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Cirque desole


Refugee breathing in the shadow 
of a balcony dons the morning 
peen of hammers. To the East 
the great leader is acting the part 

of papa stork gliding southward 
down a quiescence called sky 
White glider white unitard 
nary a snigger from the TV thrall 

Then my lovely assistant Penance 
presents himself waving a cock 
Are you crying, our master 
in your new tall black boots? 

Take the ferry and then take the bus
I have to go home and be like a girl 
who fills herself with rage cooking
all tympanum, no story, a human 

meniscus shaken by the foghorn's 
victorious fart. Of course one wants 
to arrive as Beethoven's circus sadness 
not the hippo summoned only to drop her jaw 

and accept and chomp a lettuce 
A cage-shadow sags from the black 
edge of a balcony. Each day 
I'm invented by a bed and pants


The Clowns of Aftermath Regale Me 


Push the crown of your head through the heart-
shaped hole formed by the two yellow flaps
of the inflatable vest, your face will gamely follow 

He kept repeating the word "love" 
but with a soft “v” so it sounded like “law” 
The nurse kept picking thorns from his scalp 

Filling out the Pain Survey
--Just put "yes" for everything 

Our eyes receive the renewed gray 
speeding past us. Thank you 

for your attention and with a roar we 
would love to be martyred 
and not come here bearing a candle 

tattooed in green on the right bicep 
a tiny green heart wizening down one instep 
a vague bruise orphaned in an armpit 

Men swing themselves past alfalfa

A broad red flag is snapping 
over a statue with a cocked right knee 

I love to swim in the ocean 

Metal works its way out 

Every day I’m practicing 
I draw a tree, a cat, fruit, a rabbit 

I was so happy in the sea




Jennifer MacKenzie's first full-length book, My Not-My Soldier, was published in 2014 as part of Fence Books Modern Poets Series. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Similar Peaks, Lungfull, Better Magazine, and the Blazevox anthology Poets for Living Waters. Her prose on Syria and its neighbors has appeared in the Huffington Post, Guernica, Killing the Buddha, and Religion and Politics. She lives in the Bronx where she teaches composition and journalism at Lehman College.