Jessica Q. Stark

2021, Poetry

NEW WORLD GHOST STORY

Here lies the house
that she traded for blood,

that the siblings still
fight over—the domicile that

repels division.

Of course, it would be
filled with white

ghosts inside and white
ghosts outside, calling

about the white fence around the
way of telling you this is about

the time ông ngoại laughed
in the face of a ghost

that pressed nightly on his
chest, he was so full up

of it :: terror repeated long

enough becomes pure

comedy and what else can you
do but laugh and laugh

about the time the nuns on
bicycles shouted slurs

against the new neighbors,
taking. Or the time that

I wandered into the backyard
and finally knew a dead thing.

Or how ông ngoại, out of
nostalgia and spite,

snapped the neck
of the chicken he kept

right there on the front lawn
for our supper without

pause, luck unraveling
in his raspy hands.

On the sidewalk, a pair of

mistaken ghosts
mounted their bloodied bicycles,

mouthed oh
oh
oh

and fled


THE ONE IN WHICH THE WOLF WINS

We cut you out of it

the whole belly

giving way to red

determination

on the bed, an apology

and a DNR note left for

tidy ends that

Red refused

to believe the cost

of cunning

An inheritance

of the deep woods

or that the price

of staying whole

means hunting the little

girl with the bread, the

one who wandered into

the world as a wonder.

Sharp little red who

loved a simple, beautiful

flower more than herself,

who trusted everything,

except her own nose and

eyes. To find her deeply

set into one’s own basket:

your children, your first-

born child. The cost

to cut her out and

carry a rotting head

home to recall one’s

place among the hunger,

among the dogtooth violets.


LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
after the Brothers Grimm


Half a league from the village
Little Red entered the wolf

what a wicked creature
to have something good

pretty flowers growing everywhere
and deeper into the house

the wolf lifted the latch
without saying a word

she could carry no more
the stones were so heavy

what big ears
what large hands
the wolf’s skin

revived Little Red
to run into the wood
to guard her way

the house was a great stone

the child began to slip


Jessica Q. Stark is a poet and educator living in Jacksonville, Florida. Her first full-length poetry collection, Savage Pageant, was published by Birds, LLC in March 2020 and was named one of the “Best Poetry Books of 2020” in the Boston Globe and in Hyperallergic. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks, including INNANET (forthcoming 2021, The Offending Adam). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in PleiadesHobart PulpTupelo QuarterlyGlass Poetry Journal, among others. She serves as a Poetry Editor for AGNI and the Comics Editor for Honey Literary. She teaches writing at the University of North Florida.