Jill Alexander Essbaum

A Catalogue of Scrutables

A set of well-drawn lines. A bowl of nice,
           ripe limes. The biting end of alcohol.
The fifth gin of the night. A no. The note
           a pitchy choir holds. The way we float
through life like rubber rafts on lakes. The facts
           we ought to check (they sound so fake). A full
tank or a fall. Or how, last fall I phoned.
           You didn’t take the call. I swore you off,
then swore upon an urge to swerve into
           a dead-man’s curve. The one, last ditch. I missed
you by a moment, not a mile. This place.
           The face you made when I left rooms. Your moods.
The moon. When first we kissed. When last we fucked.
           The nothing that will never be enough.




The grid’s gone off. The power’s out.
And ghosts are loose inside our house.
This haunt’s been going on for hours.
What nerve I’ve lost cannot be found.

Outside, the birds make graveyard sounds.
Magpies. Ravens. Crows. A crowd
of vultures clotting up the clouds.
For you, a crown. For me? A shroud.

Some words are better mispronounced
A striking rose beats striking rows.
What good permits God disallows.
Christ. I’m sleeping so low now.

And the noose is pending from the bough.
Time cannot be turned around.
I’m bleeding, see? Aren’t you aroused?
Friend. Lover. Brute. Spouse.

Come thou, Terror, take your bow.
Tonight I’m yours. Don’t let me down.
What darkness craves it will devour.
Lead. Barrel. Bullet. Mouth.



Jill Alexander Essbaum is the author of several collections of poetry including, most recently, Would-Land (Cooper Dillon Books, 2020), and a novel, Hausfrau (Random House, 2015). Her work has appeared in dozens of journals including Poetry, The Christian Century, Image, and The Rumpus, as well as multiple Best American Poetry anthologies. Jill is a core faculty member in The Low Residency MFA Program at University of California-Palm Desert. She lives in Austin, Texas.