The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


J. Allyn Rosser

Well Attended Event


While the speaker keeps speaking
I try to think about almost anything else,
and recall the moment my father quoted
Delmore Schwartz or was it Dylan Thomas.
My father who remembers whole passages
from his reading sixty years ago
but forgets how to retrieve voicemail.
"I wipe my hand across the pudding of my face,"
he said with a small smile, a line
I'd never read. How stunned I was by that;
the freshness of anything true.
Finally the speaker stops and sits down.
The talk was disappointing, Ray says.
Yes banal, banal, says Jay shaking his head.
It's as if he was just born into literate adulthood,
Ray agrees, and never actually read anything yet.
Just writes and writes and never reads, says Jay.
They nod sadly at one another, nodding
as someone did yesterday and in 1756,
we'll keep saying it until it sinks in all the way
how banal we are, we are compacted layers
of banality so thick that only a few minutes
of each year do we crack that crème brûlée
and manage to chew our way out of it,
like a butterfly eating its chrysalis
for the strength to lift off,
and there's the old butterfly metaphor
unflattening itself from my tongue. He thinks
speaking is like pedaling a bike, you get somewhere
automatically if you just exert pressure,
Trey says. To which May must add
Yes he conflates writing and riding,
an equation that ends with writhing.
And all I want is to break free from this,
to uncongeal, a word that reminds me of pudding
and face and I think of my death, and my death thinks of me,
and my mind folds one wing. I hear the creak
of ancient cicadas in their Brigadoon vaults,
and stars begin audibly to shiver far,
far back in their wobbly sphere
where they have always, haven't they,
been shivering.


J. Allyn Rosser



If only the heart had its own enzymes,
and could produce a saccharine, Valentine bile
to surround, invade, break down, and filter
all those heavy globules of disappointment –
each snarky remark and misplaced wile
it continues to beat itself up over –
we could maybe one day forget the jilter,
embrace the new, less promising lover,
and spring the bored inmates of our resentment.
Of course the liver, ever-crunching accountant
ever-laundering all things not quite right,
knows some tricks and would be willing to share them
if the heart were not too busy (preparing
all week long for karaoke night,
solo duets about the seven just-missed
blisses and ten devastations) to listen.

J. Allyn Rosser


Rolling on its dusty back among
romantic demurrals and renunciations
and soon dangling from a twig
by its hairless tail
above the bluff with chalky, unscalable walls
then lapping the smoothest of deep pools
is the delicate-whiskered hunger to be loved
exclusively and irreversibly
with its small quick-to-swivel dark head
and tiny anxious claw-fitted feet
with which to skitter ceaselessly
beneath a sky that reverberates
with an airport's hollow rumbling
that prowls and goes growling
off again in unendurable hushes
the night like a rustling catless barn
inside which the desperate beast
keeps warm though it knows
the heavily feathered fact
that one is at least partially unlovable
that one is mostly unworthy
soon on sinewy silent wings
will arrow down on the flash
of one's tiny unsheathable claw




J. ALLYN ROSSER's fourth collection of poems, Mimi’s Trapeze, appeared in 2014 from the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her work has been awarded the Morse Prize, the New Criterion Poetry Prize, and Poetry magazine’s Bock and Wood prizes, and she has been the recipient of fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ohio Arts Council. She teaches in the Creative Writing Program of Ohio University, where she also served as Editor in Chief of New Ohio Review for the past eight years.



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