Jennifer Jean

A Family Gathering

The most California thing I’ve ever done
is daily qigong meditation at an altar 
honoring the ma—the moon, the yin, 
the dead grandmas—at an altar with: a Wonder 
Woman pez dispenser, a Holy Madonna
pen without ink, 
an 1813 Bible that should live under glass, 
five Qur’ans (two bilingual), a weak translation 
of the annotated Dead Sea scrolls, my favorite 
pocket Talmud, an Exposition of the Divine 
Principle, an Elegant Universe:
with Superstrings, & 
more, & more. I’ve stood there alone,

daily—closed my lids so I could see:

hovering, mammary high,
a ball of crackling, pistachio light
shot through with apricot flame, fig violet, &
bat nut black. See: my older brother to my left
in the frayed dungarees & thin 
yellowing shirt he wears when he is homeless.
See: both our—basically recovered—parents
nearly sharing the same space to my right. 
&—as if every last is first—I’d lead them
through devotions, the qigong motions
gathering that lightning to our pelvis, heart seat, 
calvaria. Sometimes I yawned, or shook,
or wept. Sometimes I couldn’t

see them so well.

We poured breath into our throats like Drano,
then twisted our spines to wring out
the stuck, moldy bits, 
till all was a flow, till we were:
“Present!” Sometimes, I shouted “No!”
when my kids knocked on the living room door 
‘cause I wanted to create a root—
instead of abandoning myself
to the looped narrative of:
mommy-daddy dragged to their various asylums,
& me—a baby—dragged 
to various shelters that were never home.
I wanted to recover home— & be where I come from,

see where I come from.





Jennifer Jean’s poetry collections include: The Fool (Big Table), and Object Lesson (forthcoming in January 2021 from Lily Review Books) which is about sex-trafficking and objectification in America. As well, she’s the co-editor and co-translator of a forthcoming anthology of poetry by Arab women living in conflict nations. Her awards include: a Peter Taylor Fellowship from the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop; a Mass Humanities Grant to produce an anti-war panel featuring women scholars; a Disquiet Fellowship; a “Her Story Is” Residency, where she worked with Iraqi women artists in Dubai; and, an Ambassador for Peace Award for her activism in the arts. Her poetry, prose, and co-translations have appeared, or will appear, in: Poetry Magazine, Waxwing Journal, Rattle Magazine, Crab Creek Review, DMQ Review, Salamander, The Common, and more. She’s the Translations Editor at Talking Writing Magazine, the founder of Free2Write Poetry Workshops for Trauma Survivors (focusing on sex-trafficking survivors), a board member for Fort Point Theater Channel, and an organizer for the Her Story Is international artist exchange collective.