The Jolt by Julie Weiss

The Jolt

X.

We pore over each painting, fantasizing
ourselves into the corner of a 19th century

basement studio. My breasts exposed
for the sake of your masterpiece, swelling

under your artist´s stroke. Pretense
after pretense, falling. Your marriage

a sham. You can´t touch me like that
in a museum, but I could very well plunge

over the edge of my imagination. Later
will be all glaze and splash. Wordless.

XII.

Listen, our lives are not our own.
The afternoon could, while we´re making

love, explode into a billion yesterdays.
I´ve never seen the strings of human

existence dangle so flamboyantly from
the fingers of madmen. How many tombs

of ruthlessness must we bury our poems in?
Hear my scream, more terror than climax.

Want, inconsequential. Still, if the earth splits
in two, I´ll cling to you, and it will be enough.

XIII.

This city and all its tragedies.
Every street we cross pinned down,

groaning under the weight of something
that died, unwilling. A dream. An affair.

It´s almost enough to make me guzzle
moonlight from the broken beer bottle

at your feet. But you´re not after a poet´s
despair. You´re pulling me into the afterhours

gay bar, where I´ll discover an intoxication
of city nights under my frenzied hands.

XV.

More bird than human, I´ve crossed
waters to reach a land that didn´t wither

under the gaze of my desires. I revel
in the cliché of your balcony where

I´ve come to perch. Half-naked wine glasses,
morsels of Queso de Tetilla, pun brazenly

intended, the voluptuous Iberian night,
its dance, our hands all over its starry

hips. Even in sleep, you come again and again
to all the places my body has been clipped.

XX.

Dreaming it had gone a different way,
I skid off the rails of sleep, crash into you.

I came to you more wreck than I care to admit.
Bones are like that, marrowed out of letdowns.

Extraordinary, how the planets colluded
to lure us onto the same wrong train. How

you melted the scrap heap of my past
in one sizzling glance. Te quiero, you say,

and mean it. A wail sends us hurtling.
How our children will continue this poem.

*

Author´s Note:

In February of this year, I decided to try my hand at a short poem, longwinded writer that I am, and who better to model it after than my lifelong poetry idol, Adrienne Rich? I´d read her Twenty-One Love Poems many times and decided to write a love poem of my own, echoing hers. I set myself a limit of ten lines or less. After writing the first one, I realized how much I loved the way brevity forces you to scrutinize word choice, to pay attention to the silences between, above, below the lines; what´s left unsaid is perhaps even more urgent than what´s said. Thoroughly hooked, I wrote a second, a third, a fourth, at which point I figured I might as well go for all 21, floater included, which is how my manuscript, The Jolt: Twenty-One Love Poems in Homage to Adrienne Rich, was born. With these poems, I hope to celebrate the beauty and resilience of lesbian love, despite the (often harmful) obstacles hurled in our path.

*

Julie Weiss (she/her) is the author of The Places We Empty, her debut collection published by Kelsay Books. She won Sheila-Na-Gig´s Editor´s Choice Award for her poem “Cumbre Vieja,” was shortlisted for Kissing Dynamite´s 2021 Microchap Series, and was named a finalist for the 2022 Saguaro Poetry Prize. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her recent work appears in Rust + Moth, The Loch Raven Review, and Rat´s Ass Review, among others. Originally from California, she lives in Spain with her wife and two young children.

After Googling Your Name I by Julie Weiss

After Googling Your Name I
                –for Purple Pam

Plod to the kitchen, gather all the ingredients
and build a sandwich you would have extolled,
my knees weakening under the shock of lost
time. I´m famished for fifteen, for my first job,
how the earth never stopped orbiting your smile,
even when customers stained our aprons with complaints.
For one of your hugs, its galactic blaze, I´d slip my finger
under the meat slicer again. I remember how you
numbed my fear, wrapping your voice around my wound,
kindness everflowing like the hip hop lyrics you mixed, breast-
scratching your path from Foster City catering queen
to Bay Area DJ supernova. Every stage you crossed
radiated in your wake, I read. But I´m fifteen again, life
endless as the salads we scoop, chill as the swimming
soiree at our boss´s house, where you pull me in, your laughter
sparking mine. We glide side by side in a universe that never dies.

*

Julie Weiss (she/her) is the author of The Places We Empty, her debut collection published by Kelsay Books. She won Sheila-Na-Gig´s Editor´s Choice Award for her poem “Cumbre Vieja,” was shortlisted for Kissing Dynamite´s 2021 Microchap Series, and was named a finalist for the 2022 Saguaro Poetry Prize. A two-time Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her recent work appears in Sky Island Journal, ONE ART, and Feral, among others, and is forthcoming in Rust + Moth and Trampset. Originally from California, she lives in Spain with her wife and two young children.

