Danse Macabre: Grendles Modor

I am so happy to announce that a poem that I wrote entitled “Grendles Modor” has been published in Danse Macabre Journal’s “DM Du Jour.”

I wrote the poem when I was an undergraduate back in 1998 when I read Beowulf for the first time. Two years ago (in 2018) I went back and edited the poem because I was teaching Beowulf in my World Literature course and felt a new inspiration. My revision goal was to highlight the feminine power of Grendel’s mother, who was always the most fascinating character for me in the epic poem.

Find the poem here: https://dmdujour.wordpress.com/2020/12/07/jenn-avery-grendles-modor/, or read the poem below (with proper formatting).

My Father’s Suitcase

Dad’s suitcase stands out in my mind
Torn synthetic leather
Stuffed with videos and torn underwear
Cinders filled our eyes
And the superhuman vision
Of a man running down the steps

Me and my sisters
Looped our little girl bodies
Around his size 15 feet
Cried on his shoes
And screamed “Don’t go! Please!”

The stapled rugs of the trailer floor
Vibrated with the longing of little girls
Who vowed to always sit in silence
Silent, from now on,
If only he would come back inside

This affected my voice

We stayed indoors playing dolls
Quietly on our beds and passing notes between the wall

Our husbands’ feet were soaked in tears
With a voice we could find only in beggary
And when we saw any man running for a door.

 

 

 

sometimes

sometimes I don’t feel you’re good
for me, he says

good enough, is what she hears

like that time
all the times

in the trailer on the sewers
with a yard that had to be dug
up every summer
so that nothing could grow

she also hears what he says
just perfectly as it is

without any pretense
I don’t feel you’re good

I don’t feel

I don’t

sometimes

Timpani

I suppose my heart
May be just like that

Timpani

So coarse but limber
Enough

To stretch its membrane
Out of reach then past —

Before jerking back to just
Wobble out a pure note

Its soft swell harbored in
Hard frameworks

It’s difficult to know how
The hollow bowl

Resounds

Inside me my heart it
Rings

A strange sound
For a drum

I sit beside it which is stranger
Still

 

Joy

What is sacrificed first, almost with joy,
But not with joy;

Joy, itself

Gibing down the dream corridor
Tantalized by its soul-balm

Reveries pirouetting or tango-doing
Across an incandescent slurry of something

Of mine

Mine of rapture-crusted jewelries
Resplendent with giggling

From a belly
Bursting with feast of the most sumptuous sort

A joy,
The imagining of its return

A joy,
Somewhat, its privation

Black Locust Road

When Nature needs to speak, she will
Reach into her washbag of wet roots
Pull back handfuls of filberts, gambol
The dice down a road
Lined with Black Locust trees

Roll down each toe
Bone to powder that once stood
Atop domains, believing
Its tread regulates it all

I’m wearied of pretending, she’ll say and reveal
All is deciduous wild under her
Control

Blood of habit, she outpours
Cream-honey
Down the thread furrows of bark
The hardest heartwood around

They line streets of every town
Shawls of armistice and other invasive growth
Hawthorne springtime, at last

Winter is Always

Winter is always wintering
It covers up its wilderness
The hour before bedtime and the minutes
After departure,
It freezes bodies in the pantomime of quietus
A flicker of breath.
Fogging the darkness is the only sign of life,
Reaching out and pulling back.

Everything is prevented from blooming
Except in the flash fires that burn a kingdom
Around periwinkle cold skies,
Winking out.

A cry escapes — deafeningly silent.

He remembers her eyes were like ice:
The crop of tears hanging heavy from the tree.
Harvested, homes are made
That melt in Spring.

A Woven or Knitted Material

Made and unmade just
As the fabric of her mind that knows and does
Not know her mind and can’t
Make or unmake at all; it is
Only fabric: Toile clusters of late
18th-century pastoral flirting

It forgets and remembers
As an iron rose become suddenly
Thick and pink
Performing the blush is exactly
The thing that turns the shadows away
From their gathering, she thanks
Them one by one for leaving, laughs
At the parting
As she so often does
At the drubbing of love.

Bloom’s End

I tried to live at the top of that tree
In twigs, no matter the frailty
The green blaze, a din of temporality
Swept through with reserve

I fell to the trunk
The spine of an open book
Roofed over my heart:
The Return of the Native
Eustacia Vye’s heart and mine
Loosed in Egdon Heath

I wouldn’t mind all that furze
But for the hot walk home
Away from the tree and its supports
As it shoves me out
And back to Bloom’s End

I  run backward
And see it as a snapshot
Where I lived for a time –

I could say that it was green forever
But I’d be lying

Unheimlich

A queer thing about that house:
There are no birds there, or enough
To bicker over whether it’s alive

