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.


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.


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.



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.