Jennifer MacKenzie teaches English and writes (prose articles) for
Forward Magazine in Damascus, Syria. She was a Truman Capote
Fellow at the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop, and she has
published poems in various journals including Fence, Verse,
Quarterly West and Greatcoat.

Pharoah Glimmer

The unmarried sisters are washing
the cracked stone courtyard below

Jingle of women, what is it
but your white own hidden

in a city you walk through foreign
without singing. Your armpits
fern-rank with lust. Your hair, smoke

Everywhere our breath bequeathed to curtains
in the quiet toss of crisis spooned
along night's back like honey, cold

Hadn't you better lay back
down full of the solitude
you stung with imagining

the brides of Spartan soldiers
shorn to look like conscripts waiting
in thatched huts for dusk to fall

floating and drubbed like branches
in the dim foam of temporal bewilderment
with soft hands and rough clothes

But you wanted to go into something
you called "a glimmer"
But it was really more like shame

But is it so different writing in pencil
It is, because the sound

You straddle the puffy blue mat
with the white line drawings of a woman
on her back. Like a Pharaoh swimming

There are the parts of your body
that are something wrong

Days you can call back into being
These are called "the future"

I hang my doubt an opal
lamp among fruits. Reality
flows into all the spaces, how

strangers test our pity. Someone thinks
I am for sale and touches my arm
more insistently. How much
the limbs perceive, cooled and viva

After kissing I sit feral, waiting
for my played skin to become audible
A crouched white traitor. Ace

He is a sort of wall I could bask on
Art thou. Yeah, well. Fetch me then

Lurking from all attempts not to think about war
end in my body white strong strange culprit

in the mirror far iron tang of well water covering
my deep heart at sea, a child lying on a carpet

I am shorn in extremis, shivering to die
I love the small field, the smell under my arms

His backache, his three of shrapnel, small
pink mole-nose of each nipple unsquashing

when I take off my bra a joy similar to panic
I felt watching him listen to music, and why

these young voices should shelter
wealthy efforts at mucho damage

Untidy with breath, gaudy with pleasure
for a little stitched while, or steadying to take

a picture of a shattered doorframe. Splinters
in silhouette. Always a train

Moving west. Etc. hair messy
abject face. Ratscape. Breadspace

when rage relinquishes my chest
and fulcrum-calm of dear. Waking

I strip off my warm shirt like a country
settling doves. He doesn't know what

I mean. Well then I'm the short gray
dog trotting alongside language

An icy noon. A man enters
the restaurant, unzips his leather jacket

Can or can't go from each
bed with this cup of asking

to catch the rain inside his chest sprawled
little country crawling forward on its ribs

That's what we like you to think, we like it
when you thank us. I want to be every cage

disbelieving, blinkless. I inside the narrows
of red brick, brick dust there, of men's chests

Breaths pounded open, sun-tongs through hayloft air
Workshirts in cigarette ads, full-page, glossy

My unbound hair destroying everything
and deeply. The list of errands helps somewhat

to give me edges, but only briefly
Then an absence gashed with trees

You must take care of yourself
You must rest and work in plain gray pencil

above the unenchantable sea faithfully
consuming all entrances to itself

A face tipped up at the behest of rain. Quietly so
it is the least real voices that most own me

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