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May 2021 · 139
Hard Man
Jane Doe May 2021
He said he left it all far behind him,
on an island in the Caribbean where he was born,
in a city on the North Sea where he was a child.
But it crests in white-green surf behind his eyes.
He speaks of it in the space underneath his words.
I wonder if he can hear himself.

He said eight years of beatings at school made him into
the man that he has become. It has toughened him.
He holds his broad back strong and high,
heavy shoulder blades hard like beetle wings.
It’s good for children, he said,
to learn that not everyone is kind.

He said he doesn't think about it. He’s proud of it.
It made him it into the man that he has become.
But he runs his hand back and forth through his hair.
He said that he will **** himself if he loses it.
Back and forth. He said sometimes
he can’t look at himself in the mirror.

He said that at ten, watching cancer **** his father
on the couch in the living room, helping clean
black blood ***** off the bathroom floor -
it made him into the man that he has become.
He said he never speaks of this memory anymore,
then he pulled me in and kissed me deeply.

His expanse of skin swallowed me, his lips pulled my lips,
the bulk of his chest rising over me blocked the light.
But his carapace of flesh was cold under my hands,
his breath was coming rapid, like a trapped rabbit.
My mouth on his neck, I asked - are you alright,

and he said he’s fine.
Nov 2020 · 373
Guilt Sonnet
Jane Doe Nov 2020
I itch my neck, my chest. The skin is raw -
a caustic burn, not flame but chemical.
I feel his gaze press on my breast, his jaw
is tight, he finds this guilt desirable.

I want to scratch a pattern on his back
in runes. A pictogram, occult, obscene.
An animal ensnared, its leg entrapped,
through blood-slicked fur and bone, will gnaw it clean.

He says: “You are no songbird in a cage.
And I’m a man, respectable, with wife
at home. And yet, your racing pulse - you rage
a storm in me, a spirit rose to life”.

This spirit, rose to life when first we met,
won’t die without a sacrifice of sweat.
I attempted to do the sonnet form justice and stick with iambic pentameter as much as possible here.
Sep 2020 · 340
Jane Doe Sep 2020
In the dark I memorize the blueprint of my crime.
I raise the beams and pace the hallways of my crime.

Retracing steps, the wallpaper in each room is obscene.
In hot breath on the window I betray motive for my crime.

Chest hair and a collared shirt. Enough muscle to hurt me.
If he wanted to. I acquiesce, my thoughts are not a crime.

My abdomen twitches, his lips touch my cheek like a brand.
I have nothing to confess - a kiss as custom is no crime.

In the jurybox, his thin-***** wife, my meek husband
tut their tongues, demand an explanation for my crime.

I am no lamb, I am blood and I am slaughter. I am feasting.
I would pay. The punishment would be worth the crime.

Take me like a forest fire - a destruction and a rebirth.
We’d consume one another, leave no trace of the crime.

My husband turns in sleep on the other side of our bed.
I retrace my steps, over and over the scene of the crime.
Oct 2019 · 82
Old Love (1-50)
Jane Doe Oct 2019
It is blanket
I wrap around myself
when I can't sleep.

2. It is a series of places

3. An alley near the canal (rain)

4. Amsterdam by the station (rain)

5. Your parents' house

6. Your shoes near the door

7. Your mother's cigarettes

8. Your sweater she hung
near the window to dry.

9. Faded plastic placemats

10. The intimacy of knowing you that way.

11. Germany, in the corner by the bar

12.  The streetlights outside (snow)

13. Places where we kissed the first and last time.

14. Love that came stillborn.

15. A series of distances.

16. It is seeing you in the train station

17. It is your smile - all gums and teeth

18. Touching your arm, hugging you
hellos and goodbyes.

19. The backs of our hands touching
during networking drinks
surrounded by professionals and strangers.

20. It is knowing you've seen me
barebreasted and younger.

21. It is remembering that fact
surrounded by professionals and strangers
during networking drinks

22. It is in the passenger seat of your new car

21. Sitting outside the train station
the day you drove it off the lot

22. Taking the long roads
to your village (familiar to you)

23. showing them to me.

24. It is telling you I still love you
after the networking drinks
in the alley by the canal.

25. It is not knowing why I still
love you.

26. It is a stillborn thing
I still pump the heart of.

26. Blue faced, hands shaking
you stuttering.

27. It is goodbye, take care,
see you when I see you.

28. It is agreeing to marry
someone else.

29. I love him too.

30. It is realising love is
not one cup from
which you drink.

31. It is a deep reservoir from which
you can ladle servings, you can float
below the surface
you can drown.

31.  It is a reservoir inside

32. Love can be collected
like rainwater.

33. Channels running deep
deep below the ground.

34. It is crossing metaphors

36. It is finding reasons
and coping mechanisms

37. It is taking an anti-depressant
pill with my anti-conception pill
every night.

38. It is being truly happy and grateful
and then not.

39. It is talking and talking and talking

40. To my mother, to my sisters,
to my partner (the worst part of all.)

41.It is sending an email that says
I hope you're well

42. I hope it's okay I write.

43. Where are you living now?

44. I hope your happy.

45. I'm going to get married.

46. Say hello to your family for me.

47. It is signing off with nothing
but my name.

48. Old love goes loudly
banging around the space between lines.

49. Old love becomes a part of the fabric
of everything. Sewn into your seams

50. Who are you now?
It is who we have become.
Jane Doe Apr 2019
You come in dreams.
Dark neon with a purpleblack sky,
surreal and tropical.
People with the heads of animals
dancing a slow-motion conga in the street.

Crooked dream logic
through which we walk side by side.

The cobblestones and alleys I invented.
We walk past buildings painted pink
painted dark by my purpleblack dream night.

Cuba perhaps, but I’ve never been there.
The sea is full of swimmers and sharks and sideways waves.

You cry and say you are not alright.
I clasp you to me.

