Jenny Browne

Winner of the Cecil Hemley Memorial Award in 2015

The People Who Feel No Pain

I let our daughter read a news story about one who walked months
     on a broken pelvis before she noticed it

crunching inside her like dry leaves.

I can hear L. now

     practicing in the kitchen, holding her hands
under water hot as she can

stand it, singing softly: I don't care I don't care I don't care.


When asked to define happiness half the room will
describe a quality of light, the sky required to feel right.

For a while we tried shooting the wolves from above,
     the removal of

each possible attack before it happened,

but soon enough deer forgot what they were,
grew fearless and gnawed

all the aspen sprouts clean to the ground.


Last night a man paused on the ridge of my hip
     and stayed there, not breathing, making me ask

for his mouth.

The other half of the room recalls learning something
     about where to build the fire

so it doesn't fill the cave with smoke.

Down in the city park someone has already tagged which trees get to stay,
     and some night our daughter will want nothing more

than another's teeth in her back.


In the far city, in a torn booth, long after last call she is

saying I really like your politics,
     meaning I want to lick your face.

Little girl, little wolf.

The blade of the earthmover, how it
    scrapes and shudders, shudders and scrapes.  

line

Rachel Zucker on Jenny Browne

"The People Who Feel No Pain" is a delightfully strange poem: seductive but not coy in its disclosures. Disparate elements—pain, motherhood, happiness, wolves, trees, female sexuality, human beings attempting to control the uncontrollable—connect, lighting up like a neural net. Happily, there are no one-to-one correspondences, no one simple allegory with a final destination. The reader wanders through the poem, feeling a little rush of pleasure at each bundle of condensed language, a sudden inspiration of breath in the synapses between lines and stanzas, between one clearly drawn image and the next. These inhalations in the white spaces and mysterious gaps keep the poem aloft. It was a real pleasure, not a simple one, spending time inside this poem.

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