Poetry/Creative non-fiction/fiction

Ars Poetica: “To Write A Poem” September 1, 2013

Filed under: Poetry — jessicacolleenmcdermott @ 3:38 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“To write a poem,”

you become an axis mundi for the middle class blues – for the steady job your dad lost five years ago, and for your first embrace with the ocean, how you imagined its water like hands connecting you to every place at once, for your mother who snuck stacks of folded laundry into your room while you slept and gently placed them into your drawers, for the last time you locked eyes with a deer in Cache Valley and a shiver wound up your spine. It stood still as stone in the middle of a frozen street, breath pushed like exhaust from its black nose.

For the yellow primroses that shook open in mid-June when you were eight, for the seconds you spent watching them peel open with nothing on your mind. Because when you watched the father in Gaza kiss his son’s forehead beside his rubble bombed home, you saw your brother’s hands, how they cradle your nephew, rocking in the same motion.

For the snap of dying leaves up the Crimson Trail early autumn, for the hum of plastic space heaters in winter, and for the birthday cards your grandmother sent with five bucks tucked inside. Because one Christmas, a box was left on your doorstep: a black sweater for you, lip-gloss, a brown belt for your brother, a pair of jeans, cans of corn, green beans, kidney beans, instant potatoes, a chocolate cake mix, and a loaf of bread.

For your first kiss at sixteen in a driveway, for discovering how wet mouths are, for the electric buzz of running a finger across a lover’s lower lip, for losing your virginity after too much vodka on a mattress on an unfamiliar floor, for feeling regret, for looking in a mirror and seeing your mother’s smile, for the last time your grandpa bounced you on his knee in Victor, Idaho and sang “Pony Girl,” and tickled you until he reached your “bullet-hole” below your right rib.

For only sleeping with blankets made by people you know, for throwing strips of toilet paper into the riverbed past midnight and knowing it was wrong – the white paper falling like bodies into the black water. For wanting to be wanted, for wanting to run away to Europe, for getting a passport, for leaving where you are from, for swimming in the ocean even though sharks have real teeth.

For playing school in your garage with National Geographics and a green chalk board, for kissing your childhood dog, for rocking the orange-striped kitten runt and humming to her until she died, for burying animals in your horse field, for forgetting the date, for spending New Year’s Eve playing Risk with your brother.

For never jogging past an animal without whispering hello, for picking Indian Paint Brush in the Teton Valley and placing them in paper cups, for running while the sun rises, for sleeping in the farm house your great grandpa built below Oxford peaks, for waking to your grandmother’s voice chanting “good morning, good morning” and feeding you homemade bread and oatmeal.

For finding mice in a bag of oats, for sneaking cheese to a neighbor cat, for your pet hen that ran away, for your dead albino rabbit and the black lab stuck in his cage, for knowing loss, for meeting someone who you already feel you know, for shaking hands, for the first letter addressed to you, for watching rows of alfalfa and potatoes bend into a circle when you drive past, for a field of wheat rendered burnt-orange in a sunsets mouth, for the “perfect” shell you found at Dillon Beach. Because words aren’t enough, because the first time you wrote a poem you cried. 


Warmth December 12, 2012

Filed under: Poetry — jessicacolleenmcdermott @ 7:14 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Winter mornings are silent- noises smothered liked packed snow.

I stay wrapped up in bed long after I wake.

I dream of retraced kisses from the nook of your ear down to your collarbone.


My pulsing heart a mountain stream, a soft hum of water spilling over moss topped rocks.

Our breath puffs like glowing smoke under a full moon. You unbutton your coat

and pull my hands inside. I feel your skin breathe beneath a tight t-shirt.


You kiss my mouth, sucking my bottom lip until you’re sitting on the

hood of my car. The metal is like ice. A thin layer of frost hugs the back window.

I imagine never getting up. Spending the entire day under five blankets.


Never waking to the reality of what went cold between us. Of the weight that comes

from not knowing how to kill a dead thing.


The pounds it stacks onto our tight smiles.


My right hand curled rigid atop my pillow, below my cheek. You stay asleep like stone.

Your naked body only heat beside my own.


Your arms tie around me, eyes still shut. I drop my head to your chest and strain to

read heartbeats stuck snug under the cotton of my limp quilt.




Permanence March 26, 2012

Filed under: Poetry — jessicacolleenmcdermott @ 5:09 am
Tags: , , , ,

Anitya:  impermanence, a belief that to understand reality and relieve suffering one must accept that everything is in a constant state of change.


In a damp parking lot again, your bare arms touch mine.

You take me inside, give me your bed to sleep in.

I have a dream you are beside me. You, on the

couch in the next room.


My love, like melting dew or retreating tides. We have

changed. I am not nineteen in your red sweatshirt. You

are not asking me to move to Seattle. But, why do the

songs I sent you  every day for five months still sing you

to sleep?


Where are we now?

Not the beaches or the Best Western or the parking lots, but now?


Please understand that I will never be that girl on the beach

again, but I will be me. And I have felt your breath drape along

my neck on  Oregon mornings and traced kisses from your blue

eyes to your mouth that pressed permanently into my skin.


Rain turns to snow to ice to steam, but all is water. All

has been us. Us clasping and releasing. Us extending

then retreating. Us apart, but always feeling.

You telling me, I’ll see you again.


Moonlight March 7, 2012

Filed under: Poetry — jessicacolleenmcdermott @ 4:57 pm
Tags: , , , ,


I never saw you touch the lawyer or the

baker’s wife. Never saw you look at them

with eyes that pet and plead.  But five days

before your anniversary,


when Lilly’s hands sunk a bullet into her spine

that stuck until the day she died, did you feel

it too? The lead like bleeding ink in a constant

pinch down to her feet.  The twist


of something lodged so deep in bone and flesh

that it grows invisible to all but you. Because you still

feel it breathe. You’ve tasted its smoothness on sleepless


nights with lovers that coo and touch but never give

birth to something that lasts. But leave. Like


sunlight on your face. A moment of warmth that

escapes.  The holy moment when skin meets skin

and you, the feeler,  feels what it means to ache for

someone else.  To grasp onto a climax that can’t be

spoken, only sensed in the space of a blink.


When the moonlight disappears into sun and you

alone lock your door up tight. So no one can squeeze

between the spaces, and you don’t speak or leave just

sit and stare. I can feel your loneliness. The self-inflicting

shots of lead meant to leave holes through chests and weight

onto backs that doesn’t end but stays.

And lasts.