Jessica Reed

Jessica Reed
Still   Life


The sky opens the windows
and winter thieves its way in
Morning, I wake cold and chattering until
you pull me into the folds of your flesh,
and your body is the mountains I left
for the soy-fielded Midwest
and it feels so good to be home

Because our sixth floor apartment is somehow
in the back and on the side, we hear no sound
of the city, only the wind on the railing
and the cloudy whisper of snow
The cat straddles our shoulders and snores
as though exhausted by our content
If I could pick a place to go back to,
somewhere to tuck us after we’ve gone,
it would be here

Election Day, 2004

It feels like the day you told me about your HIV
or the day my brother told me he was on crack
like someone or something has died or is dying
like something has broken open and spread itself
through its own gaps
like something I didn’t even know was being tested
has failed

I think I almost lost you that day
It was late October and already cold in Ohio,
probably colder where you were, alone in Aberdeen
You called to say you were positive
and I asked if you were sure
You said I had a choice to make
as if loving or not loving were opposite sides of an argument
You said I had a choice to make and that you would understand
no matter what
I have loved even those I hate for as long as I can remember,
and as for loving you, it just is
You said I had a choice to make
You have never been a choice, I said, or if I didn’t I’m saying it now
Indeed, you are the only thing that never needed to be

The Body

It’s not the death sentence it used to be, says my mother the cheerleader
My stepfather is working with geriatrics AIDS patients, and suddenly
your blood is a matter of public opinion
Six years after the first plus sign, we are children to be advised
on where to live, how to eat, what to take seriously,
when not to take it too seriously

As for us, we don’t really think about it, not anymore
What once infected everything, pooled around us like crude oil,
is now just a kind of hush
It falls over us from time to time, creeps in
when I’m alone and feeling morbid,
but mostly we loud it away
with porn-star safer sex and life in all its complicated splendor

Our love, mine for you and yours for me, has its own body


Jessica Reed‘s poetry has appeared in Tin House, The Paris Review, and Lit, among others. She holds an MFA from the City College of New York, where she received the Marie Ponsot Poetry Prize and Jerome Lowell Dejur Award. Originally from Asheville, NC, she lives with her shiksa girlfriend (who is not the subject of the included poem) in picturesque Tarrytown, NY.

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