Blackbox Manifold

Issue 11: Jen DeGregorio

Dust Up

The stakes here

are very high; 

let me begin

by giving

agency to the

smallest thing.

The dust is

easy enough

to discuss;

after all

it's made

of shed skin

and the snake,

he’s fucked me

again with forked

tongue whispering

Please, someone

get this woman

a dick. Dear, I

have one everywhere

I look: my mass-

produced lamp,

warm bulb

glowing usefully

on my desk

and, Oh,

fat neck

I hold embarrassed

of the guitar

I never learned

to play. I've broken

every promise

I've ever made

to myself, it's

a shame, too

lame to fix

a popped string—

Would it be self-

indulgent to sing

I want to be

what's working?

Not a contrived

device with which

a word stands

only close to

a thing— merely

evocative of something

you felt once

in a wet dream—

but Truth I

personify here

as a She wondering

How does she

look? Something like

she who wields

the scales of

justice, blindfolded

so she can't see

you trying to peek

under her robes—

thighs of stone, hard

to penetrate

as the Sphinx

with her riddle

you think you

have the answer to.

The Gift

He found a flat,

brown, heart-shaped

stone, drew

in red a smaller

heart within

the larger, scribbled

I love you. It must

have once belonged

to some other

rock, chipped off

by time, which worked

to smooth it down

to what had to be

used for confession

when found on the beach

instilled with our knowledge

of hearts, all crude

curves and lines

reduced from far

more elaborate shapes,

prodigious ranges

withstanding steady beating

waves that by nature


Good Morning

I woke to find your one gray hair

like lightning slice through the dawn

of your head. We were facing the wall,

had formed a knot overnight. Half awake

I wasn't sure what I was looking at at first—

Soon I registered your snore, your shoulder

fall. Felt your radiant heat. I pushed

the covers off then lay there nude and cool

looking at the back of you, remembering

your face. When the sun lit your skull

through the blinds, that new shock

of white, the girl within me

died, bid the old crone


New Years in New Orleans

Marching at dusk,

they clutch Christmas tree trunks,

browning bodies dragged behind

like thoughts one forgot

or ought to forget,

so heap tossed,

that heap sprouting higher

past telephone wires strung

neutral ground around.

Mid City rat meanwhile

scratching toward pile

unnoticed, itself not noting

preparations for fire,

gas cans uncorked,

clock scanning seconds

toward annual flame.

Sky turning darker,

turning black.

No stars for the rat

in there gnawing at

needles, wood rot soaked

for bonfire burning.

Beer cans blown

over grass. Greasy plates

spilling beef scraps

pulled or clutching bone.

Whiskey bottles drained

but for sips

swimming at bottom.

Hot from drink, from fat,

neighbors peel layers,

winter coats mud-soaked

picnic-blanket style.

Glass hides inside

paper bags, spouts

peeking out.

One flag, Confederate,

flies above ten flags,

American. Glowstick-crowns

cap sweated foreheads, silken

angel hair gone wind-knotted.

Mouths yawn

calling out to the year,

nothing new but its number,

higher, as Christmas trees blaze

in heat guaranteed to breed

fear anywhere but here.

Jen DeGregorio's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in A Narrow Fellow, Breakwater Review, Cake, and Lyre Lyre. She has been nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize and is a recipient of the Academy of American Poets' 2013 college prize, the Catalina Paez and Seumas MacManus Award. She received her MFA from Hunter College (City University of New York), where she continues to teach. She serves as poetry editor of Chicken Scratch Lit, a new literary magazine that will launch its first issue this winter.