Little Poem Complex


          After Kay Ryan and Sigmund Freud


Every little
poem loves its
mother, wants
on some other
level besides
the simple
to marry her
insider's sense of
quiet knowing
with its own bent on
the jealous,
father — he who
possesses want
like a theory.
Just not every
poem loves so


Poem Peppered with Country Music Lyrics


My heart is under surveillance.
It rains has a dummy subject and no valence.
I pick a red, ripe jalapeño from the hothouse.
A woman walks in wearing a polka dot blouse.
She asks me about marriage, and I… I… achoo!
I find myself alone when each day’s through.
On the road in Alabama, crumbs fall from my chicken biscuit.
As if I didn’t know, a waitress in Iowa explains the meaning of brisket.
I find it difficult to admit I might lose this game of Rummy.
My heart records impact like a crash test dummy.
Holding you I held everything — ten through Ace.
I thought I didn’t need a reason to live freely in this place.
On the road in Illinois, the Cajun trail mix overwhelms the car.
Cayenne, peanuts, toffee, sesame sticks and I love you. Did I go too far?
Where’s the exit along this overhead cable?
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
Is that too lachrymose? I wonder, eying Mama’s floorboard.
Three points added to “Visitor” appear on the scoreboard.
On the road again in Texas, days wide and days long.
I wanna build a world around a country song.
My weak heart puts me on my best behavior.
Where’s Mama? Cookin’ gumbo with Our Lord and Savior?
“Taste of it,” she says, in King James Version.
I like my love like I like my baptisms: complete submersion.
It’s so impersonal, though, the way we hide in plain sight.
I suggest hitting the road in the middle of the night.
Anachronisms, you say, aren’t part of the plan.
Well, that's a mighty big word for such a small man.
On the road to the rodeo, sleep dragging at my lashes,
I know what to let go of so that this thing crashes.
Oh, nothing dangerous. Just a taste of complacency.
And I'm crying inside and nobody knows it but me.

Justin Jannise is a poet originally from southeast Texas, where he developed an affection for cheesy country music. And gumbo. He won the Albert Stanburrough Cook Prize for Poetry, and the Elmore A. Willets Prize for Fiction, from Yale University, in 2009. His work has recently appeared in the Boston Literary Magazine and on Zocalo Public Square. He currently lives in Iowa City, where he is attending the Iowa Writers Workshop.