Jessica Harman

Things In My Room

I sit at my computer to type on a laptop
In-between a month-old empty paper coffee cup
And a pile of letters from Mom which describe

The singing birds, and I plumb my mind’s silver
Lining for subject matter for a poem. I dive in without
Completing my task. I just want to write, so I start,

Despite my mind as blank as these apartment-white
Walls. I need to come up with something. I come up with sky,
Then rain, then sorrow, then what must fight

The anger and sorrow: the sunshine and the newness
Of every dawn. Not bad, I think. And I will use the things
In this room to describe all that: the Venetian blinds

Are slats against darkness now, but they filter
The light when it comes. The darkness and the light
Come for all of us now and again. There is no hiding

Among this record collection, this mid-priced bedding,
This desk with the black shiny top. Or even among words
On the screen of this glowing laptop. I am hiding,

Because to not be hidden is to be brave,
And I am a coward in so many ways. I just
Realized this today, and just now, in fact.

It’s difficult to face things: things are acid
That burn you. Or water that sweeps you downstream
Towards Niagara Falls. Then, the sea.  But oh, how wonderful

It would be to be gallant, and know that the things
In this room are preciously part of real life,
And real life is wonderful among these chairs

From Crate & Barrel, the stack of old New Yorkers,
This strand of beads, this silk pouch with earrings in it,
And my laundry building up in piles around this room.

It’s real and that’s all you can ask. The universe appears
To us each moment before slipping away into the abyss.
It’s made of light. This is the room I am in. The universe offers

Up this, now, and I drink it in. There is nothing else,
And because of that, I will say there is nothing
Better. It’s everything. Everything that is and is good.


Antidote: Remembering Carrie-May As A Rose

God does not give us what we can’t handle,
It is said. Is it true? I remember her shoulder,
Tanned, as she was wearing a spaghetti-strap

Tank top and white bra, getting in the way
Of my view of the professor. Could I handle
It? She intimidated me, too, when she began

Handing in workshop stories about living
The way we do—she captured it—along
With her childhood in Beijing, where the lanterns

Glowed at The Festival of The Dragon.
When we became friends—I don’t know how—
We went to the Chinese Buffet and she spoke

To the waiter as fluently as wind in sails
On a clear day. I think of her, now, as the wind
Picks up here, in the trees outside my springtime

Window, while in your room, dear Richard, you are losing
A battle. I think of her beauty, and it calms me—
The way she could walk into any room

And make it sigh. There is beauty, here,
And it is the antidote. I loved her, and I love
You, Richard, even now, in this denouement—or especially

Because I won’t have you forever. She and I
Made you potato and leek soup, once—
And you said, “What’s for dinner?” as if it were

The appetizer. But it wasn’t. It was the whole
Meal. Oooops. So now, I find I have a hunger that isn’t filled.
Karma gets around, even if it is just soup.

God knows what He is doing, I tell myself.
He makes beauty, then He takes it away. It’s all a rose.
I know this from literature. Yet it’s different

When the shadows creep in for real, happening to you.
Tell me it will be okay, that the magic is here,
As always, and if not, tell me it will return

Like Carrie walking into a room, and lighting it up
With a candle, or dynamite, or solar flare,
As if the cosmos really did have us wound around

Its finger like the nitty-gritty. Be there for me,
I want to say, but you’re the one who’s leaving.
I know I have to accept this, to use all things

I can to get back to seeing the joy in the light,
And reveling in the universal laughter.
It’s just a game of roses—I tell myself—

It will be all right.



So many gifts. Just here and this,
A gift. A way of exploring  a desk, a lamp,
A cup of coffee. All these buttons

On this sweater are gifts, as are each jeweled
Bead of rain on the windowpane. I now take
A new medication—Latuda. I’m surprised

I’m not growing wings. It makes me feel centered
Just to glide a pen down the ruled horizon of the line.
I love writing out my jitters. In us all, we can always

Close our eyes and hear the sea. A birthright.
See the seamonsters and Sirens, asleep now
With the mermaids at the bottom of the depths.

Sunken treasure. That’s who I am. There’s a story,
Here, though, as there always is: even the guy eating
Pizza outside the tattoo parlor has a story.

