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Jennifer Grotz

Jennifer Grotz

Jennifer Grotz is the author of two books, The Needle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) and Cusp: Poems (Mariner Books, 2003). Her poems, reviews, and translations from the French and Polish appear widely in journals such as The Nation, American Poetry Review, New England Review, and Ploughshares as well as in Pushcart and Best American anthologies. She teaches at the University of Rochester and also serves as the assistant director of the Bread Loaf Writers Conference.

Denial

Like a giant illuminated book, but with gold dust
hovering just above the pages, the glass cases house
butterfly wings, butterfly bodies, butterfly antennae, and also moths,
usually humbler, ones that look like they'd been found in a junior high school,
covered in dust from the janitor's broom
and smudges from the math teacher's least cooperative piece of chalk.

Engrossed in the pleasure, intellectual and aesthetic, of studying them,
I reach the glass case I'd had my back to and see
a still life of branches, but that's because
they'd spaced themselves exactly to appear as leaves,
but when I notice one leaf crawl atop another, I check
the sign: giant hissing cockroaches. In a room

full of dead things, why can't I love what's alive? I try
simply to watch them. But when an antenna begins to scope,
to flicker deliberately in surveillance, my
body shudders in a way it knows how to do without me.
Not a separation of mind and body, quite, but neither

a cooperation. Like in the dream where your mouth
can't issue its cry. Attention stalls until there's a conversion
into truth. Just as there are menial sins, and cardinal, so there are the little and numerous
and big and obvious truths I deny. Today I start with the cockroaches,

let me try to watch them until I'm not afraid. Flat-backed, carapaced,
geniusly engineered, how quickly they skitter out of sight. Then wait
the way a mouse might, or a fox at the forest edge,
knowing most of the time, we aren't paying attention at all.

Tears, finally, in the parking lot, blurring through the steering wheel onto my bare
knees. After my whole body fought for an hour against the simple act of looking.
When will I get stronger? Is this how?

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