3 poems by Jordan Rice – The Feminist Wire

3 poems by Jordan Rice



My father rings our apple trees with his own urine,

says the scent will scare off starving deer which strip


his low limbs bare at night.  His foot is almost healed,

the bones screwed together, re-strung with tendons


from a dead teenager, who was at least alone in his

Camaro as it came apart on 85 near Charlotte.


That could’ve been you, my father says, how you

used to drive, then remembers I’m less his son already,


the process cumulative, accelerating.  He mentions

another trick if piss won’t work, will buy a garbage


bag of hair from a salon and cast it through the field.

And I’m thinking of all the haircuts I never wanted,


trimmed always far above brow line, and imagine him

scattering what fell from every forced summer buzz –


hours worth of shears droning at my scalp, a barber

shuffling the checkered floor, one a pervert with his


hand beneath the nylon cape – and how much different

it might have been for me, the other way around,


had I been born a girl but was really a boy, hair blond

and grown long by summer and the heat too much,


begging a five dollar cut, and to run nearly bald across

the ballpark as long as other boys would let me.  Deer


still range below the field each night, become their own

loose ring of seasons in this drought-made decade,


and even Lake Jocassee’s baring mud except dead center

where no children swim, its turbines slowed and power


dimmed.  My father will still limp from living room

to kitchen, kitchen to front door, stooping the gravel

drive to welcome me beyond his own startle and

amazement, whomever steps from my familiar car,


softer now, with rounded face, hips wide as

my mother’s, who cannot look at me so very long.



The Living is Easy


Citronella candles flickering now my neighbors’ laughter draws me

in although I know I don’t belong.  Someone caps another bottle,


the cooler slamming shut.  Someone tells a joke.  “Where do they put

a missing tranny’s photo?  On cartons of half and half.”  And I’m


remembering my life in Richmond – years ago, my mouth still split

from saying no too often or too late another time to the first man


that I trusted – and the night an artist took me home to dried acrylic

lacing color arcs across her studio, palettes struck with brushes her


exhibit a success.  Leaning at my chest she cupped her palms there at

flatness without laughing:  I’ll fuck you tonight if you shave your beard off first.


Whatever she could tell I couldn’t say there by her sink – Barbasol,

cheap razors, our Stolichnaya gone – traffic echoing the gallery below


and steam across the sliding mirror.  My tits, she joked, still look like

mosquito bites.  And drawing her syringe her estradiol the needle jab


quick into her thigh – you might as well learn how to do this now.  Afterward

I followed her up flights onto the roof to see the student tenements,


neon liquor districts, neighborhoods by order of surrender: Shockoe

Bottom Church Hill Jackson Ward Oregon Hill dim rows of shotgun


houses fanning out in all directions, bronze generals astride their horses

lit up from below and past the river distant suburbs, silent lots, estates


of perfect manicure, somewhere the one she’d left, no turning

back allowed until we reached the crumbling edge to feel again


that urge to fall from which I never taught my body to recoil.



Gresham Court


My father warns against change, though my chest’s already sore

with swelling, my biceps smooth – I trade some strengths for others.


How will you live this way?  I tell him about the older man I dated

who drove a freezer truck in the suburbs, bought beer, paid for liquor,


so I brought him home, his arms sleeved with tattoos, one a burnt

skull, its sockets black hollows.  And everything expected – insistence


and anger, blood welling in my mouth.  I watched a traffic signal

flicker across the flat wall – the room sliding from memory, sweat


in his shirt.  Then hospital, police report, valium for sleep, the room

walled off by curtain from a hall full of ruin, one man dead by heart


attack, the stench of singed hair, lights burning all hours, fluorescence

and pain, the on-call repeating his one word consent, a nurse


changing ice packs, my broken wrist x-rayed, wrapped, a night

nurse to check swelling, take down vitals:  Honey, buy a gun.



Jordan Rice’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in American Literary Review, Colorado Review, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Mid-American Review, Mississippi Review, and Witness, among others, and were included in Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics, The Southern Poetry Anthology Volume V, Best New Poets 2011, A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry, Collecting Life: poets on objects known and imagined, Best of the Web 2009, and Best New Poets 2008.  Her work was also selected for the Indiana Review Poetry Prize, the Richard Peterson Poetry Prize from Crab Orchard Review, the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, the Milton-Kessler Memorial Prize from Harpur Palate, the Yellowwood Poetry Prize from Yalobusha Review, and the AWP Intro to Journals Awards.  She received an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a Ph.D. from Western Michigan University.