Five Poems by Jennifer Jordán Schaller


White Space

Tell       me         about            these            white          spaces                 you              write


y o u r   s e l f   i n t o.           They     look     so      clean   on   the   page.


Does                            it                            feel                            free?                 Giving


words             bounteous                   space             around               t  e  x  t—


indention            on            the          left,                  title                 centered,


n e g a t i v e               s  p  a  c  e        on        the      right.


Blank  verse        clean   page           strong  rhythm            write   through.


I                                   watch                                      you


navigate                      what                            we                   hesitate


to     name.                Maybe     I         can         too.                I’m                 not


asking              permission.           I     have       been              the                    lone


brown              person       in                  the         room       and      didn’t        know


a    sonnet             from                  a                     p a n t o u m.      I        feel         no     shame


for     my      ignorance.                    I                      scrawl                           across


negative                      space,             meditate                on             meter,


enjamb            my                   lines,


HOLD                     PEN                               HIGH,


and                  p e n e t r a t e


w   h   i   t    e              s     p     a     c     e .


Photo by Dinesh Valke

The Sleepover
Poem inspired by a poem, Don’t, By Michelle Boesseau


The mother wanted to shield her children
from the brink of her family’s grief

even though it lived inside her, a
moonflower blooming at night.

So she canceled the sleepover
at Grandma’s because Grandma’s cousin

just left her husband for the fifth time
and She is staying indefinitely.

The mother worried about passing on grief,
her family heirloom. She remembered

years before, on the eve of divorce, how
her own mother wept on the toilet. How

she helped her stumble drunk and half-naked
to bed, where hot tears and estrogen saturated

her pillow and engulfed their maternal line
like warm amniotic fluid seeped into her

bed the night her daughter was born.


Laundry Day

The old woman in the back of my head
escaped from my skull. Seeped out my ear
phantom-like. She wore a satin blouse
and glared at the pile of clean laundry I
refused to fold. I almost apologized
for my mess. She told me Stop aggravating
your husband. What does she know? Her husband
has never called her a cunt. Or maybe he has.
You never can tell. Either way, I don’t need
to empathize with the toxic lady-voice
in the back of my head. I have standards
for my regimen of self-imposed
flagellation. I never sort by color,
I tell her. I mix the colors together
to see what happens next.

After the Pandemic


Forty-three-year-old cishet Gen X mom
cleans out her purse before making dinner–
one surgical mask smeared with lipstick, a
receipt for overdue library books,

two tissues caked with tears shed
at the marriage counselor, a referral for a
mammogram. Dig deeper, said her therapist.
A beef stick, a granola bar,

lint masquerading as crumbs.
The architecture of her life. She scrubs
a potato, eyes fly. Rubber-gloved and
soap-spattered, sinking.
She cries while peeling potatoes.


A Fossil Record


Standing atop the Three Sisters,
a volcano that spewed a wall of fire

across the high desert of prehistoric
Albuquerque, I peer down the hillside

of volcanic rocks encrusted in sand.
Sagebrush billows and basalt pops

out of the mesa like blackened corn.
These rocks once bubbled beneath

Paleozoic seas, a prehistoric
pressure cooker. It’s true, my

mother once said. The whole area
was ocean. We find buried seashells

 at the ranch. The ranch north of Socorro,
Spanish for help. I think about the PBS

special on Pompeii I watched as a kid.
A different geologic apocalypse, a widening

fissure gushing liquid rock, burying bone
and flesh. Mesmerized, I thought the plaster

models were bodies solidified in ashen rock.
A woman being interviewed wept. I

remember a plaster-cast couple nestled
together, a monument erected from

hot ashes. I want love like that, cemented
in a garden of fugitives, my legs

wrapped round my husband’s waist.


Jennifer Jordán Schaller is a Latinx writer from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her essays and poems have appeared in Brevity Blog, Poetica Review, Tiny Seed Literary Magazine, Literary Mama, Cutbank, Creative Nonfiction, Ascent (this essay was nominated for a Pushcart), Sonora Review, and other places. She also had a radio story on This American Life.