Jennifer Reeser

from Sonnets from the Dark Lady


In the old age black was not counted fair,. . .

The world knows black as universal sin.
No Paris stylist passionately swearing
The chic are rendered chicer, thin more thin,
Persuades the bon vivant into its wearing.
In black, the child is chased away, affection
And understanding, though it clothe demurely;
Compassion, color run from the complexion.
But since life thrives through compromises, surely
Let raven, sable, rook be my disguise.
Make murk my brow, in ashes root my hair,
That while I live, none but my master's eyes
May gain one aureole to find me fair,
And thereby--in fair finding--obfuscate
My mirror's counter and uncountered mate.


. . . I envy those jacks that nimble leap,
to kiss the tender inward of thy hand. . .

What do I envy, love, that touches thee?
Too much. More to the point I'd prove to list
Things un-provocative of jealousy,
But label me a cureless columnist.
Domestic sodas and imported beers
Upon your lips I envy, dark or light;
Slow musicals whose tongues sink in your ears
Burgundy preludes; nightmares which at night
Awaken you, and through the day remain
Reminders of your haunting in the sheets.
I envy seats beside you, filled in vain
Amid an auditorium of seats;
Your sport coat's tweed mélange of silhouette
And loosened negligence of etiquette.


The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action. . .

Say Love is useless, shameful, overwrought
In shape and bent. Call Love the expertise
Of idiots, a flagellant of thought
Making a victim of itself to please;
Unprofitable, disrespected, trampled,
A rose bench in a peach conservatory
Where sugar canes ad nauseam are sampled--
A subjugated shade of lust's red glory;
Call Love a forger's counterfeit of peace,
Naïve, complacent, loose, unkempt, forthcoming,
Archaic, quaint, a traitor true, a grease.
Regardless, women will continue humming
As if it meant dementia to despise
This Neat Suite sham, this No-Man's Paradise.


     "Those lips of thine,
that have profaned their scarlet ornament. . ."

My lips aren't ornamented in bright scarlet
Or crimson lipsticks, luminous of shade
And drama, for the harlequin, the harlot,
The hallmark. Dateless Ruby is the name
For this specific recipe of red.
If it be true their color has appealed
To untrue love, to burglarize some bed
And to false lovers make their pledges--sealed
Or loosened--I at least would have them known
For what they truly are: a-spread with jewel,
Without a date, so as it were alone,
And at their darkest, crowning--if not cruel--
With lasting stain elaboration, though
You smear, in clear-cut, ruby Cupid's Bow.


"Lo, as a careful housewife runs to catch. . ."

Here are no stone Madonnas on my rugs,
Enshrouding the Child by various embraces
With varied faces, in shawls or shrugs
On Galilee silks or high piano cases.
Within their smiles is found too little art
For representing porous mystery,
And whether metaphoric myths impart
Direction to one's run, or history,
The really careful soul will realize
Like Bethany's lax sister, that to chase
A flying feather while the loved one cries
Is poor art on a rich Madonna's face,
And catching it is no authentic catch.
Love, I am not thy mother, but thy match.


"Two loves I have, of comfort and despair. . ."

Around the little bottle called Desire
I let my conscience and caresses linger.
No warning date inscribed there, whence expire
Its side-effects, on ring and middle finger
I balance it in study, run a thumb
Around its rim, until I'm ill, until
Its contents spill, until its contents come
To puddles on the floor, of pang and pill.
Despair would chew them well, as overdose,
Comfort would gulp them--an holistic cure--
Even though now eerie with the gross
Pollution from the ground: disbursed, impure,
Each chanting like a spinstered, nursing shrew,
"Desire, this bottled hell, I hate--not you."


"and saved my life, saying 'not you'. . ."

Eight days through Egypt in the eye
Of Ra were not enough to bake
This saturation in me dry
Of heat, although I were to take
The "not" from "Him I do despise. . . "
My "not" remains, for I would knot
His wrists and ankles with the ties
Of feeling nevermore forgot,
Nor weakened through the slaving sun
Of Cairo. If it kept him warm,
Though, I might let my loops undone
And lay a liberating storm
On him at dusk, when sun grows vague,
To whet him--like the Seventh Plague.


Jennifer Reeser is the author of two collections published by Word Press. Her poems, translations and articles have appeared in Poetry, Botteghe Oscure, The National Review and The Formalist, among other publications. She is assistant editor to Iambs & Trochees, and lives in southern Louisiana.  Visit Jennifer Reeser's website. Earlier work in Mezzo Cammin: 2006.1


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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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