as a forearm bone,
is that any direction, any movement at all,
feels like progress.

A dusty grudge so endless and winding
becomes referential, reverential, even
religious in scope.

            Even as advances in microscopy
            dispelled dust as the universal
            symbol of smallness



                                    —whose tiny, tinted prisms help us see colors

                                    —which is found powdering the farthest star,
                                              pillowing halo after lit halo

                                    —which is found along the bottom of the ocean, cavorting
                                              with Aphrodite (a fuzzy undersea worm)


                                                                                                                    is everywhere.



False Botanical Studies:

These renditions of a daisy seem at first to be scientific studies in their meticulous
attention to detail.  Upon closer inspection they reveal themselves to be re-
presentations of a disassembled artificial flower.  Likewise, the frames
(which look like traditional wood frames) are actually Formica
that has a simulated woodgrain finish.

What I’m best at is adoration
which is sometimes confused
with observation.




Half-life: The time required for half the nuclei in a specific isotope to undergo
radioactive decay.  As a radioactive substance accumulates time, its half-life
diminishes indefinitely.

                                                                                                                           all those



“Secret gully” or “Dry hole, a ditch.”
“Clutter is easily remedied” or “Compose yourself.”
There is a correct staccato to the things you measure.
Rendering in sound what is imagined in color
            is an astrochemical attempt

                                                                                                            nothing is
                                                                                                    whole or unalloyed)



                                                                                             stardust is just shed skin)

            through a prism we see only dust—that’s what color is:

                                                                               uncatchable parings
the hinged cleaving of astral thighs,
amassing allied part-
                                    icles of desire.

                                                                       Can you hear it?

     Can you isolate it?
                                    Can you love
                                                                                    what falls

                                                                                                           from space?



Jessica Weintraub was born in Rochester, New York. She received her M.A. in poetry from the University of California, Davis — a place where art and sustainability are intertwined — and her Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In between degrees, she spent a blissful year in Edinburgh. Her novel, A Unified Theory of Love, came out of the poem "Fallout at MOMA." It is, like most of her work, a fraught love letter to a place: in this case, the East Tennessee landscape in the 1940s and during the 2004 Presidential Election. Both narratives use language/ideas from botany, hydrology, and physics' string theory to describe love and other human endeavors. Her poems have appeared in Open Mouse/Poetry Scotland, in*tense, Spark, New Millenium Writings, and her story. "Fluency" was recently published in the 2008 Knoxville Writers' Guild Anthology, Outscapes.
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