Literature 8-21-2006

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Jen March

Jen March is the next poet in the series "What Light: This Week's Poem," a feature sponsored by Magers and Quinn Booksellers that brings you a poem every week by a Minnesota poet, selected by a panel of writers and publishers.

Jen March

be·reave (transitive verb)

depending on which way you hold your arm
the cut along the vein in your wrist
might be considered vertical or

in school, a boy named dave told me:
if you really want it to work, you have to cut vertical
put your arm in the toilet and flush.

but the only person i know did it
with shoe laces
in his four-year-old niece’s closet.

in school, i heard about the murdered apache women
and their daughters cut vertical
from under the chin in the straightest line
the curve of the body would allow

he hung
for hours
before his brother found him
limp and held


the women return to me
begging for their daughters with
vertical wounds begging to be closed. his horizontal
ligatures beg
to be unbound.

if you really want it to work, you have to cut vertical
plunge your arm straight down—

if you really want it to work, you have to do it when
no one is around, or
when everyone will stay silent until long after your death.


As a poet, I am constantly asking questions about life and death. I am concerned with love, loss, and grief, and with the struggle to find reason in living. In Alice Fulton’s essay Of Formal, Free, and Fractal Verse, she talks about creating a form for the poem that is born out of the work itself, and shaped in part by certain repeated words or images. I think about this when considering how my poem will sit on the page as a reflection of living: what pattern exists in uncertainty? what dichotomy creates the whole?


Jen March is a poet in the MFA program at Hamline University in St Paul. She is a founding member of Hamline University’s Graduate Liberal Studies student group, West Egg Literati, which sets up literary readings in the Twin Cities, and is publishing a literary magazine of GLS student work. She was on the editorial board for the 2006 issue of Water~Stone Review, and is completing a summer internship at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Her work has appeared in Freshwater, and The Northridge Review.