In another we paint a teacup with colored birds
under blooms and blooms and magnolias.

Always touching:
rubbing your cheek on mine,
your hand on mine,
your wet kisses -
I wake and feel their dampness still

burning a crater in me.

I wake up sweating with the ghost of your touch.
My mind puts your hands on my body

and I feel them linger still.
Oct 2018 · 390
A Personal History
Jane Doe Oct 2018
The starlings rising from the fields,
white sky and bare trees that are almost purple
from a distance.

A certain tint in the light,
sad in the way a happy memory
can be sad.

Have I fed your ghost because
it makes me feel deep and depleted,

the way starlings and November
fields make me feel?
A peek at the mystery;
alive in that melancholy.
Are things that are beautiful to me
always sad?

Is that why I built a museum for my
love of you?
Framed my evidence in gold
and set the times we’ve touched
under plexiglass?

A personal history,
a relic to marvel.

In museums you can live in your head.
Love is easy because
symbols mean something.

I press my lips to the print of yours
on the glass you left at my table,
while my husband sits in the other room.

Birds rise from the fields,
my soul feels far away.
Sep 2018 · 395
Storm Warning
Jane Doe Sep 2018
One drink wakes it in me –
the reckless storm that ignites in my belly
and spread to my head,
my chest.


I issue an evacuation order for myself –
a hurricane of stillness gathers on the horizon,
pack a bag and go.

Leave everything you don’t need behind.

Your job –
you’ve always gotten another.

Your home –
you’ve always gotten another.

Your love –
you know you love another.

Everything is undoable,
transit is safety, movement is comfort
stasis is death.
Plastic bags dragged into your throat.
***** water rising in the basement.


Before you’re too old,
before the cement dries,
wipe it off.

Two drinks crumble it in me –
the recklessness becomes hopelessness.
I’m so tired.
I am sandbags;
heavy, full, put up to weather the storm.
I couldn’t go if I tried.

Heaped on a beach and the water is rising.
Aug 2018 · 2.4k
My ships in the night love:
Jane Doe Aug 2018
His thin shoulders,
Dutch nose

the hair at his temples is grayer than when we met
five years ago.

Something I can’t quite put my finger on.

My love for him
is a ships in the night love.
We circle, cutting separate pathways through
a vast ocean, on course for something


that keeps us signaling
onward, onward.

We look to the past privately but do not
speak of it.

The times our bodies touched.

I count them (I think he also does.)

One: the way I used to graze his arm with my hand
Two: an accident, swaying with music, too close
Three: drunk with the courage to kiss one another
Four: sweat, bed, the sun rose and I held his hand at the door
Five: years later, a hug that lingered,

the times we are allowed to touch one another,
hellos and goodbyes, in cars and trains.
We continue to pass one another.

And when we talk, we talk
and laugh and I feel a churning of waters,
a warm ocean swell that says: this is it!
Hold this.

The tide runs out,
Ships press forward on prescribed routes
through blind oceans.
Jun 2018 · 192
Phantom Pain
Jane Doe Jun 2018
I haven’t shed him like I should have,
an undercoat that I didn’t need.
Too hot on my belly, stifling
and dangerous.
Heavy layers that take on water –
if they get wet they could pull me under.

I should have shed him like a snakeskin.
It’s wrapped around my throat, taut over my
thighs, my *******, my eyes.
It aches familiar, a size too small.
I’m wrapped in it like chicken meat – sterile,  
unable to grow.

His heart is a rejected *****.
It looked plump and pink but it didn’t fit.
His organs and my organs pressed together,
Hair, bone and skin, but the sepsis had set in.
Now it lives in my throat,
a bile I can taste but I can’t throw up.

I offend myself with my desire.
This tether, woven by my own fingers  
going over and over the same patterns.
His mouth, my mouth, the words we say
are not magic, not a promise
but a sarcophagus.
Apr 2018 · 881
Call and Answer
Jane Doe Apr 2018
I know the names of all the birds
in your language and my own.
If I tell them to you –
is that enough?

That would not be enough.
My life’s careful machine would have to
be halted – parts would have to
be removed and replaced.
The cost would be enormous.

I know where to find ancient things
buried in the earth.
Coins, broken pieces, bits of pottery.
Is that enough?

That would not be enough.
I cannot take your jewelry
for my fingers – I must not study
your artifacts, those broken pieces.  
Some things must stay below the dirt.

I know where the jackdaws roost
in the quiet bell-tower of a village church.
If I take you there –
is that enough?

That would not be enough.
We could never stand by that
gentle river, in that village
with the old stone church. If I went there
with you I would never leave.

What if you never left?
We would undo all of our choices,
We could run the river backwards,
is that enough?

That would not be enough.
We will stay buried like bits of pottery,
silent as bells in an empty church.  
Jackdaws returning to roost,
remaining in patterns they don’t understand.
Dec 2017 · 211
Sestina for a friend.
Jane Doe Dec 2017
He’s gone again, a plane to India.
The North Sea foams cold, its current
pushes him always away, he goes
I stay and think of him, the woman
he could know - is he alone?
He only feels in love when riding trains.

We last parted frantic, running for trains,
promising let’s meet again, after India.
The doors slide closed, and then I was alone
in the wake of his train’s current,
cursing myself for being the woman
who hang her hopes on a man who goes.

But sometimes I’m the one who goes.
To foreign countries I too have ridden trains.
I’ve played the role of Independent Woman
(although the North Sea was closer than India)
I still fear I lost him in its current.
We kissed goodbye then walked home alone.

Has he counted the nights that he’s spent alone?
Turning over and over – when sleep comes and goes
does memory flow in a deluge, churning current
of possibility lost or missed like trains?
Is he dreaming now, sweating on a bus in India
in all the noise, is he missing a woman?

