My mother named me small light,
called me Lucifer, light-bringer,
too proud to follow
She was a beauty, hair loaded
high on her head, luxurious bow
Her artist painted my pale eyes on a platter,
hers, cinder-dark, in my “restored” face
She believed in the burlesque,
the striptease, the slow burn
Lucy, diminutive of light,
the light-ess, the lightest,
the light’s test
I am the lithe match
I will not strike.
As Madame Maintenant
I am that which does not persevere, the feminine rhyme, all those unstressed
syllables lining up behind, obscuring, usurping—
outside la maison, le chateau, I am maligned, I know,
every monk, every organ grinder and mange-eaten monkey, every sausage-maker
mincing gizzards mumbles
Madame, Mistress, whoremonger, whore. Some midsummer’s kiss
misconstrued, I’m misheard, I misstep, mistake
what is not mine or am misled, and I am missing, a miss
taken away, no use wishing otherwise: we all slip
the manacles of time, eventually; no one really
wants to be the Sybil—milky-eyed, misshapen, murmuring
I want to die, I want to die. I’ll be the maggot’s meal in a moss gown, your
memento mori: femur, finger bone, skull. Muffler,
silk muzzle, amputated tongue. La Mort, la merde. Mais oui,
I am as ready as I’ll ever be.
As the Visitor Who Never Comes
It is not that I do not know you are waiting.
My ventricles are not stone. I cannot close them.
The stone rolled away reveals emptiness.
The votaries carry prayers. Videlicet to viz.
From Lord, grant me vision to it is easy to see.
Vérité. Veritas. The truth I cannot tell you.
There are no empty valleys. I am the vanishing
shade in the heat of the day, the view to the west,
the vultures on the updraft, beautiful only in their distance.
J.K. (Jen) Daniels holds an MA and MFA from George Mason University. She teaches creative writing and American literature at Northern Virginia Community College. Her sequence “Unmapped” appeared in Best New Poets, 2011.11