Sunday Jun 23

JacobsJessica Jessica Jacobs received her MFA in Poetry from Purdue University, where she served as the Editor-in-Chief of Sycamore Review. These poems are from Pelvis with Distance, a book-length sequence of poems responding to the art, life, and writing of Georgia O'Keeffe. Other poems from this collection have appeared or are forthcoming in The Journal; So ToSpeak; poemmemoirstory; the American Antiquarian Society's journal Common-place; and the anthology The Burden of Light: Poems on Illness and Loss. Her web site can be found here.


Red Barn in Wheatfield
Georgia O’Keeffe [Sun Prairie, WI; early 1892]

The drays were kept out in the heat
all day. And so were we. My cheek pressed

to coats gone dark with sweat,
watching their sides twitch, rippling curtains

of flies. It was the closest I got then to seeing
the sea. I licked salt from my lips

as though fresh from the water, but nothing
was better beneath bare feet

than horse-shadowed earth
nestled with pine needles. Air so thick

with dust I wanted to lie down in it,
to wrap it round me like a cloak

and walk the fields gone tall
with summer, grasshoppers

popping at my steps like oil on a flame.
My sisters hid in the creamery, cooled

by ice cut from ponds in winter, playing
Handy Andy Over among the milk cans.

Beside the high hedge, I was happy.
I shimmied into the drive’s loose gravel,

ran fingers through the buggy-cut ridges
until I couldn’t help but turn

pebbles on my tongue. Burr of silt. Their shapes
still bloom behind my tight shut teeth.

Untitled (Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot)
Georgia O’Keeffe to her friends Anita Pollitzer [Columbia, SC, to New York, NY; 1915]

In the pines, we found a house,
deserted and crawling
with roses. I came back alone—

a night when the moon made
even the underbrush shine.
Close-grown trees chirred

in the breeze. I locked the door,

tacked up the paintings
I’d carted from New York
and stared until each

spoke like the teacher 
I could see I’d painted it for—
a weak-penciled arm lopped

at the shoulder; Art Nouveau
Virginia lawn; dusky dead rabbit
beside a tarnished red pot—

each painting’s tone more
strident than the last, speaking
in every voice but my own.

Anita, I will have to start over.

No. 8—Special (Palo Duro Canyon with Spiral)
Georgia O’Keeffe [Canyon, TX; 1917]

After the parceled horizons of Manhattan,
Texas plains are a glassy eternity

laminated by sky. Trapped
between them, I am a too-diluted pigment,

going transparent at the edges.
Which makes Palo Duro a deliverance.

At its rim, I am a sail,
arms outstretched, ready to crow

over the canyon, dive down into it.
But the only paths in are cañadas,

steep and rocky, forged and rutted
by hoof prints. Straggles of cattle

watch from above, lines of black lace
against the blanched day. By night,

that thrill is still with me. I stand
with brush to the tight-wefted board

while the cows, now penned,
low for their calves

rhythmic as a Penitente song.