He told me he cannot find a woman
he can talk to, so he is alone.
It’s adventure he lusts for, it’s India.
It’s only the act of going he loves, so he goes.
But I'd fill the seat beside him on trains
if I could give myself away to his current.

Time rolled over us in its driving current,
now I, always a sentimental woman,
imagine him when I’m riding trains;
remember him when I’m sleeping alone.
I cannot shed my life to go where he goes.
But I count the miles - the North Sea to India.
Nov 2017 · 975
We Speak Carefully
Jane Doe Nov 2017
We speak carefully
without naming body parts.  
As if the utterance of a word
could evoke touch – which would mean
hearts racing off in jolty cadences, sweat and
altogether too much skin.

We move with hyperawareness of our limbs.
The air ripples and reaches with each gesture
in phantoms of feeling.
I sense the edges of your fingers,
I cannot ignore the millimeters of
space between our knees.

Your mouth curves down at the edges,
when your gummy smile splits
at the things I say. I remember your lips.
I cannot put them away
in a part of me that locks.
Your mouth opening against mine –

your tongue slipping in.
Put it away.
Your mouth on the pulse below my chin.
Turning back in your doorway,
the dawn light white on your skin.
Put it away.

This wanting is something I can keep
like a mantra - a bed with you
won’t again be a bed for me.
Now we drink as strangers or friends
who once pressed their bodies against each other’s –
but heavy snow covers only blur the edges,

nothing disappears entirely.
We speak carefully

to hide the pump of blood and memory.
Jane Doe Sep 2017
You sit across from me in three increasingly
intimate bars, nearer than you’ve been in years,
under lights that darkened and softened
incrementally, old wood and candles,
swallowing beer and the fear that there was only so long
this could go on until you had to catch a train.

There are only so many hours we can face one another,
talk about love and the sting of its absence
and pretend as if we are not addressing
the absence that lives in the space between our bodies.
The space that we dare no longer cross;
our bodies that we dare no longer allow to touch.  

You say that we live in cages woven from the things
we want and the things we cannot do,
and so the freedom we waited for is a lie.
We were betrothed before we knew we had a choice,
we are wed to circumstance and responsibility.
You say I still look lovely, after all this time.

Who are we now? Two strangers at a bar table, leaning
in as close as we dare, thinking that your smile is
still the same, your hair is shorter but your smile is the same
one that I remember from the night I held you to my *******,
sleepless, until the winter sun rose pale.
When we learned our love was born too late and too frail.

One more round you say. I have someone waiting for me,
you have the last train home to make, but yes,
of course, one more round I say
Oct 2014 · 9.1k
Jane Doe Oct 2014
He misses me still, but that's old news.
He's missed me for so long now - he can do it in his sleep.

He does it while he eats alone at his desk,
while he runs for a train,
while the rain is coming down in sheets.
While a girl takes off her dress and he reaches for her,
his hands hesitate a decimal. He turns off the light,
and misses me.

It grows inside his chest, like a bonsai tree -
something natural but stunted.
Snipped and pruned carefully, but not allowed
to grow outside it's box. Not allowed to put down roots.

He hauled it off, across the sea.
Across China and the Middle East, he misses me.

Half a world apart, in Amsterdam I walk
with my eyes to the ground, all brown and grey.
Thinking of the planes and trains that bore him
This has become second nature for me.

It's midnight in Tokyo, he sits at his desk
in the light from the street
thinking of trees, canals, red bricks, me
and when we sleep, he and I both,
it's with ghosts in the sheets.
Sep 2014 · 382
The German
Jane Doe Sep 2014
The woman feels the man's presence beside her
like a vacuum.
A darker shape in the darkness of the room;
beads of sweat dry on his chest.
There is an ache in the deepest part of her
but she bears down on it, lets it throb against the sheets.
He turns over and over.

The woman watches the man's long back get dressed.
Convexes and concaves.
He looks at her with alien shyness,
a stranger in her routine, too big for the house.
She swallows the ache and coffee; two cups
with painted birds. He drinks and rises from the table.
She goes to strip the bed.
Jul 2014 · 478
Jane Doe Jul 2014
with all this wine wine wine
the water bill's overdue.

Violet-stained hands don't
wash away no sins.

Baptism don't come from a
faucet that don't run.

And we ran out, baby

there's not a drop to drink.
Jul 2014 · 408
Jane Doe Jul 2014
Give me your last name.
Not her not her not her


I will shed my skin and assume yours.
I will pluck the rings from my fingers
like overripe cherries

and assume yours.

Your name clashes with mine.
It is hard to spell, it rolls like a stone pile.
But I will wear it every day
on my brow like a crown;

on my tongue like communion.

Until some unknown hands chisel it
letter-by-letter onto the stones that will mark us.
Jane Doe Jul 2014
he said to me,
and I put my head on his sternum.

A tight skin drum,
crepe over bones.
He had a man's hands but a boy's chest.

To say I only loved him anyway is an injustice.

He had a boy's chest with notches,
a ladder of rib and shoulder blades.
Divots and handholds,
He could be climbed.

And so I did.

I spend most of my time alone
he said to me,
and I slid my hand under his shirt.

You're a great man, I whispered onto his stomach,
a mighty oak,

my wisp of grass.
Jun 2014 · 569
Jane Doe Jun 2014
We were nomads
under a great dome of foreign stars
on a hemisphere of dead grass.

Spinning in wide, looping orbits
around one another and everyone else,

so the points of light blended into
tilt-a-whirl trails
lurching sick circles overhead.

You said: look for anything;
anything extraordinary;
any signs of a pattern.

But I was only looking for you darling
darting in and out of my equilibrium.
Search for anything,

any logic in our tides.

So that if we stop our spinning
and stand in the hush of our
naked souls,

I could open my eyes on yours
and lay my pack at your feet.
Jun 2014 · 519
Jane Doe Jun 2014
ik wil
ik wil
ik wil alles

you said to me
your eyes on my eyes
your mouth on my mouth
again and again
into the pit of my neck
alsjeblieft alsjeblieft alsjeblieft
Jun 2014 · 582
It'll happen in Belgium
Jane Doe Jun 2014
Brussels Bruges or Antwerp.

