Jill Alexander Essbaum


I. Evensong

Even when the universe runs in reverse
Even when your flintlock cocks against my will
Even in the jamb, the lintel, the doorsill
Even the jam we're in, always my predicament
Even in the dark, when I bolt closed my eyelids
Even when your hoodlum-y you-dom riles me open
Even the scar, the scarab, the scarehead
Even the dreaded, red rasp of this crisis
Even the wine cup you drink from, Priest
Even the blasphemies I should know better than
Even the sluggardy upkeep of the beehives
Even if I try to behave but I can't quite
Even the beneficence I am not known for
Even the joinery that haunts my woodworks
Even the orgies and ecstasies we join in
Even the bleeding, the begging, the bragging
Even if Christlier vows had been promised
Even the glass bottomed boat and the graveyard
Even the ghost, even the glad-hand
Even the clouds, which curdle and sour
Even supposing that the moment has not over-ed
Even when the ropemaker's wife climbed the gibbet
Even a month of terrible Thursdays
Even when sonnets short-shrift their iambs
Even if I am the waste in your want-not
Even the useless distractions of passion
Even the ration kit, even the soapstone
Even my remorseless years of indiscretion
Even when you did not come to save me from the tower
Even when I salve you with the balm of my tongue
Even when come, even when you leave me
Even the inner life, which doesn't fuck around
Even though I'm lower to the ground, my foundering
Even when the whitethorn apple’s got a bite in it
Even the Inuit coldness of my snow house
Even when the locals show out for my downfall
Even the rainfall, the rage, the ravish
Even the recoil, the rape, the ravage

II. Even So

I married you under duress and in disguise.
I don’t know why.




Neither is it beyond the sea,
           for it is too shallow.

Neither is it in Heaven, where thrones carouse
           the feet of God, oh order of angels awaiting.

Neither is it the life you are given, born into, the life
           you neither earn nor deserve.

Neither is it the bladder of muscle once you called
           the heart. Fuller than most,

she’s emptied now, erupted. Neither is it the fume
           of volcanic simile, but see here:

the lava leaps hotly like a hundred suns, dancing.
           It is not the cause of a Christian

to pray as the pagans pray, your hands black as a secret
           with unknowing ease. It is not in your hands

at all. It is nothing you have ever loved, or said
           you loved. Neither Adam nor apple,

nor anyone’s business but Christ’s. It is not the city of sleep,
           insensibly thrumming its slumber.

Suffering’s only cure is ignorance.
           It is no longer in you to be ignorant.

It is not the gate to the lamb shack, so far
           away, so damn divine. It is not the grief incurred

lingering within an absent man’s shade. Too long
           have you waited. Still,

he is not here. Oh my soul,
           the price of life is death.