Madhouse of Spirits

Coil by Remedios Varo

Coil by Remedios Varo

I unwrap a bar of amaranth soap

and wash my own mouth

the way Mama used to do when I’d been profane…   

–Jenn Givhan

(Read full poem at The Collagist)

Blood is blood is

How does anyone
love inside skin?

Thankful to Menacing Hedge for nominating my poem “Blood is blood is” for a Pushcart. You can read and listen to the poem in full here.

Photo credit Menacing Hedge Fall 2014

Photo credit Menacing Hedge Fall 2014

Two Poems at Superstition Review

“TimeBrawleyTheater Capsule” and “Junkyard Halflight” up at Superstition Review.

“Small things come back in pieces.
That time of day I wasn’t afraid to close

my eyes. The white flies weren’t yet lured
by streetlamps; the air still held its damp menudo.
On one side of the house, the cemetery

where I buried a stillborn and a marriage
swollen with ditchwater; on the other side,
a landfill.” –Jenn Givhan

“Miracle of the River Pig” up at *Goblin Fruit*

My poem “Miracle of the River Pig”new river is live today at Goblin Fruit, and you can listen to me read it there as well!

It’s a grotesque and somewhat experimental poem for me recounting my experience in the Southern California desert near the New River. I began drafting the poem in Brenda Hammack‘s fairytale workshop with The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative, while I was also reading Frank Bidart’s “The War of Vaslav Nijinsky.”

I hope you enjoy! Thanks for reading! new river 2

" — Selves like iridescent, 
shining, speckled
shit in the Río Nuevo
frothy foaming stinking desert river
desert in the new world — 
how old were you? fifteen & blessed 
as Santa María,
I’m that lucky pig in the river — 
cut my trotters,
strike my blue-butt,
handle me,
sell me at auction,
devour me."

--Jenn Givhan

Read the full poem here.



Jennifer Givhan


In a field where a hot air balloon waits tethered,
children balancing umbrellas and wearing party hats

plant birthday bouquets; where they grow
the swollen bulbs push open the soil

smelling of clay and fingerpaint. Even the sky
celebrates in reverse, hanging like pigtails from a jungle gym.

Not many daffodils or crickets are lucky enough to become fossils,
but here every joule of heat remains inside the balloon.

One might be tempted to drift away now
rather than later.


From “The Henna Poems” published in The Southwestern Review

1. Faithful Woman

La henna, tattooed in red clay—
his hand prints on my nalgas

while he eats chicharones with chile
and licks the lemon juice from his fingers.

I am his undesired bride of fast times, bringing
big pots of albondigas to feed his whole
family—love utterly unasked for, a belly
filled up with sticky red rice and embryonic fluid.

Desert nights! Hot, angry earth.

I dig into my wicked bag and find
ageless soil. Though my innards have festered
and my rinds have wrinkled—
nopales left to soak too long in salted water—

my mother-bag recreates itself
from somewhere underneath,

lower than my skirts,
brown and tattered, where women hold
the old ones and the babies,
where women squat to wash armpits
and backs of knees
with their own spit, if need be,
if they’ve no water, no luxury of soap:
mother is the invention of necessity.

At the edge of the valley,
sea salt and pungent sugar beets—
dunes of sand and towering thunder heads—

Here is the truth I know, the wanting that aches wildly.

What do I know of the ancients?

Father, your Jesus failed me—
could he fly, could he wail,
could he scrub the blood stained trail?

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