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Jennifer Fossenbell :: Three poems


I dreamed all night in theory and woke up feeling problematized.
I had a dream in my semiotic paradigm and got up on the ossified side of the bed
and hungry for cereal. My biological project makes demands.
You could say I’m super productive these days, I never stop getting larger.

I am a very interesting ride.
There is plenty of excitement here!
I misread my name as a common noun, some kind of produce.
If I had some oranges they would turn me into salt.

Today is a lighthorse day, a good day to do yogurt and levitate.
I remember when I was always already hungry and rejected the praxis of consumption.
When I was hungry my appetite was precluded by the hegemony of the pirated body.
The truth is I never bleed anymore but I seep uncontainable doctrines in every direction.

Maria D. is at her spinning wheel. She has broken the code
and will teach me to build sound in this way.
She and we are knitting the airwaves.
Cell by cell, she is making an ark/a hive, and I will put in a hand, draw out a hand.

Alan S. says this harmonica plays only one lingua.
We are tying knots of our mothers’ blood and we are knitting
them together. By repeating we are knotting.
Our language is free of all associations.

My letters are lying around on their backs, kicking.
Trying to escape this somatic entrenchment.
We like to hang things on the walls to keep them from falling.
Today is language in free-fall, today is a utopian rejection of futurity.

Do you know how hard I’m trying to reach you?
I wish for everything to smell like oranges.
This is my silent phase, the light outlining the door. Today is sudden.
Always I am not trying hard enough.

We are buzzing on the waves, knotting them together.
Knowing something is plenty, a row of nots, of Xs.
My fetus kicks out, dreams of ejecting itself from the margins.
Always already hungry for a new body of text to rip open, permeate, replace.


My fingers smelled like curry
as I watched a one small mongrel humping another
in a grove of trees off Jingmi Lu
Her face was surprisingly placid as she braced herself
and watched the traffic go by

In the taxi, I placed my hands on my lap and felt my stillness
I placed one hand over the other and that hand over my device
I stroked my device and thought about the devastation of nations
I thought about that small dog's penis and questions of consent
I thought about the differences between the taxi driver and me

I resisted the urge to lift my fingers to my nose
take a whiff of what I had for lunch
I thought about the phrase “a sense of propriety,” mine and his
as he glanced at me in the mirror
I thought about passivity, mine and the dog's,
and I thought about pride, mine and the nation's
I thought about what we mean when we say exotic
Millions of my own countrymen are exotic to me now

And whether “exotic” or “erotic” are reciprocal relationships

I looked out the window into clusters of men
inside the groves of trees
and thought about what to do about the devastation
how to gather myself into a small force and apply it somewhere useful
how to bloody and salve, how to lay down, how not to lie down
how to resist the too-quick unburdening

It has to be personal
I looked at my screen and said it out loud:
It has to be personal.

The taxi driver glanced up, jerked his chin to one side
when he saw I wasn’t talking on the phone, embarrassed
by my exotic disclosure
This is just a start, I said to his eyes in the rear-view mirror.


The ship gallops across the winds and we ride her,
dig in our heels and grip the lines.
No one knows we’re out here in this storm.

The skipper doesn’t speak our language
and we’re not sure we do, either. We drink
through our confusion and laugh with nervous teeth.

After dark we enjoy the steady press of our berth
at our backs, tell stories about geography
and history and other motionless surfaces.

We peer through the round eyes of our cabins
blinking iron lids of half-water, half-sky.
The blackness is striped with lapping, eerie tongues.

The swells finally roll us to sleep below deck
while the crew above shout to each other and do
geometry. From below, every word sounds a siren.

In the morning we line our hands up with the flat
horizon, say prayers to physics, to bodies at rest that will
stay that way. Beneath the hull, continents of hungry fish rise.

NOTE: The title comes from the song “Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen

Jennifer Fossenbell currently lives in Beijing, where she works as a news editor. Her poems, proses, visual-linguistic compositions, and translations have appeared in exhibitions and publications in China, the U.S., and Vietnam: most recently in 'Bad Code' (a Beijing multimedia art exhibition), Posit, Spittoon Literary Journal, Small Po[r]tions, AJAR, Yes Poetry, and Gigantic Sequins, and forthcoming in Black Warrior Review.

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submissions :: where is the river

Up to six poems in a single .doc file with author biography and photo to All rights revert to the author/s upon publication.

issue twenty-seven :: January/February 2022

  Christopher Patton :: Glitch Apple Howie Good :: Three poems Kenneth M Cale :: Three visual poems Christian Ward :: Three poems Matthew Walsh :: POACHED EGGS Jeremy Scott :: Five poems

about :: where is the river

where is the river :: a poetry experiment is a bi-monthly poetry journal open to a variety of aesthetics, forms and experiences, with a preference towards showcasing work by emerging writers. There is no single path, nor any single way. Founded in September 2017. Edited by Kiefer JD Logan.