A slow-moving river

rain, but not anymore,
the concrete will shine.
Darkness, but not quite,
it'll smell like dusk

I will cross the street to where you are waiting,

then the rush:

I will have a wrinkle or two parenthesizing my mouth you will have bags under your eyes perhaps your hair will be going and a few whiskers will be gray and you will still be thin but no longer afraid,

every empty night and single meal will be forgotten and Peter Gabriel will play and I'll start to laugh and so will you because it is funny that we knew it all along,

you will be older and so will I but all those years years years years gone by is the time it took for the seeds to take,

the river will creep past us up and off into the great wide distance towards all the cities that we will live in,

the sun will rise every morning over you and then over me and we will get old old old old
Jun 2014 · 747
10 Vignettes
Jane Doe Jun 2014
I. My mother once had a dream about the blue hour and I spent many evening car trips with my cheek against the cool glass of the window and asking her “is this the color of the sky in your dream?” To which she would reply in gradients: a few shades darker, a few shades lighter. It became my own personal mythology. The blue hour in winter lasts ten minutes, but when I’m walking home I think about my mother’s dream and it feels like a dream that I had. Then my breath freezes and the streetlights come on and the sky gets dark.

II. You know the way the atmosphere can seem thick and the sunlight comes like its being reflected in honey? And everything you look at turns orange and gold? Distances fading to sun-ghosts and loosing their edges? More than once I stood in a field and watched the waves of light break over the summer grass and roll off into the trees. When the light is that way it looks like there’s no such thing as winter or cold beds or questions or death or war. Do you know what it is like to stop your car on the side of the road and watch the sun break itself on your bare shoulders? I think you do.

III. The worst night was the time I cut both my hands on the ice and snow near the porch of someone’s house in New Paltz, NY. I will tell you about it with surgical precision: it was the kind of ice that forms after the temperature gets over thirty during the day then freezes at night into a sharp crust; two week before Christmas 2009. I had been drinking hard; I had already cried but swallowed it down. I fell through the ice and cut up both my hands. I didn’t go home. I drank gin straight from a cup that had already been used and left by someone else. I told someone that I loved him. I didn’t, but neither did he. Words dripped out of my mouth, I still didn’t go home.

IV. That’s not the only time I did those things. Sometimes it was worse. I lost my shirt once. I lost some friends too. I pretended like I was high when I wasn’t. I got scared of the police in the back seat of a car while my friends told me to stay cool. I thought about dying in a VW bus that was swerving down a small mountain loaded with stupid kids loaded with drugs and I was sober and thought about how the paramedics would pull our bloated bodies out from the wreckage. Rough patches. I imagine growing up was hard for you too sometimes. Let’s not talk about it.

V. Just give me the benefit of the doubt.

VI. I could have been a cello player but I was too restless and I quit. I imagine you could have been something too. Perhaps the trumpet or the drum. Maybe you sing. I can imagine you with a little boy’s bowl-cut squirming on a piano bench as a Ms. So-and-So played scales over and over with her pale cigarette fingers. And you let your eyes wander off to the bay window where the strong and true July sunlight was shining and you thought about a stick you found that morning that was the perfect shape and weight of a rifle and how the neighborhood boys were running through the streets making POP POP noises at one another. “Pay attention!” You tear yourself away from the glorious blue outdoors and place your fingers on the ivory keys.

VII. Sometimes I think love is a rare and flawed thing; perhaps a kink in our genetic makeup. I think about the past twenty-three years of people telling me that I am pretty and they don’t understand why I can’t find someone because I’m nice and smart and interesting and not strung-out on drugs. Sometimes it hurts when people touch me, even if it’s the cashier handing me a receipt, and a voice in my head asks me how will you ever be enough for a man when you hate brushing up against strangers on the train? I’m truly sorry for telling you this, you can leave if you want. It won’t hurt my feelings.

VIII. Did you have a dog as a small child that you loved as fiercely as a small child can?  Was it named Bruno or Max or Buddy and did it flop down next to you in the grass on hot summer days panting with pure and simple and absolute joy? Did it swim in the lake near your house and run with you along the long white fence in your yard? Did it get out one evening through the back door and not come home all night, even though you stayed out past one in your pajamas with a flashlight calling Bruno! Max! Buddy! Did your father find it’s body on the side of the road in the morning, dry brown eyes, broken legs, tongue hanging out on the asphalt? No? That’s good, none of that happened to me either.

IX. In every nightmare I have ever had I am running away from something. I am going to the bank and taking out my savings account in cash, I am stealing a car and driving to Walmart in a strange city to buy platinum hair dye, new clothes, and sunglasses. I am going to the airport and buying a ticket to Canada, where I will go to a different airport and buy a ticket to an undisclosed location where no one can trace me. On a related note, do you ever have a dream in which you are deeply in love with someone and when you wake up you reach out for them but find you are alone, and everything seems hollowed out and your life seems like it has become the dream?

X. Wake up, it’s your turn.
Jun 2014 · 481
Jane Doe Jun 2014
Like the muscles of a gull push on its breastbone
to complete a miracle of gravity,
so does my chest swell.

I felt it first

The night he showed me how to find the North star,
as if he knew that I have been lost at sea
for some time now.

As if he was taught as a small boy
the way he could lead someone home.

Ursa Major smiled from her seat in heaven
and gesturing north to remind us that
we are no longer lost.

But she is blind and she is cruel.

I knew it first

the night he showed me how to find the North star,
as love began to seep through my veins.

Ursa Major smiled and extended her claws
towards the North.

My boat had already lost its steering
but the sweep of his tide kept me
drifting in loose circles

Ursa Major closed her clouded eyes
and I lost my direction.

