Jehanne Dubrow

The Amber Brooch

It's true that there are tears in things--
    for instance, the brooch I bring

back from Kraków, which pricks
    my fingertip the first time that I fix

it to my shirt.
    And later, when I touch the clasp, my finger hurts

again. Some pains return.
    Some tears turn

sepia with age, stubborn as the Baltic
    or the resin dragonfly, an insect

that summons flight
    in the very shape of its body. It lights

on my collar as if to wait
    for breezes near the shore and hesitates,

the way I do, each time my hand remembers reaching
    past garnets red as bee stings

to sort through amber at the vendor's booth.
    In Poland, I held the proof

that there's an elegy in every hammered hinge and catch,
    the lacy filigree, the closure that latches

like an entrance
    to a tiny room, beauty and balance

sharpened to a point, the silver pin,
    which leaves a spot of blood where it has been.

A Brief Ontology of Guilt

No pill could numb the ache
     that kept my grandmother awake
each night, the gray fingers
        of insomnia lingering
like a dybbuk's hand against her cheek.
        I remember weeks
my mother paced the hall,
               her footfalls
hammering the ashwood floor,
     the sound of slammed and opened drawers
while she looked. . .for what?
     A box of bleached letters, a silver locket
clasping pictures of the dead,
        their faces smudged, their heads
tiny as stars seen through a telescope.
               What did she hope
to find? And I--tattooed inside
     my dreams, choking on cyanide--
what use were my night terrors?
        In that house speech was rarer
even than relief from pain. We paled with shock,
     joints like cracked limestone, knees locked
at acute angles, toes turned
        to marble claws. Trauma, a wound burned
in the body
     or written there as though we three
were parchment. Even morning's yellow
sickened into jaundice, white
               paint reflecting light,
almost medicinal though not
        a cure for silence, our eyes bloodshot
with grains of sleep, our skin
     translucent as a lampshade, paper-thin.

Always Already

Survivors never tell their progeny--
          We are always already
               in the hinterlands,
          always already the Pale
of Settlement, always the wailing
widow at her husband's grave
          or else there is no grave,
no headstone where he died, and we are searching
                    through the birches
               for a sign.
          We are always resigned
to be the mountain made of shoes,
          always the everlasting bruise
of magic numbers, always
the prophets of our own blazing,
          our self-consuming star. We are
               and always were the puckered scar
          that never disappears
beneath the skin. Or does it reappear
each time we think it almost gone,
          rising to the surface like a stone
that will not sink for all its heaviness?
We are always already dressed
               for our own funeral march.
                    Look how our bodies lurch
as though still traveling on the train.
          We are always already trained
                    to speak and never speak
          of it, to never speak obliquely
               as a curving track,
and never turn our bodies to look back.


Jehanne Dubrow received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Hudson Review, The New England Review, Shenandoah, and Gulf Coast. She is the author of a chapbook, The Promised Bride (Finishing Line Press). Her full-length collection won the 2007 Three Candles Press First Book Prize and will be published in 2008.


Tiel Aisha Ansari
B. J. Buckley
Terese Coe
Carol Dorf
Jehanne Dubrow
Nicole Caruso Garcia
Ona Gritz
Kathryn Jacobs
Allison Joseph
Susan McLean
Marilyn Nelson
Janice D. Soderling
Shanna Powlus Wheeler
Marly Youmans

Jane Sutherland: I choose subjects that I cherish, or that spring from deep rooted feelings, or that come to me intuitively--dogs, roses, cranes, an iconic work of sculpture; and I concentrate on the details and slightest disparities in color, tone and textures in order to show how extraordinary are things we think we know and take for granted. The process of painting for me is connected to the physical properties of the subject as well as to its meanings, associations, and memories.
32 Poems
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