Jessie Janeshek

Lazy Susan




undertaker makeup                  or tricky mess

more forced concentration                              than whistling train

            all of these pages but my bloody pigslit

feels like wasted time

                              a weepy zodiac medicinally

                              or a tonic medievally

saving my skeleton                  walking on the balls of my feet

            around and around                  the algae-filled swimming pool.


I’m always the one who stays longer

            heat and therapy putting on

dry firefighters’ hats                 drinking vermouth

            backing away from the river                inventing seven more characters.

I am absurdist              sore back, I can’t take

            the directness of prose

                        or the same lame black clothes.

I wear the luxury jumpsuit

            where Jesus humps robots in the Omaha bar

or what money to burn                        a red wool beret

            a too-small denim skirt

where the man in the yard is all bones

            and you can have his glossy bar

in your home or your car         if you use his fingers to stir.    










The Keeping Room


Fly me to the moon. I’m just as shitty as you

            but I could be anything

adrift with a yellow biography     my missing radio waves.

            We come to the basement       to tell our deep dark secrets

rainy Frankenstein       and in the tornado shelter

            a fake dr.’s kit.             Fly me to walking all night is safe

a strain on my wrist uncapping the eye cream.

            Fly me to why didn’t I bring anything plain?


I want to broaden        the apples are blonding

broken theatrics.          Your songs of assault are a comfort

            a cage around the booze          but I’m not that committed.   

Fly me to darkness comes on/how I function

            the girl lost as the crescent      takes up an eighth of this day

or you can turn the knob slowly          in the cheap slip of time

                        you can turn the knob smoothly

plop in front of the bunny       ears for ten hours

            proud of Missouri you miscount the hours

think this is kid stuff               garbage or preschool or booze

                        get yelled at for leaving

your banana peel in the trash

            and the films aren’t in order    and the wallpaper man

keeps winking at you               says relax into crime.

says be special    be satisfied

            let your drinking shatter the days. 






Freight Value/Screwball 2





Suddenly I’m obsessed                                    with—bridge out—the river

            the sad Mary Astor      with the house arrest anklet

pink-haired lookalike in pink amulet

            appellation/apparition             what she does in this city

afraid of the river         burning the church for insurance, pink ice.


Say I have a mission    no longer half mast

            I read the map backwards

                        a numb tree adventure             1,000 cups of tea

the scarecrow broadbacked                 singing I’ll singe my hand

            a simple question of candles                of letting the air in

my ego illuminated      too big for fiction.


            Did you hear a commotion      a skull with skin over stone?

Sometimes I think I’m all right

            shiny, unmystical                     but I have been summoned

                                                                        by a clock that is lying

            to faint in the woodsmoke       or on the woodline

                        but I want to stay        iron my dress on the mirror.


I feel like a tree of missed opportunity

            sleek legs in the leaves

                        ill-starred scar on my face.

I turn this way             away from the slasher

            want to believe when you say

everything has its time so just wait

            but I’ve torn my white robe

                        and I’m missing a klonopin.






Weights and Measures




I never promised you a chokeberry     or a cheap Grecian costume.              

I like you but not quite that much

            but this will end with a skeleton          a ceramic pig

or a rock garden                       every day firefighting

            river-smart and eager

dressing up dead possums       as dandies or brides.


A man reads a map at the parish

            as if he’s the river        better than me.

I’m wrapping blankets around the trees

            climbing wood casements        slicing the crescents

but if you live with me I’m not safe.

            I’m not a baker                        I exist like a ghost

I see the night scenes              through CCTV in the day

            filtered by ashes                       then I can’t go home.


Hayride ridiculous       apple bobbing and crosses

            extinguish my time

and I guess I’ll clean up           know the cheap Grecian costume

            is so I’ll have a shroud             at the end       

to run through the graveyard.


But first there’s wallpaper       a cozy star bar

            a side car         a falling barometer

a sixth anniversary       a stake in the heart

            high small and globular.

But first there’s a tad of fresh air

            forced socialization

the flame within white gown                          

                                    the blonde bun in my hair

when you say you were his gold girl

                                      you were his favorite

I wish I could be happy

I want to be natural

                                    you bumped me out of first place

                                      this should be comforting


But aren’t we all moving toward our final days anyway?

and when it came to his death he was philosophical

and can’t I call you later from the bedroom   

            when I use this antenna           to tune sexy frequency?

Right now I’m engaged with his ghost’s heavy breathing.









Household/Old Gold




You ask me what’s your trauma

            as I rob you of your cheap scotch

in my silk sailor pajamas

            as I creep down there to fuck you

already drunk on vodka

            but it takes time to know a place

like a leather anniversary         like a fortune-teller’s forecast

            or a desert-mountain smash up

or a stark affair.


Comedy is harder         the candle is my crutch

            but in the Venice Beach short

let’s just focus on my blonde crotch

            and I’ll stand in the town square

of this town that’s not my own

            let homeowners fly their flags

at half-mast     marcelled ghost.