He called to me, gull voices through the storm
Jun 2014 · 438
Die Letzte Geschichte
Jane Doe Jun 2014
If I describe to you this dream of mine,
could I distill sorrow into drops of sweetness?

Let me write you one last story:

High summer, our heroes are apart but speeding
together at 250 km/h
(the average speed of the ICE 599 Berlin - Stuttgart)

Image the sweetest, deepest blue sky day of your life,
how the warm bath of the air flows over your skin,
and that is this day.

Her face is pressed against the train window.
She wears a new blue dress that matches heaven,
her hair is a halo of golden sunshine
and everywhere she smells a
field of honeysuckles.

She’s holding a scrap of paper
on which the names of several
German towns are written in pen
(the stops where she will stand
waiting on a platform looking west
towards you)
She is folding and refolding it in her lap.

And you, buying cheap train station coffee
at a kiosk because you don’t want her to know
that you barely slept last night.
Willing the golden face of the clock in the lobby
to speed faster towards noon.

You wait on the platform, hands in your pockets,
contemplating another cigarette (your fifth or sixth)
Wie Vorfruede!

An older man breaks custom and lightly asks
if you have a Liebste arriving on this train.
You smile that closed-mouth smile of yours
and he nods then falls
quiet to his own reveries.

She drums her fingers on her knees,
unfolding the paper one last time,
and asks the women beside her,
wo sind wir?

The city comes into view, greengold trees,
People walking along the river,
old stone arches of the train station.
Everything becomes very quiet; she steps
down and looks left then right.

The train heaves a heavy sigh and rolls on,
the breeze of its wake rushing first through her hair
and then through yours.

Every desperate song and poem and
cry in the night are filtered back to sweet water.
The winter has never been and will never come back,
the birds sing of you.

If everything that is dreamed or told of and never chosen
exists in parallel shades set side by side,
than in some world you and I are walking towards one
another through the dappled summer light

The End.
Apr 2014 · 697
Last Will and Testament
Jane Doe Apr 2014
If I die before I am a bride,
bury me with these words in my mouth,
as an I-told-you-so for the creator.

If I go clutching my maiden name
in arthritic hands like beads of a rosary,
tell about it at my funeral.

There must be a hymn to sing,
something like:
I kept every vow I ever made.

Put me in the ground in ****** white.
As if that'll erase the one-nights, love's malformations,
the way that matrimony might have,
in simpler times.

If I die with vacant bedsides, I instruct you:
take me to autopsy
remove my heart and check for scars,
then instruct the mortician to place it in my hands.

Like a bouquet.

To have and to hold.
Apr 2014 · 996
upon leaving the country.
Jane Doe Apr 2014
Something simple
to begin:

Your winter coat hanging in my doorway
blue wool buttons and frayed edges
with one dun hair
clinging to the collar.

                       you left me with these things.

three kisses goodbye
under a streetlight   

The first tasted like every flower blooming in every summer,
every blackberry, every honeybee at the screendoor,
the skirts of every rainstorm, distilled and drank.

The second felt like committing something to memory.
The locking of a jewelry box, the pressing of a leaf,
twisting of a ring; the way in which a muscle remembers.

The third was a hesitation. You had already reassigned me
as a bedtime story, counting these things like sheep.
We stepped over the threshold between now and once.

Your coat hanging in some other doorway
hanging from your thin frame,
packed away in a box until


what we are now is arbitrary
lengths of time and distance.
Jane Doe Mar 2014
I've been letting these crows pick at my insides.
Dry-mouthed mornings, stumbling home.
I've been letting these vultures tear out my eyes.

It's hard to feel clean with my busied upper thighs,
like rotting stumps on which mushrooms have grown.
I've been letting these crows pick at my insides.

And this boy, this stranger, he squeezed like a vise
so I wear his red hand on my collarbone.
I've been letting these vultures tear out my eyes.

Now, my love, my sweet, would you even recognize
me? Hiding my face in the towel he's thrown?
I've been letting these crows pick at my insides.

This garden is poison, I didn't realize
that I'd have to eat from the seeds that I've sown.
I've been letting these vultures tear out my eyes.

Oh shame, shame. I desensitize.
I see you in the dark when I'm sleeping alone.
So I've been letting these crows pick at my insides.
I've been letting these vultures tear out my eyes.
Mar 2014 · 796
Jane Doe Mar 2014
Loneliness can be pressed into a jewel
and hung in the window.
Spinning prisms across the walls of my
empty room.

It's brightest when the sun is shining;
the facets deep and ever-changing.
Light and shadow;
time and distance.

This is when it stings:
Every perfect evening (gull cries and clear skies)
hangs on the walls of my room in light-tricks.
Vignettes of sunsets; only refractions.

The daylight oranges over his long back,
it goldenrods in his hair, shadows lengthen
his crooked fingers, strong wrists.
He looks west.

The sun says: follow! The light is chasing me.
His loneliness is a jewel that he saves for me.
Mar 2014 · 466
You, Me and the North Sea
Jane Doe Mar 2014
I harbored you

Like a shell plucked from the surf
and placed in the pocket of a winter jacket.
For months I'd run my thumb over your ridges,
and then I knew.

Love is no marching band.

It blooms in a slow creep;
a rose tint inside a scallop's
creamy heart.

The slight chill of a morning in summer.
Before the sun brags its potential.
It beams humbly with
the anticipation of a beginning.

But as does the heat of day,
loss stubbornly rushed in.
A shell slipping unseen through
some hole in a pocket's lining.

A shell lost in the sand at the North Sea.
You may fit to someone else's fingers,
but not in the same way you once fit me.
Jan 2014 · 619
men like him
Jane Doe Jan 2014
I haven't had my heart broken.
But I have thrown it against another person
and broke it myself.

He would've looked handsome in wedding photos,
but even more in a suit and tie
on the other side of the divorce court.

