A Journal

"I'm going to come back to West Virginia when this is over. There's something ancient and deeply-rooted in my soul. I like to think that I have left my ghost up one of those hollows, and I'll never really be able to leave for good until I find it. And I don't want to look for it, because I might find it and have to leave".----Breece D'J Pancake, in a letter to his mother. 

Jen DeGregorio



I put my ear against the wall
and behind it I heard knocking.
I feared the old myths
were true, that nothing can be silenced, insulation
like so much cotton candy. You can lick
and lick, tongue swearing
a blood oath. You can bury
a time capsule, sign one hundred notes from the past
wrapped in pleather. You can read Poe
until dawn, preparing, your syllabus
an education in genre. And still you
will hear it. Gentle at first. An asking
gathering speed like a body
pushed from a height, tearing a hole
through the roof, revealing a family
of ants, each member of which shoulders a load
5,000 times its own weight. And you calculate
that combined they could drag you
down to their lair, make you stare at the photos
in which you appear with terrible haircut, eyes
slightly crossed, still adjusting to contacts,
t-shirt declaring Nirvana, the state
you tried to achieve with a soda can
full of weed, Olde English forties
you drank in the woods of December
until you could throw off your coat, in love
with whomsoever held your hair back, in love
with the snow, with the cold
that slowed the molecules
of your sadness, lulled
your ribs’ knocking
until you passed out on the couch, TV whispering
dreams of sitcoms’ smiling teens
on page after page of the year book
you swore you’d removed years ago
for kindling, the smell of it burning
like fall leaves, another terrific September. 





When PopPop died did he hear
my voice? Or did hear
the stars, bickering,
of that reality show
I’d dropped his hand to watch?

And pictured a future
in which death is done
and the people of the Earth
(if people be the word) plug in
or buzz some frequency to get
a sense of what it was.

To see death’s
machinery, its saline drip. Its haul
in plastic bags of diapers, sponge
to swab the mouth that doesn’t
drink nor ask for drink. How lips
would cling to toothless jaw. 

To catch death’s
programming, TV kept on
in case the ear might take
some comfort in the sound. Visitors’ 
voices (if you’re lucky) saying
I love you. I’m right beside you. 

Otherwise quiet, absorbed
by the drama of a life
that soon enough
won’t be heard at all.


My favorite souvenir is a map of Alaska drawn on a cocktail napkin by an artist who was sitting next to me on a plane ride to Anchorage in 2009; I have it pressed in a book for safe keeping.

Jen DeGregorio's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming at The Baltimore Review, The Collagist, The Cossack Review, PANK, Women's Studies Quarterly and elsewhere; her prose has appeared at and The Rumpus, among other publications. This year she was named a semi-finalist for YesYes Books' Pamet River Prize for a collection by a female poet. She has won scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and Hunter College (CUNY), where she received her MFA in creative writing.