Poems from "Violet Hours"
If you think you know what Jeanie's poems are like, be prepared for something different. I mean different. Be prepared to meet Violet. She's not your ordinary type of girl.
I’ve loved Violet for years, since reading her first poems. She makes jewelry from dead bugs. Puts chicken hearts in classmates’ valentines. In a perfect world, her universe is drawn by Edward Gorey. She’s like the little girl from The Addams Family—only cooler. Her soundtrack is the stillness after drowning. When Violet’s happiest, her eyes turn black. —Michael Kriesel Winner of North American Review’s 2015 Hearst Award
Violet was four when her father taught her how to cut valentines out of red and white construction paper and glue them onto lace doilies. They walked to neighbors’ houses, put valentines on the doorstep, rang the bell and ran away. She loved Valentine’s Day. At eight, she started cutting the hearts in less-than-perfect shapes. Sometimes she cut a small tail on top of the heart. She told her father it was the superior vena cava. She had seen it in a book in the attic with pictures of the body. She wondered why he had not told her the real shape of the heart. Whenever her father made chicken for supper, she wanted to hold the heart, run her baby finger inside the ventricles. By the next Valentine’s Day she had saved up enough chicken hearts in the bottom of the freezer for all the kids in her class. She made neat little envelopes with the doilies, stuffed a frozen heart inside each one.
All summer Violet’s been collecting cicadas. It’s one of the peak years so she’s found a lot of them. Every night she carefully removes the wings and puts them aside. They make good curtains for her emergency room diorama. She’s been stringing the heads on different color threads and is putting them up in her room like a ’60s love-bead curtain. Morning is the best time to gather the ones for eating. The cookbook says the white ones are the tenderest. She made a cicada pie for her father, following the recipe that called for thirty female cicadas. For imitation peanut clusters, sex doesn’t matter. You boil the bodies then roll them in butter and brown sugar. They can be kept in an airtight jar for six months. They’re also a good substitute for chocolate chips, which is what she used for the cookies she and her friend, Ann Louise, made for the school’s Halloween bake sale.
Don’t make me climb anything:
sturdy ladder, ivy wall, elevator to the 53rd.
It’s not the shoes, but
something else. I’ll tell you about it later,
after the sun goes down. After the sun leaves you and me
and the graveyard with nothing to hold on to,
not even light.
Come: whisper secret nonsense.
Soft place of an animal’s ears.
Scraps of satin cloth or a newborn’s tears,
saved in a violet vial.
Someone said that someone said
the sadness will go on forever.
Someone said dream of flying.
And someone said it’s not that I’m afraid of heights,
it’s that I’m afraid I’ll jump.