Nervous Endings

by Jessica Q. Stark
Eros is everywhere. It is what binds.
—John Updike 

She's young in age but knows her sage
She knows a page or two from the book of the luck
—Princess Nokia


Like a probable god, I am

the archetype of a shape


small desires at the end

of my arms and nose


of houses and undone 

hours against bone


This is a memory test. I am going to read a list of words 
that you will have to remember now and later on. Listen carefully. 
When I am through, tell me as many words as you can remember. 
It doesn’t matter in what order you say them.

Village-Love-Body-Airplane-War-Sacrifice-Ocean-Food-Family


What happens against 

a body occupied


a clock’s antidote to

a gone-village, gone


home for dispersion—

an absence, a little 

string laid out 

on life’s plank


on the phone

my mother worries

about her death, what


time it will be

who will care

who will take


she drinks


green tea against life’s

petty inflammations


childhood of rice
childhood of smallpox

of dirty water
and dead brothers—

her mother’s infection


impressing upon the

fabric of her body

like loose thread


I’m older now, she says

a little incantation as 


permission to stay

stone-still against 


memory’s stable—


the food between us

that she lets rot


I am going to read the same list for a second time. 
Try to remember and tell me as many words as you can, 
including words you said the first time.

Family-Sacrifice-Love-Village-Airplane-Ocean-Food-Body-War


What of a village?

My mother left

an airplane 


and returned twenty

years later to a hole in


her body, my body

like a net of 

decisions unmade


you can resist death,

but you can’t refuse

water—can’t garbage


a little white lie


she says the first time

she saw the ocean


she was up so high

moving away 

from every


known word

through blue sky


she moves slower

now and dyes her hair

weekly against


love’s firmament


what is an age,

but accumulation,


but a finite template

for life’s choices—


to move, 
to be still,
to love plainly, 
or to survive


I will ask you to recall those words again at the end of the test.

Body-War-Village-Sacrifice-Family-Love-Airplane-Food- 


		Ocean 
		 
	
Ocean 
			Ocean
 




Jessica Q. Stark, a native Californian, is a poet, editor, and educator living in Jacksonville, Florida. She is the author of three chapbooks, including her latest, INNANET: Love Poem for the Internet (The Offending Adam, 2021). Her full-length poetry book, Savage Pageant, was published by Birds, LLC in 2020. She is a Poetry Editor of AGNI and the Comics Editor for Honey Literary. She teaches writing at the University of North Florida.

Published
Categorized as Poetry