Jennifer Bartlett



how to pull the arc of my dying

across the page

how to tell the birds to be quiet
and the sky and

this sky

buildings (this building)

all around thrusting
the nest of the city upward




So that, every gesture must be accounted
for. The world all around becomes
unique with longing.

a truck passes

a building is red

these things define themselves

I am not the only one--each person is
born with a certain amount of blindness,
an incapability to describe the interior.

She tells him if there were no categories
this looking would be impossible.

She tells him, the only category for him is beauty




A shadow crosses the street.

A shadow walks the beach.

Its figure moves laboriously
blanketed by a series of lights;

the movement, at once,
distorted and beautiful.

Aren't we all damaged human forms?




an open mouth
survival of the body

a perceived fragility that turns
against her

the body as a mirror
as an opening mouth

surface of a leaf

a glowing splint that bursts
into flame

blow and it will turn milky

blow, and it may drift




one boy's small hand

of absence

an inherent grammar

a light outside the window
illuminating our place in this world

of swimming pools and their vastness

all the birds in new jersey

a mother who is good with numbers
a father who is good with poetry

this crooked body

boys who made me lose the blues
and then my eyesight

the ocean and its variations




Small animals in the garden.

Thirty segments of the heart
can split and repair.

Winds may (or may not) exist.

This world is, at once, so beautiful
and so ugly.

If I were blindfolded, I wouldn't
have to see.




The body wants to fly; the body
wants to walk; the body wants to
be simple or ordinary.

It wants and wants.

This wanting is without end.

The body remembers
its only movement as poetry.

Like one who cannot describe snow.
Like one who cannot parody the narrative.

Beat at the cage of my bones.

*All of the poems that follow are from (a) lullaby without any music (Chax 2011).


Jennifer Bartlett was a 2005 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow. Her collections include Derivative of the Moving Image (UNM Press 2007), Anti-Autobiography: A Chapbook Designed by Andrea Baker (Saint Elizabeth Street/Youth-in-Asia Press 2010) , (a) lullaby without any music (Chax 2011), and the chapbook anything important enough has to get done (Albion Press). She is also an editor of Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. Bartlett has had cerebral palsy since birth.