the poetry that matters

Jessica Van de Kemp

Jessica Van de Kemp is a member of the Ontario College of Teachers and is currently pursuing an MA in Rhetoric and Communication Design from the University of Waterloo. Her work is forthcoming or has appeared in Buttontapper Press, The Danforth Review, Vallum, Branch Magazine, and The Fieldstone Review


Pi and Euler¹

you're a
merry maven,
a logophile,

with your head buried in late antiquity


I am starting to think that you're dead.

Venus, the
changer of
hearts, lurks
in the
back corner

you feel her gaze, and scratch your neck,
but pretty women always make your nose bleed,
so it's best if sex and lust and
touch run around in the light and colour
of the statue, and quit making you sneeze
out the thoughts in your right frontal lobe,
'cause you've already got enough shit to worry
about, like tax season, and getting your kids
spayed and neutered at the local animal shelter


An Oulipian poem. The form is as follows: 3.141592 (i.e. the number of lines per stanza) and 2.718281 (i.e. the number of words per line).  






falling through star clusters, saints

Tell me that the world can feel this too:
                                    the marching
                                    of the whisper-skin
gods. The bodies burning in the fog like
                                    muted stars. The laurel leaf 
                                                            curled inward.

Dew on the bones, little drops dangling from the web,
                                    the black widow
                                    drowning: still
pregnant. Eight legs now sixteen-hundred limbs
                                    scuttling. The days are dead.
                                                            The motherland, hushed.     

I’ve spent seven years loving
                                    the craters
                                    on the moon.
The bride burning in the gloom, rooted as a river.
                                    Tell me that the world
                                                            can feel this too.






I feel big as a damn mountain¹  

Week 2     A ghost in chrysocolla. You, a little Bunsen burner, a tiny coal furnace, an angel with the mouth like a gutter in the dark. I wipe the tears on the back of my hand. Iseult did this too. Theres little use in a roarless lion or a hootless owl. I pace the shade, looking for a good place to rest by, looking to die down. You will pick up the cigarette I dropped and our fingerprints will touch.     

Week 5     Huddled dead in a ditch. The kettle is whistling. I shut away memories in the cupboards - down into the dark they go, the depth, nowhere to hide but in themselves. Stems of elder and moosewood, that is the smell. There’s a kid spewing gold on the toilet seat.  Regular Madame Eglantine. Zap! Zing! Zip! Zoom! The resurrection of souls.

Week 17     The threshold of night. Oberon cups the rain in his hands, drinks the salt and the brine. “No man is a temple.” The medicine cup is filled with daises. The ward is a dead zone. Theres a hearse outside that Im touching. The stones in my shoes crack like knucklebones.  

Week 21     Buttering the baby. Little sausage fingers. I know those flowers in that vase. You’re in the kitchen when Death finds you. I hide in the closet underneath the linens. Bolt the door! Bolt the door! Take down the number of this room.  

Week 32     Pendulum movere. There’s no need. You can’t persuade him. He just likes to swing, god on his tire, time a real temporal thing. A bat dangles. A window cracks. “Life’s just the amuse-bouche before the entrée.”  

Week 40     Judas, in the Mecca of Judecca, rope reeling, body buckling, bowels bursting down the valley of Hinnom. You are my brother.

Week 41     A dream of plums in open palms. He claws, and claws, and claws, the Devil keeps the best men for himself. 

¹ Quote by Chief Bromden from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest







For Eleanor Fogolin

I met you seven years ago in a stairwell, rattleboned  arty 
climbing the concrete battlefields at high tea searching for the jail cell
classroom in the math building, reincarnated somebody’s sent to the Malebolge
for reading writing being the new signifieds to the pole star workhorse
in the paraphernalia of the halls of ivy,
the home-sewn satchel and the oxfords and the cornflower hair you stood there
honking your nose at the clinical lights of non-potable words pinging between the mouths of catechumen kids cogitating Dada,
the grey-a tripping on the albatross the hermeneutical fusion kairotic crisis of your life
kind of academia,
the light beer unshaven legs upside down in the ditch with the beaked-mask clocks and aeronauts for ancestors,
the pointed-nails moth-hole swag the unparalleled binge roads of trembling light and colour in the memory palace vaulting toward Italian pastorals and gold-leaf decoratives,
unveiling the unmoving hands of Tempus,
Celtic chairde of stones, polychrome marble kitchen wheat flour nighttime wanderings, multiple elephants in the room, postcard broken-telephone dimness, sponge-toast vision quest distant train, old dogs and swans and moon-phase body rejuvenations in cold-wind shade of Waterloo,
ABM withdrawals and crow swarm candle eyes,
the single conversation jibjabber howling hissing muttering thoughts in Middle English,
fuel for the Norman mustard-seed man in the front row--
ah, Elly, you live I live neither of us safe from timelines tigers tasteless ellipses
the en-dash em-dash hyphen between subject object Freudian limbo
stream-of-consciousness madpeople whisperings
the unknown
the Apollonian Dionysian
the sad punctuation,
do you remember that? the groundhog kind of waiting tiki tiki boom da lay radio beats
sitting on the couches bracing for the metronome kick-out of time and space
of life that is love,
the brave new minds building Venus
out of rose garden syntax,
the gold dust at her feet.
Achoo   Amen   Ars gratia artis


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                                                                                                     June 22, 2013