He would roll up his sleeves like a lawyer.
He would say things like:
You ruined my life when you got pregnant.

As if babies were something a woman conjured inside
herself out of lovesickness and desperation.
A snare in which to trap a man like him.

But instead I broke myself on him like surf on the ramparts.
I foamed and spat and washed myself right back
out to sea again.

And all I have is a notch on my map, marking
a shallow harbor,
a few torn sails
and an empty womb.
Nov 2013 · 924
Supposed Letter to a Lover
Jane Doe Nov 2013
You were my life's great distraction,
from the tedious ins-and-outs of seasons,
the still summers and the silent snows.

From childhood's great terrors,
slipping under in the swimming pool,
from the restless rubbings of the twenties:

When my soul seemed too large
for my ribcage.

When I bottomed out in my thirties,
penniless, a slipped clutch in my car
and nothing but mustard in the refrigerator,
I remained for you.

I quit drinking when you threatened to
leave me on the kitchen floor.

That is the first bullet-point
on the endless ledger of debts
I owe to you.

And though we were fruitless
(genetically speaking)
your perfect DNA will remain in the soil's pores

and your calcium will marry the grass roots,

so that this great, dull planet
might become less ugly.
Oct 2013 · 1000
You pulse to life
Jane Doe Oct 2013
a great return, as I predicted,
like a king. With your crown, your laurels,
your broad shoulders and back,
your hands in your pockets, your face
hard-browed and blond as an SS guard.

he is a slave to his masculinity
he has you, he has had you
and still, you’re no necessity

Some sort of resurrection,
less like spring and more like remission.
A disease that I had chased like a rat
deep into my bones, now
creeps back to its hole in my chest.

you’ve seen his big artillery
bombs dropped, missiles flew
and still, you’re no necessity

Like an old rag dinging out of
a player piano. Off-key and tinny,
on an endless loop for the better part of a year.
I know the words to this song,
they go: he wants you not, he needs you not.

he owes you no apology
boys will be boys, it’s what they do.
he is a slave to his masculinity

But I have written him stories.
I have given him children,
a flat with tall windows and sunlight,
I have given us breakfasts and coffees,
funerals and weddings, I have given us.

he gave you one perfect memory
his pale skin in the pre-dawn blue,
but still, you were no necessity

I have taken them away.
Perhaps his room is white, cell-like,
empty walls. With a mattress on the floor,
for the king with his pride and
laurel wreath, no use for memories of me.

*Let me write you the last story
he had you once, and now he’s through
he is a slave to his masculinity
and girl, you’re no necessity
Oct 2013 · 845
The Waiting Room
Jane Doe Oct 2013
I met you when we both were in recovery, sitting in a waiting room,
while Dr. Limbo shuffled our papers and told us it'd be awhile.

You were in with a heart defect. It has a hole, you said,
that nothing so far can close up, and you're not getting any younger.

I suffered from chronic chills, the kind that make people cold to the touch,
hugs are like a trip to the morgue, I said, and you nodded thoughtfully.

We discussed the articles in every dogeared magazine they had laying out,
folding back the pages and pointing at the pictures.

You explained to me the inner-workings of the common espresso machine,
and I named all my favorite cathedrals in Europe, chronologically.

When we finished with that, we checked for the doctor, but he was busy.
You nursed the weak part of your chest as I ran my hands over my arms

You know, I think the hole is getting wider as I get older, and someday it'll eat
me away like cancer. As you speak, I see the slight depression near your sternum.

Well I fear that I'll never touch a living person, I'll only touch rocks.
And my capillaries will forget how to fill, and I'll freeze from the inside out.

We looked at each other, and I thought you might try to kiss me, but instead
you wonder if the doctor is a good one; and if they'll call our names soon;

and you turned to face the door.
Aug 2013 · 525
Further and Farther
Jane Doe Aug 2013
If only the distance between our cities was enough,
but you still hang around the corners
just out of view.

I thought that putting the space of one country
between us would do,
so I rode a night train, crossed a border.

Your absence is in the language, I hear it in
the harsh Dutch syllables, they
remind me of you.

I need an ocean between us, but perhaps
even that won't salt-bleach
your shade from my skin.

If I was at the bottom of the Mariana Trench,
with 1,001 atmospheres of pressure pressing down
(1,000 parts water, 1 part  you)

It would not be enough.
If you were at the edge of the universe,
you would still be darkening my doorway.

If you died today
you would still be in my bed
come morning.
Aug 2013 · 919
She is my Sister.
Jane Doe Aug 2013
***** has got thinner hips.

Her thighs are clean lines
where mine are a ven diagram.

Collar bones, stomach, all negative spaces.
My figure is convex in all the wrong places.

Here's a bedtime story:
I got him drunk and he ****** me,
it was fruitless.
But he makes love to her.
He finishes with her,
while I had to push him off me.
But I digress,

he cups her face with the same
hands that he used
to push mine into his mattress.

But her and me,
we are still sisters
of the same anatomy.

So sister,
I hope you rip up his lungs
and drag him out to sea.
Jul 2013 · 818
High Water
Jane Doe Jul 2013
My dreams have become waterlogged: floods
and unstable bridges, broken levies and
water leaking into our house
from the crack beneath the screen door.
I see you from the streetcar window,

as the flood climbs the sides of our
city's monuments; its storm-darkened cathedral.
At the far side of the bridge, in your rain jacket
and arrows of wet hair, against the swollen sky,
you stand holding a sign to your chest.

Your eyes like lost pebbles in a stream bed.
I walk to you over the rails, the deluge raging
under my feet, purple storm clouds tinged
with sick yellows raging overhead.
The sign says the end.

and perhaps it is, perhaps it was.
Jun 2013 · 380
Jane Doe Jun 2013
tongueless bird singing
prophesies of her madness
from underneath glass
May 2013 · 1.0k
Of Life
Jane Doe May 2013
I hate the miracle of my anatomy!
Cried the woman-poet from the

the man slipping silently off her
while in the next room
the dogs howled at a
television nature-show.

