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.