The one time I looked good    smooth smoke on the throat

my midriff exposed      leopard sex     

a magic fur       like a roadside attraction

I stumbled drunk through screwball city

and all the girls said drag her

            drag her through the blood-muck

underneath the roadster

            rip her face off with the roadster.


Now you make the best of me

            I’ll make the best of you

return the bad luck bloomers

the wind-up doll narration

the haunted radio.



Now you climb up the red-lit watertank

to jack off on my sweater        wrap me in your black lace

to say you have to have a steady hand       to find your proper station






House of Wax/Cinnasnap


I could say       a worm in apple

            don’t make my black lips blue

always done up                        or add up

            they’d have to put chicken wire

between you and my hips on the stage.

    I communicate sadness       red lip and tips

since shit will happen      in a bloodstained negligee

            and Bela Lugosi’s baby

looks like a mini-Dracula.


They say fingernails are the key to your health

            gothic, anemic             and how did sadness go?

and I had a dream        about a man with a pool cue

            strapped to his back

and my lack of birth control    and my lack of headspace

            in the weather of Satan and white satin dresses.


Sadness goes viral        the same man driving by

in a vampire mask

    the hunger of the tarantula girl

inside the B movie       but spiders are a sham

            and I want my nails plastic

want to dig up his body           with a plastic Halloween pail

            reading his obituary

                        make it a wolf or a bear

then follow his healthy                        still-growing nails

            past the men to the traintracks.



House of Wax 2


Staring into the pot like Dracula’s daughter

            the pool in October                 transitions erased          

my head is jealous                   encasing your youth and your tutu

            no air in here                     but I’m asking for it.


I wish I could be you               but the disappearing carrot stew

                        is how I see myself

or the crème candelabra          compulsively buying

            elemental lipstick        blue undertone shimmer.


The girl in the house arrest anklet

            says the old couple made their asylum matte red

            pissing and shitting      mole crickets in bed

                        candleflames snapping             hidden lexicons

            pulling the tubes out                joinery sad and bad

                        hearing the cows moo at sundown

chokecherry beat/bleat                       his skin hangs like a mask.


They made the pool into a haunted house once

            or maybe we dreamed it          in the cold snap.

I don’t know what to eat. This isn’t the best place

            to preview illusion       and it’s easier to write than to listen.


Remember how I walked with nothing?

            The big church glowed red

leaves turned overnight

            corsos kept cutting off.

                                    I wanted to build but I couldn’t move

                                                and you said I smoked too much

                                    as we waited for the drunk to have

                                                the undertaker’s baby

                                    and I didn’t like how

                                                you faced it or death.



Arboreal House Wax/Did Me Like That





Snow on the devil and my ghost fell over

            then again this was alone time

then again I’d never tire

            of the red town church square every night

      loose meat in the tornado shelter

            masked boys riding by

                  in the cold-chromey cars

            screaming don’t break the goats!

then again opals and crushing up pills

            wood, chains, and light

                        ok, that’s pretty good

            a coat closet, morphine, and tits in the dollhouse

                        badness and blackness and my jewel-toned nightie.

I’m afraid of the night. I’m afraid of soap operas

      on the Predicta TV. I’m afraid of leaving something

                        at the injection site.

I’m afraid of the wood             smoking near triple wicks

            playing twins in a split screen

red wig, I’m in Brooklyn

            when I wear the gold heels

                                    I fuck like a dog

            pyramidal points cutting straight from the wood.


Yes, this was alone time          and you only said

            something nice about me

since I said something nice about you

                  art-deco lanterns    antecedent anniversaries

                        a lime-green smock dress

                  shaking like Saturn

vodka straight from the bottle

            you’re laying an egg     in your foreign bed

                  is it your back        or is it your kidneys?

I’m lying blue-cold in the orchard

            but I’ve horsed around

and isn’t it lucky in the movie

                  you two are in love

                  and I end up hanging myself

            or I keep swinging       bon-bons past the flames

                  isn’t it lucky           as I lie in the twine spiderweb

            my hair curls like Veronica Lake?


                        All these new women

            keep coming up in bad faith

                        and the pressure of welcoming someone

            and I touch the doorframe       obsessive/compulsive

                        and I touch a little

            of your confession       but it’s limp fatalism

                        and now my third eye is so tired.






Jessie Janeshek's second full-length book of poems is The Shaky Phase (Stalking Horse Press, 2017). Her chapbooks are Spanish Donkey/Pear of Anguish (Grey Book Press, 2016), Rah-Rah Nostalgia (dancing girl press, 2016), Supernoir (Grey Book Press, 2017), Hardscape (Reality Beach, forthcoming), and Auto-Harlow (Shirt Pocket Press, forthcoming). Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010) is her first full-length collection. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and an M.F.A. from Emerson College. You can read more at