That night he had
called her brood-mare,
took her to pasture,
tied her to a post and shot her

and now he reclines
all broad shoulders, white
chest and body hair, smug in animal
satisfaction, one with the dogs
in the living room.

She covers the flood-plains
of her hips with blankets
and prays that his
hooks didn't catch,
feeling like a basin collecting
groundwater as it flows off the
mountain face.
Jane Doe Mar 2013
A list was compiled during the
short walk from your neighborhood to mine.

Organized first by duration (in seconds and milliseconds)
beginning with the brush of our fingers
on a beer bottle which passed from me to you.

Then by the thickness (in centimeters)
of the clothing, skin and sinew that
stood between your beating heart and my own.

I fear it will never be rendered to zero.

When we touch my sternum swells
like the muscles of a bird
pushing it into flight.

Every time is a miracle.
Jane Doe Feb 2013
Crocus-hearted bloom, in careful ways
he cultivating quiet love inside
that snow-filled part of him. Across I stray
the border of his acres, vast and wide.

Through his field I dragged my hungry bones,
but the landscape holds no place for me.
The gentle gardener has tilled his rows
and through the soil he has spent his seeds.

Somewhere a lady wears her mother's dress
shining  ivory, pale as orchid bulbs.
Her heart it bangs and thunders on his chest
like storms, and in their rain I am dissolved.

Woman, hold him through the night when dreams
of me rise like demons from the angry sea.
Jan 2013 · 1.2k
A Lesson in the Liberal Arts
Jane Doe Jan 2013
he read Brautigan
and thus would say all this is juvenile
and not real
he was real in a ***** brown sweater he wore
every day I knew him that smelled like menthols
and sweat and dope (he called it dope
sometimes because Bukowski did and he
read Bukowski too)

of course
he was real in his Catholic school
sports coat and fresh face once
without the 5-day beard he took to
wearing as a ******* to the system and other
real things like that which he sang
about on his guitar with a hole
in the bottom

the one he found in a
second hand store just like he always dreamed
he would and they would make sweet sad
music (that high and lonesome sound)
together forever he wrote his
poems to the tune of its steel strings
when he would sit at home at night and get
high and lonesome too

and so would I
because he thought I was ugly but didn't know
how to say it so he let me tag along for a few years
and let me sing in my off key death rattle
and lent me Brautigan and Bukowski
so I could know what was real and not real
but I didn’t learn my lesson so well

now did I?
Jan 2013 · 1.3k
A Fable
Jane Doe Jan 2013
You are walking down the street in an unknown city,
it has no name, so you name is Grey because it was and so it is.
A bus pulls up beside you and stops a few paces ahead,
you didn’t realize you were standing at a bus stop until now.

Out steps a man, a should-have-been lover from your youth,
grown up and smiling and walking towards you. He holds
in one hand a suitcase, and in the other hand, a different suitcase.
He stops in front of you and a cold wind finds your neck.

We should have been lovers, he says to you. What happened,
you ask. Life happened he says, as it is apt to do.
He hands you the first suitcase, inside is a folded love note
written in your hand. You feel a little sick to your stomach.

I don’t want this, you say, it is over, it is already dead.
He hands you the second suitcase, inside is a neatly folded
three-piece suit, several pairs of socks, and an apple,
in case you get hungry on the way, he says.

You don’t want to stay here, do you? He gestures to the city
without color that you both have found yourselves in.
You don’t want to stay here, but you are afraid of what
is over the distant hills. Where should we go? You ask him.

He looks east: a hundred birds rise together from the fat green trees.
He looks west: the sun dips into the ocean, spilling itself everywhere.
He looks north: heaven domes overhead, constellations whirling.
He looks south: black soil blossoming blades of grass, pushing up.

You can go anywhere you like, he says, one might go so far as to
call the world your oyster. Me, you say, are you not coming?
I am not, he closes the first suitcase, your note held inside like
a crumpled moth, but I have something to remember you by.

Just then, a bus pulls up alongside you, and the doors open.
Don’t forget to write, he says, and the apple, in case you get hungry.
You set the suitcase in the empty seat beside you as the bus pulls away,
and the motion of the earth spins you onward, as it was and so it is.
Dec 2012 · 596
Last night
Jane Doe Dec 2012
I found myself facedown on the floor in the bathroom of my tiny east-German apartment with my cheek pressed against the ***** tiles and it certainly wasn’t the first bathroom I’ve found myself facedown in but it was the furthest one from home and I turned over and watched moisture beads gel on the underside of the sink and when I stared hard enough one looked a little like an elephant and it was a bad joke but I laughed anyway because it was just moisture beads and the only elephant in the room was me.
Dec 2012 · 1.0k
The Other Woman
Jane Doe Dec 2012
Never the woman,
always the other woman.
She-poets have sung of it since
they first gave words
to the wet knot of their hearts.

The consolation prize, the late-comer
who must be the one to wash his
***** hands. Not a goddess but
the amazon who presses on his
body’s weakest points. The villainess.

The other woman has no power.
He doesn’t need to know her name,
her fears, which books made her cry as
a girl. He already has his golden idol,
but he wants a clay vessel on the side.

He doles her out careful smiles under
pinkblue bar-lights or in smoky kitchens.
He tells her yes you’re beautiful
but I’ve got a better one at home still
can I see the shape you make in my bed?

And she is hopeful and lost
but finds his arm and lets herself be led.
Never the woman, but a girl who
plays games in the mud, dirties her dress,
blacks out her face, her soiled lips.