Its windows blush flaxen in the hours
Between 2 and 4
With a radiance peculiar, familiar
Any man walking by will press his cheek to the pane
Just to feel the thrilling dissonance,
The paradox of being revolted and enticed
In equal portion
By its homey homelessness

The woman appears at 3:37
To make a speech:

What she regrets most about her life
Is that the brash piece of siding that always swings
Apart from the rest of the house
Gives it all away
About what is inside

She could stand the eyesore
If the house was unbreakable

The Performance

She wanted to but could not;
C
hest hot with words
Mouth even opened so
Each bee could charge forth

She assailed to the pillow
Softness breaking into
The even-softer

         — And I realize she hasn’t changed

Even in the face of all this she hasn’t changed
Enough to express a dislike for Chinese food
Or anger at being always asked
For more and

            Better and

            Longer and

            Thinner and

            Smarter and

            Richer and

            All

She feels you insisting she wake
And produce for you
Something she wants for only herself

You’ll take all your privilege
She, without protection
Only distance

And you wake her between nightmares
As if you’re about to take care of a child
But all you want is whatever she has
Left to give:
Some last drops of milk from the breasts

You’ve come to the Female trough
She has none but Medusas

You would always unsettle the slumber
To satiate desire for any body
Even hers, the hated
And hate on it

She said “performative”
And you so enjoy an independent woman
Who can deal with her shit on her own time
Congratulations:
You’ve just won her crushed chrysanthemums

Ten Years and you don’t
even know she is bruised at all
Except when she is drunk and wears red lipstick
For the performance

All you men
And your daydreams of the female wellspring

So resplendent

 

 

When I Think of Trees

When I think of us I think of trees
Grounded and rooted and reaching
Up into the Unknown to know

We live in the present but still dream
Green and vibrant and feathered
Of a home crafted of our woods intermingled

Cork and Beech and Birch, perhaps
The striation and silk, strain and surrender

Of our concord, a fertile parasol above
Beneath which we can bear the splendor of love, unshaded
In late equinox precipitate

Our mingled bulk invents the weir
To crib the imminent snow and the successive
Freshets of sapling season.

The Immortals of Autumn

I am carrying the light of the Autumn to travel between this and the next
World and the worlds before as if I am with my husband of epochs
Swaying within a forest-cracked verandah to timbres evergreen, immortal

Heads of red snapper flanked by still-green callowed boughs that haven’t turned
Down the comforter yet to climb in for winter to marvel in lime brown whimsy
We touch, with wonder, each other amidst

Scarlet noses buoyed up as two cold vestibules that feel the breeze more
And the bud of transformation more – we could have instead been stars and missed vermillion
Instead of side by side, braving together, bracing what the other trees haven’t the intuition to feel
What is us

We descend limb by limb to forage porcupine Chaga in the full-throated sunbeams cast through
Leggy new-growth forest, not at all like ourselves
B
ut relish the sip of the soulful side of crimson umber

If there were no trees at all our hearts could take their place, and have
In time gone by.

Requisite

Anything but hunger
       — ing

After all of this
Appetite

Has settled
Down debris, be seated

Pillage and core
Rows upon rows of deserted homes
Wanting kin

Each Friday evening set to burn
But too empty to catch, quite

Human hunger in the Autumn
Is better than none
For anything

Why dreaming of sinew and all that bone?
Everyone knows

The Marble Faun
Will not survive
Settled under all that soft on soft, soft too
Coaxes and heals

The hound of the self
Comes to feed no more
When hunger has a different name.

Arboretum

Beneath the canopy of a weeping Beech
Wearing its molten roots like a dress
Its thin skin carved into with names of elapsed loves
Lump torso bowed and overthrown but held by metal crutches
Ordained by some idealistic Harvard undergraduate 

Even the most coached head
Cannot help but to fall to the stomach as if rolling
Down through the throat of the heart
Just being in the presence of that kind of onus

I emerge winded, merge
To fuse our souls that blossom like a flower of life
Free of crutch

Miraculously so
Celestial

We rove Oaks and striated Corks
Ropey emotion of the artist itself
These dresses swallow water to suckle the furthest sprig
Propelled by some electricity,
The very same
It must be
That stirs you and me

A passerby overhearing this eclogue
Would think that weeping was only an emotion in need
Of supports
And not a telluric invitation
To unlock the index of remembering
Love

Benches: Three Poems

The Butterfly Conservatory and Her

The flapping of her wings, minor disquietings
Of heart, heart
When touched succumbs, wing-first

 

Deerfield Academy and You

Maybe any tranquil object will eventually attract
Desire to itself, at least the desire for impetus, your heart beating brazenly
Gives it all away, you’ll not be unmoved
On the bench sitting still there

Adjacent to the limbed tree with the middling cavern spread

In some yonic ecstasy of touch
—  And untouching, slender arms and legs folding in
—  And outward, growing toward

—  And away depending entirely on how much faith

—  And comfort can be felt in such
Enfoldment

You will speak of disrobing because of a something inside: ardor
Arboriferous, even, rippling through your heart and bleeding out hale
Tree smells with burls and knuckles, soft verdures
You hold them up to his mouth as fingers coursing braille, as minnows testing sea, tongue

The end of summer sun sets you
Resist its beckon with fingers of dream
A look into September eyes two days before
September and affirm
To dream at all and remember its forms:

Some,
With promise of more.

