j e n n a c a r d i n a l e

from Breaks

What Happens Between Us Happens


in darkness, vanishes easy and quite
often— like each breath. Now the wind stops my
breath like a bandage and the thick searchlight
makes us look even brighter. So we sigh
and step outside our usual. But then
a crocodile of small stares opens to
swallow us. We hide inside them, the den
of our dissection. The black is bunched through
the room like a carnival of bats. Our
observer says a box becomes your own
once you open it. Like each little hour.
You’ve been pregnant a long time. How you’ve grown.

He looks at me then. His beard is a veil

that obscures him. This couldn’t be my jail.

Asking After


Did an expectation stand up after
dinner on a street corner full of thin
air. Did I hear an attempt at laughter
or did we talk about the pony’s win
last week. Was there surprise. Does he still sting
like a burn left over from lunch. Is it
after three. Do I sharpen the writing
implement with a dull knife. Did he fit
or fuck each want. Did he carefully eat
something red. Does an unmoving body
prove sincerity. Didn’t one horse beat
another. Did we share a hot toddy

after the walk. Did we have a weakness
for breakables or maybe just meekness.

A Marriage


Fill a foreign instrument with some kind
of familiar music, she said of their
sex. She wanted him to trust her, to bind
her elbows tightly, to reach in and tear
her up. The thick crush of him held her up
after she fainted. The pornography
of keeping covered. In their first pre-nup
he’d promised to learn the geography
of her body. Now their love is old and
clogged by her wide jewelry and his constant
interrupting. She collects jars of sand
from wild shores. He likes to look resistant

to her hobbies, instructions. A frown fights
against his face. She likes it when he bites.


The Determined Formulation of a Vow


The teacher of the Marriage Body says,
Make yourself into the shape of a nut
cracker at Christmastime. Her name’s Inez.
She has married many women. She cut
me from myself. I visited her once
each week before. I answered all of her
questions. Yes, my husband might be a dunce,
but I’ll still bend forward, kneel and enter
like she’s taught me. Change Please is nothing if
not a persistent request. You can do
it. I can. Tell me what you want. One whiff
of unscented sweat. An oversized shoe.

He still flirts with his eyes looking up at
what’s above me. He’s never called me fat.

«±  ±»

jennacardinale's sonnets appear in recent or forthcoming issues of 42opus, Coconut,
Court Green and Mudlark. Her work in the sonnet form has been supported by a BRIO
grant from the Bronx Council on the Arts.She lives in New York.




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