I can see him from this window. The ambulances
Wailing into Emergency all have a narrative arc.
A climax. A denouement. Now I am in Massachusetts

General Hospital. They say they are going to help
Me thrive. Yet part of thriving for me is writing—
But is it a sign of sickness or health? See this diamond

In the rough as I hold it up to the light? That’s my heart.
I’m full of many tiny facets of clarity, if you imagine
Me correctly. Sit down with me a while and learn

My ghosts. My ghosts chatter. My ghosts slip
Through my bones as if through the rotted ribs
Of a ship. I am a shipwrecked mess. They’re dredging

Me up, and sorting me out. Stitch my wounded ego
Together with the thread of the horizon. It’s about making
Wholeness from the world we’re given.

I am not just the parts that make me: I am the soul
That blends them all together. Not the carburetor,
The muffler, or the windshield wiper—but all those things,

Working to get me somewhere. I’ll leave you
With the concept of floating calmly off into deep water.
We all have to figure our way through the wave.

A Positive Experience

It’s a good ward, where people
Are nice to you when you’re depressed.
If my nipples were blue, I feel
I’d be able to talk about that. I apologize

For not putting Derrida in here,
But I only realized the other day that poetry,
To be relevant, must deal in some way
With deconstruction. See this bird?

It’s the Grace of God and I rip out its beating
Heart. Sorry, God. I didn’t mean to say
Something so violent, but I need a sad, safe spot
Where I can deal with my inner knives.

My inner child plays with inner knives.
She/he—for my inner child is unsexed,
Merely a child pulling wings off flying ants—
Is crying, always. As I cry inside, imaginary birds

Land by my feet, sometimes. Their chirping
Comforts me that even the angels have monsters
Inside of them, which they deal with angelically,
So as to heal, understand, and push the universe

Fuller to Peace. Sometimes….sorry. I was just interrupted
By a nice nurse and she got me to talk about my inner needs.
I had an interesting conversation with her about negotiation

And guilt, but now that she’s gone clack-clacking
Down the hall, I have to streamline myself back into this poem.
I’ll change topics, and see if that helps. Sometimes
I’m a web catching sapphire jewel flies. It’s beautiful, sometimes.

I mean, life. That’s the point of life—right?
To realize it’s beautiful? Isn’t that what all poems do?
Lead us home into the light?



Whirlpool Fire

I know I need a lot of attention.
That’s why I’m a circus act
With tigers jumping through hoops on fire.
What is fire about? Why does it exist?
It’s important to question, but not get lost
In unknown ground. I turn like a whirlpool
Inside, a bubbling eddy, and I think
This is more relevant than anything
To do with fire, concerning my gut.
My gut squinches and quells.
I am afraid of so many things.

This morning I’m a bit of fire and a bit of ice,
And the whirlpool is going slower.
I want what I’ve learned in this hospital
To last me for a long time. Kindness,
To self and other, is key—as well as being

Into whatever you are into in life.
The mirror, the bowtie, the boxwood, the glove—
They are part of the myriad of things
On Earth that help us learn.

Even you, my lifelong lesson, in your hospital
Bed, will settle fine like silt on the bottom of the sea,
And my gut will calm its poison ocean.
You were my tornado brawl. Forget whirlpools, here:
I’m talking about the brimstone big kahuna
In my heart. That was you. And I will need to say

Goodbye to you. Other than this, I have been sleeping
Well, and this is good. I take this as heaven-sent,
And with that type of thing, you can hardly do wrong.
There is so much light among the shifting shadow.
I comfort myself by thinking that you will be released
Into the great light, a whirlpool dynamo.



It’s Like This…

It’s almost like trying to fly without wings.
You sit down, and try to life yourself up
With what you’ve got, which might be a mirage
Of an emotion on the road up ahead—
You’re travelling the Route 66 of the soul.
You once went from Phoenix, Arizona, to L.A.
For real, with your father at the wheel
Of a white Oldsmobile. His voice, pure thunder,
Pure rain, even in the treacherous trailer parks
Of Death Valley. Who lives there, and do they feel
Love and hate as all others do? Mirages
Of moonbeams haunted our motel nights.
Now I think of car trips when I’m sad.
It helps me cope—you just get some sleep,
And keep going in the morning. There are a thousand
Little trials in-between the big ones, not the least
Of which is starting where you are, perhaps sitting,
And trying with your best thoughts to make
Yourself grow wings, so you can taste a bit of heaven.



Jessica Harman is a writer living in the Boston area. She earned a B.A.
in Creative Writing from Concordia University in Montreal. Her poems
have appeared in "Nimrod," "Spillway," "Arion," "Stand," "Rosebud" and
"Bellevue Literary Review." She has several chapbooks forthcoming from
Alternating Current/Propaganda Press, and a full-length collection,
"Data," is forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press. She teaches for a