And women speak of the other woman
like she is a crow above their doors.
Watching them make their love
through greedy eyes while
nursing her barbed and tangled heart.
Jane Doe Nov 2012
For many reasons, December is a dead season.
The fields are painted in purple and grey, with
blackbirds rising into the sky from distant tree-lines.
The give of summer earth is a hazy memory now,
stored somewhere deep, frozen down in the pores of the soil
where seeds have drawn themselves tightly into themselves.
Trees bend to the ground under their own naked weight.

And this is the season of the christchild?
With a wind that seeks the softest curve of your neck,
slapping your face and drawing water from your eyes,
with nights that go on with only brief intermissions of day.
Is there comfort to be found in the darkest season,
hidden away in some corner of some wood or in a
box to be torn in the rush of Christmas morning?

Open a citrus fruit and let its oils blossom into the air.
Crush a pine needle and spread its syrup on your fingers.
Watch the yolk of the sun break over the horizon through
the smoke of your breath and the breath of the frozen earth.
Get up early, stay up late when the lights come on and walk
out under them. Feel the heat from the open doors of the
department stores but don’t enter; keep this for yourself.

Once, I drove through the predawn blues on the bank of the
Mohowk River the day before Christmas. In the timid dawn
the frost was lacework, birches bowed, the blackbirds jubilated.
And somewhere ahead, a pine wreath hung on a porch for me,
a door was unlocked, a bowl of citrus fruit was being laid out.
December is a dead season, a sleeping season, but from
the darkest night of the year hangs a simple string of lights.
Nov 2012 · 741
Jane Doe Nov 2012
It is getting colder: deeply, deeply.
November carries a fog as thick as guilt
to set heavily on my brow like a crown.

I piece recollections in a daylight mosaic,
bits of broken glass with ragged edges,
but the colors are dark, the faces unfinished.

A row of bruises on my leg has cropped up
overnight like small brown mushrooms,
I feel the tissue deaden beneath my skin.

The fog comes at dawn like a merciful nurse
to remove me from my own history. It presses
cottonballs against my eyes. The bruises remain.

The bar-lights remain, smudgy windows grinning
out from under their shrouds, dark streets, they
too remain, waiting like a trap under deadleaves.

But did I break myself on him like a bottle last last?
The fog says YOU DID YES YOU DID
and reflects to me the shame of my own face.
Nov 2012 · 1.4k
Lion-Heart and Lamb
Jane Doe Nov 2012
The loneliness and the shudder rise in my throat sometimes still.
Although I push them down into the ground like melt water,
some people are born under vicious stars.

November baby, your eyes the color of water holding light,
smelling of burning leaves in forests whose names neither
you nor I know. Now tell me, is this not a beautiful dream?

You are a king of the failing daylight, long shadows, the frozen ground,
turning our breath into crystals in the air that hang on your every word.
Two children of the winter, you its fearless rush and me, its limping end,

in like a lamb, March child: pale skinned and sparrow-hearted.
If there is a lion in me he is dead or hibernating under the ivory
vaults of my ribcage. But listen, inside a faint fluttering begins, a panic

or a voice rising timidly in song with the smoke from your fire.
The fabrics of our seasons weave together in this beautiful dream
where my moon is waxing always, rising in your frozen winter sky.
Nov 2012 · 3.8k
Jane Doe Nov 2012
The root suggests multiples,
a pair of shoes, yours and mine.

The prefix is a verb in motion, a
positive direction; a triumph of gravity
in defiance of its equal and opposite reaction.

He stands by the car in the grey light
with drizzle beading up on his shoulders.
Our life upset, torn at the seam into his and mine.

Turn around,
the coward whispers from my mouth.
I see my face reflected in the glass window

staring back at myself, the coward,
half of a set now rendered unusable, sold as scrap.
Turn around.

Multiples reduced to singular nouns.
My shoes are kicked and left by the door.
Everywhere his shapes are cut out of the dust.

The coward in me grins wide as a sickle
In the bathroom mirror. Our set of ghosts are
making too much noise, all night they keep me

Jane Doe Oct 2012

it’s 3AM and your heart feels like a gear
that slipped the track.
Or the sunshine smells like honeysuckle
and its the most perfect day of the year
but the knuckles of winter close on your throat.

This is not a new story. Some women can’t
find a good man.
The intellectuals, the homely homebound
finding nothing but silences, theirs and that of
God (or someone that goes by His name)

Anyway, He’s not on the other line,
your prayers spread like ripples,
skimming, only reaching the surface.
Some women are cursed by Eve and her
****** want to know, you know?

No. Eve was a ***** or a saint,
nothing more, not a woman with a real ribcage housing
a real blood heart. Some women can’t find a good man,
but she had two and chose neither and
that is her curse.

She found herself naked and embarrassed
and Adam was a fool with nothing to say
and she was embarrassed by him too.
When lo, the angel of God cursed her *****
from which she birthed ****** and cowardice.

Some women can’t find a good man
and nights seem like the barrens of Eden
with fruits that birth flies and rot on the vines.
Remember, sister, our mother who from out
of Adam was born then cursed to his side.
Sep 2012 · 1.0k
For Those with Light Eyes
Jane Doe Sep 2012
like us,
take comfort in the soft golden September.
The season for falling asleep,
as the shadows fuzz their way towards the center
from the edges of dawn and dusk.

For those with thin skin blanketing their veins
who feel the wind shift on the retreating edge of the storm.
As the north creeps in like a sigh,
take comfort in the growing silences of

paper lantern stars; watch them rise flickering
towards the fat orange moon bloom in autumnal constellations.
Fade pinpricks in ink as the leaves melt into the crow-cries
the smell of the coming night like smoke with no fire.

You know of it, it makes you lonely
for blankets and the flushed warmth of another.

Take comfort as the wind howls through the night hours
to remind you that no one is ever all alone.
Pull on your thickest wool sweater like a winter undercoat;
like armor for the coming night.

For those with light eyes, thin skin, sore heart
which slows its beat keeping time with the shortened day,

take comfort, and let it sing you to sleep.
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