Three Quarters of the Way Through the Poem by Melanie Jordan


Three quarters of the way through, this dude
enters. Every time, he pops up like Mephistopheles
through a clunky trapdoor, and I don’t even know
if I’m inviting him. Everyone asks his name,
if he’s famous, if he’s that poet they met once
at a party with me. Or was this the professor,
the microbiologist, the Freudian fathertype?
Didn’t he work for Homeland Security?
And I have to say, I only know his hands,
flat-fingered, cuticles chewed, and his mouth.
His lips always like antennae,
with mustache or without, but no,
I don’t think he’s some authority, or wasn’t,
but I can sense him in the room
like a lightbulb turned on
because of those lips which seek me out, vibrate
in time to the brand they leave on my neck.
I don’t know why he shows up when he does,
like a lightning root across the sky
or why he’s stuffed himself behind the wallpaper,
beneath my mattress, between the pages of the book
I’m trying to write. I carpentered my own room,
but he slipped himself into the desk, into
the wiring that tendrils its way into current.
I can’t tell you his favorite color or where
to visit his mother. Somewhere up north, maybe,
and you could try gasburner blue.
In the poems, he has no shape. Except the mouth
which lives like a succulent. That I know better
than my own skin, that opened on mine and kept
me whole. And from that mouth, I received breath
when I couldn’t pull one more milliliter into myself.
And here he comes: we collide under that streetlamp
near the Ohio border, and the river washes
our bodies away. Except his Cheshire smile
which glows like a neon barroom sign. His tongue
pushes a flake of tobacco across his canine.
His black hair glows like a Coleman lantern.
Then we meet again, his sister’s house,
Thanksgiving in Tennessee, a fire in her stone
hearth, and he blazes up, blonde this time.
Once he was a she. Once bald,
six three, with a pocketful of C4.
Once a column of light.
Once we danced in a wax museum in Dallas
where all of him was me for a minute, all
of me was gone. I might as well have been
Lon Chaney in the strobe that night, wax
cast bulging, willfully distorted in my human
container. And do you believe in the splattering
of God, how the divine can stretch and scatter
like droplets on a Pollock?
Once he gathered me in his arms like a sack of bones.


Photographic response by Merisa Bašić


Melanie Jordan is the author of the poetry collection Hallelujah for the Ghosties. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Iowa Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Southeast Poetry Review, Diagram, and many others. She teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition at the University of West Georgia. 

Merisa Bašić was born and raised in Sarajevo, where she did a degree in graphic design at the Academy of Fine Arts. She holds a master’s degree in visual art and film and theatre production from the International University of Sarajevo. Merisa is a member of the Association of Fine and Applied Arts in Sarajevo and cofounder of the Association for Contemporary Art NAZOR. She has participated in various exhibitions and festivals, and she currently works as a digital and graphic designer and as a video producer.


Published on September 6, 2017.

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