Jehanne Dubrow

Penelope Considers a New 'Do'

The magazines declare don't ever cut
  your hair just after breaking up. So what
    if he's been absent nearly twenty years?
      Fact is: each day the loss feels new, the sheers

still biting as the first time they'd been honed.
  Looks like he's never coming back. You've moaned
    for two decades about the shroud of bangs
      which veils your face, the way your ponytail hangs

down your back like a ragged piece of rope.
  Your follicles have given up all hope
    of hair that moves, of Farrah Fawcett's flip,
      Meg Ryan's shag, or anything so hip

as the pixie, the asymmetric bob.
  Go see the stylist-to-the-stars and sob
    your story out (that endless Trojan war,
      those gods). André has heard it all before.

He'll trim away dead ends so razor-fast--
  chop chop snip snip--you'll wonder why the past
    cannot be sliced so easily away
      or died a golden shade to hide the gray.

In Penelope's Bedroom

A bottle of cologne still waits
  and waits for his return, evaporates
          to leave the passage of its scent
behind. She wonders where the fragrance went.

Look how the pillow lays (just so)
  exactly how he left it years ago,
          marked with the hollow of his cheek
like earth that holds the memory a creek.

The right side of the bed must stay
  his side. She slips into her negligee,
          as if she's dressing still for him.
Perhaps her body cannot learn its grim

topography. She knows this life
  has dried her up. How terrible to be a wife
          made widow and yet still remain
married--what inaccessible terrain.

Whole regions that he used to kiss
  are now abandoned land. What does she miss
          the most? Without Odysseus
even her skin becomes extraneous,

a wrinkled, dusty map with few
  directions home. But long ago, trees grew
          in her, an orchard of perfume
that filled the farthest corners of the room.

Penelope, On a Diet

She's tried them all before
     and always failed, the war
          against her waistline more
than she can win alone,
     eating dinner on her own:
          some broth, a chicken bone
clad in a scrap of meat,
     a lettuce leaf replete
          with vinegar. Defeat
is just a Hershey bar
     away, the gallon jar
          of peanut butter not far
enough beyond her reach.
     Some dieters beseech
          the gods for help. South Beach
and Atkins are divine,
     two deities thin as twine.
          Some women choose to dine
on nothing but the breeze,
     or no white foods, or freeze-
          dried milk and raspberries.
Some women pick protein
     instead of carbs, caffeine
          instead of lunch. They've seen
the opposite of fat
     is never thin--it's that
          solitude she can't combat,
no matter what she eats.
     She's still alone, still cheating
          on a fast she can't complete.
Another diet. And soon
     she'll try again, when the moon
          is fattened full of prunes,
walnuts, and apricots,
     when the clouds are shaped like pots
          of jam, when all her thoughts
melt into sweets. There will
     be no way then to fill
          her stomach up, no pill
to kill the appetite.
     Alone, she will recite
          a prayer for each bite
of food. How good to digest
     cardboard, how very blessed
          that thirst can be suppressed.


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 was published in 2008. Earlier work in Mezzo Cammin: 2006.2.


Sarah Busse
Barbara Crooker
Jehanne Dubrow
Annie Finch
Ann Fisher-Wirth
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Marion Belanger: My current project, Continental Drift: Iceland/California, is structured around the geologic boundary that forms the edge of the North Atlantic Continental Plate. I was particularly interested in the fact that this geological boundary has no political allegiance, was not determined by wars, by financial interest, or national demarcation. It is a boundary that cannot be controlled or contained by human intervention.
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