when pushed to choose, i always fall towards abstraction;
the f/64s would not have liked me very much.


if you ask for a song,
i will give you song lyrics
written backwards in watercolors.

if you ask me to explain love,
i will compose a processional
and tell you to follow the melody











lightly sprinkled on the pages like salt.


you will ask me to explain the future
boiled down to its simplest
terms and i will be lost,
tethered between two thirsts:
do i go down to the river
or do i stay here?

i will choose neither, of course.
i will trap myself in bottles,
& let the tornadoes shake
themselves out into puddles.


when it hurts, you must not scream.
if it stings a little, do not flinch.
breathe in at the zipped up places.
do not cross yellow lines.
you are well advised, it seems,
to keep your lawns clean.
marry an architect if you must,
if you need a steady hand
to pencil over your slipshod outline,
to create you into being.

do not complain
when the weights
press you into shape.
let their compliments
brush over your dents,
your elbows, your waist, your hips.
let them rest at your knees
keep them chastely tapered shut.

(your girlfriends will ask for a blueprint—
a model for their own design
and you will tell them that he used only
the scarred lines on your skin.)


if you ask me to explain life,
you will invite me in for coffee
and i will deliver a dream by basket.
i will tell you that i never
swing too close to death
but i still dream about it:
the edges catch
each other briefly
before letting go.

Jaisha Jansena is a writer and performance artist from Cincinnati, Ohio. She was born on the winter solstice, orphaned at birth, and adopted when she was 11 days old. She is an Academy of American Poets College Prizewinner. Find her work at jaishajansena.com

Featured photograph by Jaisha Jansena