Jen Town | 3 poems


Paper Girl (1982-)
Sky of Salt, 2017

Salt, Sable Brush, Horizon

"Salt sprinkled on cerulean blue soaks up the pigment and leaves a round absence the artist called stars. If/then: if absence is a burning orb, then how much of the world is on fire? Salt on color, salt granules in a cut, salt bath for an ache. Salt on ice brings its own heat. The ocean evaporates, leaving salt in its wake. And wake, what a boat drags behind it when it disappears into distance, distance measured by a far-off point we’re moving towards."

Paper Girl (1982-)
Fortune Teller, 2017

Pencil, Ink, Folded Paper, River

"Madame Sosostris is tired and takes off. The girl who takes over folds paper into fours and fours again, flicks each fold open with flying fingers and teases out a fortune. The future is a dark brick building with yesterday’s soot stains. The future is a paper cut that doesn’t bleed. Pick a color. R-E-D. When the ink runs red, when it blooms from a wound, when the sky turns to rust at night, run fast. Fold a rowboat on the shore and shove off. Make your hands into a bowl and start bailing. The river wants in. The river will have you."


I dream of capsules, time, wardrobe,
Candy colored pills. Boxes buried
With notes inside. Dressed up
In history's finery, bustled and bewigged,
I’ll behave myself as becomes the fashion:
Areolae peaking through Belgian lace,
Capezzoli di Venere on a silver tray,
Chocolate tempered to a tubercular sheen.
I’ll carmine my cheeks febrile. My body
Tinged blue and threaded to the wall,
I creep like a spy through time, I am
Hidden in the cracks, I am the ghost-mother
Sheet-covered, propping up a silent baby.
As if I’m okay with this erasure,
As if I exist only to bear the weight
Of these limbs. I’m not okay. Jabot,
A bit of lace collects at my throat.
Call this my collar of descent, then:
See how it rings my neck, the future
The past unwritten, the past a ruin
From which even the rats run.


JEN TOWN was born in Dunkirk, New York, and grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania. Her poetry has appeared in Mid-American Review, Cimarron Review, Epoch, Third Coast, Lake Effect, Crab Orchard Review, Unsplendid, Bellingham Review, and others. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from The Ohio State University in 2008 and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her wife, Carrie. Her forthcoming book, The Light of What Comes After, won the 2017 May Sarton Poetry Prize and will be published in April 2018.