C – M – C by Jennifer MacKenzie

for the seven daughters Jenny


Little beard come listen to me
tell me a story

about your childhood village
No one is left now
at the right hand of the needy

and I want to punch the walls
of my penthouse to release
some misery I have stapled

this paper flower to your mouth
when I feel lonely I speak to you
about betrayal and defeat

The linen. The coat. The linen


Now I will be my father
throwing pennies
into the deep end of a pool

My body was an enemy
and object of shame
I could not stand

to see reflected. He had hired
someone to build this pool

and this man took the money
and went to Mexico
and we had a big muddy hole

I dug out soft black pamphlets of shale
and cracked them open in my dirty hands
leaf      leaf       leaf             blank

At last the pool was      With long mirrors
running down the whole right wall
in which we can behold

Their guardians, who are               also their owners
They are something twofold          the king, the kind

both objects of utility
and depositories of value
a physical form and a value form

Now I will leave you to your poverty
and go study yoga in India

Now I will marry a rich engineer
and have one daughter
as he wants a second
one to go with the first

Now I will go help women
or victims of war
or both at once. Surely they
will be more grateful

But I learned to dive. Glorious
swoop inheld

all mine. For pennies


Sleep, get up. Sleep
seep, git. But bring
your notebook
Just in case

the crazy ones weren’t wrong
about increasing the total joy
(But it’s my money!)

flippant attitude
of plenty to trust

that goodness stands
the king, the kind
They are something twofold
I only sink

into sadness. No one wants
to learn Polish. But how joyless
and depressed and sad and nearly defeated
this made me!

I went to photograph
the kiosk of chandeliers
Celebration bubbles away
I cannot rescue even a napkin
or a shrub

The linen. The coat. The linen
The liar wants money

From me, hopeless salad
of lyrical narcissism

Believe me
dear citizen
Your devoted
Karl Marx


Bluejay forsythia why’m I so set against it
except it’s where I’m from

Romeo escaping the city for ruined abbeys
became freckled Olaf eating watermelon

wars very far away
To nature then

because houses are boring

seen from above in miniature patterns
or bland flags up close
of brick or aluminum siding

Blue jay

Parallel lines never meet
smack it up
Actual poverty is not romantic
smack it
wolves and bears and birds
carriage wheel factory

John Muir turned his back on
and walked to the tip of Florida

146 years later is it so exciting
dear citizen

to put the word asshole in a poem?

Blue jay asshole forsythia

The coat the linen. If you have two coats

Remove from poems: trees flowers water
other than those comprising bodily fluids

Chaleco salvavidas, calyx of exosphere
pocked with small rocks burning up
before they reach the earth

Jenny Jenny Jenny Jenny Jenny Jenny Jenny
(but only three lived
to adulthood)

squalor of London bad
for lungs

Believe me
Your devoted

has an asshole
and also he’s being one


Spruce quartz rocks
gull flower branch
Why should I pay
for anyone  someone

should pay for me, treat me
like a flower, buy me
and make a baby in me

I am the sky, sea, or earth
the pregnant hills at Bolinas
just starting to green

Or a woman–just
for good riddance

my cheap heart hucked
into the center of the fight
against the moors, Whupp!
silver casket gleaming

I hope you can afford
someone to wipe yr ass
when yr 90. This gasp

delicately larded
in severe anxiety
and dealt a fart

a skinny fart in the elevator
It is religious (the elevator)
It only works if you swear

in the name of the orphaner,
the closer, widest manacle
and uprooter of star-rictus

Looking up, playing
pale boy as bell
majesty of
the unwedded, smarting

burning chrysanthemum-
liner, mantle, threshold
(stop barking)

my lovely assistant
whom I utterly mistrust
sits in the bath

convexing    Life. Womb. Life
his steamy belly

in and out. According to my credo
everything is just a prelude
to his leaving me. One by one
in my dreams everyone is leaving

music a perpetual quarrel
with origins and returning
soused. Everyone doing
according to form

whipped and not crying out
hung swelling from trees
later sprayed with fire-hoses
hosed down and icing up

in January Detroit Ford
Highland Park plant
five dollars a day
for the speedup
now they call it The Ford

thin men padding their shoulders
pale men rouging their cheeks

I will not imagine a doe
as the emblem of every victim o

what does it mean my dream
of prosperity were you waiting
a bandit to extort from me
my mother’s diamond ring

before sleep repent
take their miseries into
your chest entangles

and she tries to please it
to repeat some of its names
the caged birds as amulets

of breath finally crying out
Believe me


But he beats me the boy is saying
standing before a man seated
in a clean shirt. The sturdy boy
is black with soot. A righteous bellowing

ensues. The same exchange
pins these soldiers here
sweating. Flood of solace

wholly absent. Not even a howl stirred
inside us, nudged by a white cane tapping
Last night another round of killing

stray dogs, you could hear
them yelping till dawn
Who dragged you
through all this teleology

to live in feints of smaller
and smaller amounts of money
food money shelter money
a dog nosing a pricked can
for the spiraled out-dribble

no regeneration sleep lacking
all forethought scapulae heavy
petals of clay beneath the river

he sleeps, his paralysis thickens
Then he is moving
through a city alone and hungry
language breaking usages

seated in a clean shirt
a bitch with saggy belly
slacked out onto the sidewalk
a monologue about ferns

But isn’t this an alibi: always the first man
Grass rocks water (O poem already!)

crickets spruce seaweed lichen boulder

my cheap heart hucked
gleaming, and that was the last

anyone saw of it / smack it up
and that was the last / smack it

whether the tiny commandoes
swarming down ropes on TV are real

or the story of an ant towing a fine thread
through a conch toward a drop

of honey — Jenny Jenny
Jenny Jenny

in pale damp clay
of a small bird’s
baroness feet
Believe me

It is too complicated
to explain
when that whistle broke

the Lord’s business
into a scream

why I am in despair
of ever being


and cannot send you money





Jennifer MacKenzie started reading Marx for the first time this April in Cairo and then Doha, where she became convinced that Qatar is the ideal place from which to consider crystallizations of capital and value in the early 21st century. Some of her recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Drunken Boat, Forklift, Ohio, Lungfull, and Typo. A chapbook, “Distant City”, is forthcoming this July, and a full book of poems (title yet-to-be-determined) will be published as part of Fence Books’ Modern Poets series next year. She lives for the time being in Istanbul, Turkey.