After Calculating the Cost of a Trip from Spain to California by Julie Weiss

After Calculating the Cost of a Trip from Spain to California

I can´t ask them to catch the bits
of grief falling out of my voice
like marbles or bottlecaps. Falling

onto our kitchen tiles like a clatter
of coins, whose designs have corroded
beyond recognition. How many times

have they winged it around the neighborhood,
tilting and dipping, a sparkle of clouds
in their eyes? The whir, the rumble,

turbulence of laughter as they land
on top of each other, in a field that refuses
to flower a runway. Some planes never

take off, no matter the years of toil
fueling their engines. How long
since I felt decades disintegrate

in the dizzying crush of a first hug,
since my parents pressed memories
into my spine, as if working clay

in the urgent minutes before it starts
to dry? My children´s hands are too
small to grasp the plans we´d packed

into a suitcase of premature dreams,
now a heap of follies I hurry to sweep
into the trashcan along with breadcrumbs,

eggshells, candy wrappers as wrinkled
as their grandparents´ kisses
filtered through a computer screen.

The clam chowder doesn´t quite cool
to the temperature of resignation before
I spoon some into our bread bowls.

It never does. The crust goes down
hard, sours my throat. My children
chatter about the pot of gold at the end

of a bridge they may never cross as I fold
their grannies´ laps into my pocket,
brace myself for another summer without.

*

Julie Weiss (she/her) is the author of The Places We Empty, her debut collection published by Kelsay Books. She was a finalist in Alexandria Quarterly´s First Line Poetry Series, shortlisted for Kissing Dynamite´s 2021 Microchap Series, and she has been named a finalist for the 2022 Saguaro Poetry Prize. A two-time Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her recent work appears in Gyroscope Review, ONE ART: a journal of poetry, Sky Island Journal, and others. Originally from California, she lives in Spain with her wife and two young children.

Pink Bunny by Julie Weiss

Pink Bunny

How to describe history´s grotesque
face, still half-hidden under a mask
of deceit? In some countries, hide

and seek isn´t a game. In some homes,
the bodies curled inside closets no longer
contain enough space for laughter.

I want to nourish my children,
and also, I want them to hear the gnarl
of a not-so-distant hunger as they ravage

their pile of snacks. Tell me, what
greater joy than watching your daughter
blow out her birthday candles? How

the flames are quelled in a single
wish without ever searing her skin.
Don’t think about it, they say. As if

our playgrounds weren´t haunted.
Voices encircled by a battalion
of bloodied dreams. The swings

heavy. The wind pushing them
side to side, shapeless. Just because
we turn off the television doesn´t mean

bombs aren´t falling on schools
and theaters. No matter how dazzlingly
our children dance in their spring concert,

missiles will continue blazing through
the bellies of maternity wards.
A family lies at the foot of the bridge

they almost crossed. Next to their open
suitcases. Next to a bright pink bunny,
squashed beneath the rubble.

Explosion after explosion, and we don´t
turn away. Look, I say. I need them
to know what may come next.

*

Julie Weiss (she/her) is the author of The Places We Empty, her debut collection published by Kelsay Books. She was a finalist in Alexandria Quarterly´s First Line Poetry Series, has been named a finalist for the 2022 Saguaro Poetry Prize, and she was shortlisted for Kissing Dynamite´s 2021 Microchap Series. A two-time Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her recent work appears in Sheila-Na-Gig, Orange Blossom Review, ONE ART: a journal of poetry, and others. Originally from California, she lives in Spain with her wife and two young children.

All That Glitters by Julie Weiss

All That Glitters
             ─ for Prince

Six years on, & you still surface
in everything that shines.
A spoonful of honey drizzled on toast,

bits of crystal embedded in rocks
my children bring home, opening
their hands as if cupping hummingbird eggs,

or a miracle. A question glinting
off a mountaintop whose slopes dip
into the valley between then & now.

Could you have foreseen a generation
of rainbow children gone drab, faces
of the future you had envisioned

clouded behind masks? Nowadays,
I watch the world through a deluge
of uncertainty, clutching your music

as if every note were a lifeline.
To say I haven´t bathed in every rain
of sequins would be a lie. To say

every ruffle hasn’t billowed against
the silk cheek of my prayers would be
as blasphemous as blowing the wishes

off the shimmer of a shooting star.
How, in the early days of the pandemic
you fluttered among the wilted petals

of my gape like a golden-winged butterfly
or a guitar god, all strum, soul, & split,
defying me back into bloom. Remember?

That time I was slouched in my parked car
after a fearful trip to the supermarket,
wondering how a virus had grown

muscle enough to tilt an entire planet
off its orbit, wandering through
the winding halls of my tears

when you appeared, an apparition
of glitter & melody, twirling
at the top of your falsetto,

your voice the fire that would
guide me out of the day´s despair.
The streets felt peopled, then.

The potted plants on my windowsill
glow in the colors of dawn, & I know
you´re the one who has illuminated

today´s stage. That later, a million sequins
of sunlight will spill over me, scatter
across the earth like an eternal grand finale.

*

Julie Weiss (she/her) is the author of The Places We Empty, her debut chapbook published by Kelsay Books. She was a finalist in Alexandria Quarterly´s First Line Poetry Series, a finalist for The Magnolia Review´s Ink Award, and she was shortlisted for Kissing Dynamite´s 2021 Microchap Series. A two-time Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her recent work appears in Orange Blossom Review, Minyan Magazine, Sheila-Na-Gig, and others. Originally from California, she lives in Spain with her wife and two young children.