By Jen Karetnick:
ON THE WAY TO SEDER, MY HUSBAND ANSWERS
phone calls from patients, their parents or partners,
repeating what he has already said half-a-dozen times
in the office—“I know the auras are uncomfortable,
but they’re better than grand mal seizures, and that’s
what the meds will help to prevent”— and dispensing
predictions no one wants to hear—“No, I don’t think
he’ll come home; the stroke was catastrophic”—but
are asked for over and over in the hopes they will change,
while I shush the kids in the backseat, stop them from shouting
with too much apparent joy in their voices, keep the radio
playing Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” turned down. Soon
we will dissect the Seder plate, digest the bitter
herbs, finger the salt dried on the easily torn skin
of faith. We will recite the plagues: boils, murrain,
the lice we have been visited by several times this year.
On this night, we will open the door for a rogue spirit
who might drink our wine but not heal vertigo; on this night
we will recline on a pillow that can’t fuse a broken
spine. On this night, the cell phone chirps and sings,
and there are no miracles beyond what can be doctored.
THE INVENTION OF AMNIOCENTESIS
Mother, in your womb I am an experiment.
You pass on not immunity but its silvery underside,
give permission for the needle like an arrow to
birth holes in this temporary home, sip the fluid
like a taster of fine wines without the benefit of
a visible image. No bigger than a black widow
spider, the doctors must guess where I am,
and agree there is nothing to be done.
I am poison to both of us. Unsafe
harbor, you insist on mooring me to
your designated slip, tossed by rash after
rash of storms. I will remove myself early. Still ill,
of course you will not care for me right away. Of all the
eggs you might have nourished, I am the one who breaks you.
WOMEN ON THE VERGE DISCUSS VIAGRA
Stamina. From the Latin stamen,
meaning thread of woven cloth. Plant parts
resemble the warp and woof, but old farts?
The boost was designed for the impotent,
not the young at heart. They can’t afford
to see the blue of detached retinas
when the sky has already claimed those hues
and the days for viewing them are numbered.
How ‘bout a pill to make them remember
to take out the garbage or mow the lawn?
One to defoliate the nose hairs grown?
Or better: to spark conversational vigor.
No chance of that? Then don’t bring it on.
This is the last thing, the last thing we want.
“On the Way to Seder, My Husband Answers” was previously published in The Healing Muse. Today’s poems are from the forthcoming collection American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing), and appear here today with permission from the poet.
Jen Karetnick is the author/co-author/editor of 14 books, two of them forthcoming: American Sentencing (poetry, Winter Goose Publishing) and The Treasures That Prevail (poetry, Whitepoint Press). In addition to poetry, she writes lifestyle books, the most recent of which is the cookbook Mango (University Press of Florida, 2014). Her poems, prose and playwriting have been widely published in literary and commercial outlets including TheAtlantic.com, Cimarron Review, december, Miami Herald, North American Review, Poet’s Market 2013, Poets & Writers, Racked.com, River Styx, Spillway, Submittable.com, Valparaiso Poetry Review and Virgin Atlantic Airlines. Based in Miami with her husband, two teenagers, various rescue pets and 14 mango trees, she works as the Creative Writing Director for Miami Arts Charter School and as the dining critic for MIAMI Magazine.
Editor’s Note: Jen Karetnick expertly catalogues the vast and startling spectrum of life, from the mundane to the monumental, from humor to horror. Amidst the stories that unfold are stunning and heartbreaking moments of lyric: “Soon we will dissect the Seder plate, digest the bitter // herbs, finger the salt dried on the easily torn skin / of faith;” “Of all the / eggs you might have nourished, I am the one who breaks you.” And that beauty is balanced by the hilarious and the absurd. Of viagra, a group of women posit, “How ‘bout a pill to make them remember / to take out the garbage or mow the lawn? / One to defoliate the nose hairs grown? / Or better: to spark conversational vigor. / No chance of that? Then don’t bring it on. / This is the last thing, the last thing we want.”
Want more from Jen Karetnick?
Read poems from Brie Season
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Buy Prayer of Confession from Finishing Line Press
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Read more of Jen Karetnick’s poems and prose