 

Lord Jeffrey Inn and Him

Feeling
Snug against
Pallid brick

Pressed
To curves
As if

Finding
Comfort there
Right there
In the jolt

Perfect
Looking
Into him
How
Beautiful
He is

There
On the bench.

Unity Park

Eyes the colors of heartsease and the soft
Light of the spirit world
An osculating smile lifts up
Into his unusual life pools

Colors pass through these
September eyes
A lamp of patchouli and bronze
Veined in marigold tamarind
Those eyes are like cinnamon and warm coals
And honey of syrup from some fruit and its tree

Night-cobalt rainwaters saturating hemlock
Twilight and fresh jade stone
Silver evening ice with shards of auburn reverie
Some ephemeral mosaic with a song in the pupils

Eyes such as that could trespass where they’d like
But their gentle inspection does otherwise

The eyes close but are still open

His eyes
More tranquil than anyone’s
Looking at me.

Rations

An erratic
Diet
Okay
Piecemeal your sweetmeat

Rations last longest
Pant.
Pump.
Digression.

Maybe next week, then.

The bakery
Has abundant buns.

Sticky your hands.
Plenty.
Pace.

I think I could get used to this.
Pull.

Pare out my body
All through kingdom
Come.

When I Hold the Child in Me, I am Holding You

 

 

In a bathtub
To a sad piano song
Crying
That I never held you closer
And more lovingly
So I could bring you back to life
The way I read about in articles.

I didn’t know how to love back then
The way your death
Taught me to love,
After.

I think now
I could have saved you
Repaired your little heart
But now I have a hole in my own
Left ventricle,
Holding space
Where you should be.

I guess it makes sense
That all this mourning
Of love
And sensation of departure
Is a cry out for you
To return to my arms.

After fourteen years
I have never forgotten your face,
How you trusted me
With your short life,

How I loved you.

I run toward love
Like I am running to you
You are love
To me
You held it in your un-moving body
And I have been
Searching for you
In the strangest places since,
Aislinn.

Every loss
Is the loss of you.

Any Small Donation

Mother’s Day
Isn’t for mothers
Wives
Sit in bed
Misty with smiling
While husbands push in their children
With pancakes on a plate.

It isn’t for mothers
Who brace the washing machine
While chicken roasts
And open lunch boxes
Sit on the counter
By a stack of dishes
While making a list
With one quaking hand
Cradling a little blond head
With the other.

Not for single mothers
Who fall into bed
Alone
After working four jobs
And relax to the sound
Of white noise
And weeping.

Mother’s day
Is for wives
Who can afford to
Expect
Any small donation,

Kindness.

Your Shirt, Purloined

I am afraid after spending some nights in the hunting ground.

Your shirt purloined
Within my gaping bag.

Finding such ration
Invented waver.

A finger-quiver
On the trigger.

It carried penchant
To a hesitant chamber,
Begot disorder,
Tethered hair at the back of my head.

I am afraid after pledging red grouse on a salver.

I track retrograde,
Wait, then, for a steady hand,
Hunt the cavern
For your bulk
To occupy the vagabond garment.

It stands upright
As engaged by some wraith,
Haunting rib-pitched chambers.

I am afraid to glance sidelong the heart
And entirely miss my aim.

 

The Red Armchair, By Picasso

Were I to paint
A self-portrait,
There you all would be.

Beneath my face, another
All you nesting dolls
Heaped beneath the sheath.

Seventy fingers entwined
Resting on my manifold thighs
Pointing all directions
Mostly behind.

A pillow breast so large
For all I stashed away and saved
A withered tag slouched
By my arm
For all the whiles I gave.

My body curves
In all directions,
Because muscle remembers
The body’s infections.

Croton Plant

Waking with nonentity
Beside

A leaf-adorned plant
Draped in all that green
Luxury.

So jealous
Of its photosynthesis.

All the veined fronds cuddle
Swigging light together
Toasting their companionship.

Organ over organ, stretching
Out for provision
From the sun.

But think of the pot
The soil
A relentless want
Of water
To heal
Its incessant wilt.

It too, is exposed
It too, alive
With the fear
That its sustenance
Will vanish.

Or that everything will:
Leaves, plant, and sun together
Leaving only a woman
Displaced
In uninhabited space.

Everyone knows
Loneliness
Must always be the tonic
For a longing of verdure.