Jessica D. Thompson is the author of the full-length poetry collection Daybreak and Deep, (Kelsay Books), which was named a finalist in the American Book Fest Best Books of 2022 for Narrative Poetry. Her work has been widely published in journals such as Appalachian Review, Atlanta Review, ONE ART, The Midwest Quarterly, The Southern Review, Still: The Journal, and Tiferet. Her work has also appeared in many anthologies, among them: Women Speak, Vol 7 (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions) and Next Indiana Campfires: a Trail Companion (Indiana Humanities). She was a finalist in the 2022 Joy Bale Boone Poetry Prize (Heartland Review).
Entering the bloodstream through the placenta,
fetal cells embed themselves into the mother’s
skin, brain, heart, where they can stay for decades,
a phenomenon known as microchimerism,
from the Greek word chimera— a mythical
creature made from the parts of different animals.
There once was a boy who found bones on a farm,
believed them to be from a dinosaur.
At times, I convince myself that boy is thriving,
living in another galaxy.
Once upon a time, I sewed stars
onto a Little League cap—one for each home
run, scrubbed stains from a snow-white
I taught you to dance. Remember
the blue pinstripe shirt and the red suspenders?
It was 1984. I took you and one of your friends
to your first concert—Lover Boy.
But sometimes beloved mothers become myths
and little boys grow into minotaurs—
their rogue cells orbiting the souls
of women who spin aimlessly inside dark holes.
when my sister was a little girl
she would glide
through the rooms
of our house
her round face
her marble feet
ruffle of a night
on a wooden ship
my other sisters and I
a pod of
riding the waves
it was later
and too soon
after she had grown
into an amazing woman
that a monster of the deep
the makeup of her blood
we rode the waves
that tossed her followed
her to a shore of singing
from which we had to
turn and leave her
Travel and tell no one…people ruin beautiful things.
– Kahlil Gibran
An old friend is meeting me for lunch. She’s anxious to hear
about my travels in Jordan and Egypt. I will not tell her
about my failure to form perfectly round balls of labna yogurt,
place them neatly in a jar filled with fine olive oil—
how the Jordanian woman at the Iraq Al Amir Women’s
Association took my hands in her hands, helped re-work
the contents so that each white ball was uniform and smooth.
So unlike my life. I won’t tell her how the Egyptologist
reminded me of an old flame. How his brown skin glowed,
God like. I won’t tell her how I rode a camel named Casanova
in the Valley of the Kings. Instead, I will name the places
one can go where it never rains. Places where houses
are made of mud bricks. How the heat permeates a racing
heart, until the sun sets and the blood in your veins,
like the Nile, flows peacefully. She will never know
my envy of the bond between Bedouin men, young and old—
how they greeted each other with kisses, their arms draped
around shoulders. My friend will not hear about the girl,
perhaps five years old, who stood next to a wall of rubble
in the village of Esna.
How she held fast to a tall stick. Barefoot. Brave.
How fierce her dark eyes. How I recognized
the five-year old me in her gaze and suddenly realized
I never was meant for marriage.
In time, I will crave a cigarette. How long has it been
since I quit? If I have a second glass of wine,
it will be difficult not to tell how I smoked a hookah
sitting on a dirt floor in a small stall in an alley in Amman.
How afterwards, the aroma of apples followed me for days—
down inside a tomb in the Temple of Hathor, built to worship
the goddess of healing. Only then might I tell my friend
how the story of my life unraveled
amongst the light
and shadow—the photographs still trapped inside my camera.