The Happy House
The house, they say, was once brick with a slate roof.
Changed in June after the new family moved in.
The morning after the last of the furniture was delivered,
all the leaves in the backyard dropped from the trees.
The warm red bricks frosted over, turned to solid ice.
Rosebushes in the front yellowed, then browned.
By July, pines along the block withered to brittle stalks.
Lawns and parks turned the color of wheat, the sky clouded.
Townsfolk took to down coats. Children returned to school.
Meteorologists puzzled. All the birds flew south.
Secret Written from inside a Snake’s Mouth*
In the mornings, when she was still,
overcome with quiet—less drunk than sober,
less fang than nurture, I would rise
before school an hour early, crawl into her bed,
nestle into her rising and sinking chest.
I’d lay there listening to the soft hum
of her warm breath, tuck myself under
her sleep-dead arm like something wanted.
Like a girl a mother could love.
* Venomous snakes immobilize prey by injecting a toxin which begins to break down internal tissue, starting the digestion process before swallowing the victim whole.
Poem in Which I Turn into Absence
on the faceless body
at the front desk
draped on the bar stool
nothing but hands
for household chores
where the resume should be
cache of sent emails
to which no one responds
dog on the sidewalk
dragging her leash
wine glass sitting full
on the counter
waiting on his pillow
row of empty shoes
to the fire escape
Secret Written from inside a Vulture’s Mouth
for the children
who never came2.
1 Vultures use their keen sense of smell to find freshly killed carrion and can strip a carcass in just a few hours.
2Vultures have the lowest reproduction rates of any bird, laying eggs as infrequently as every one or two years.
she’s in the kitchen, naked
save for the butcher’s apron
streaked, you think, in wine
Jeanann Verleelee is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow and the author of two books, Said the Manic to the Muse and Racing Hummingbirds, which was awarded a silver medal in the Independent Publisher Awards. Her third book, prey, was first runner-up for the 2016 Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award and will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2018. She is a recipient of the Third Coast Poetry Prize and the Sandy Crimmins National Prize, and her work appears in Adroit, BOAAT, Rattle, and BuzzFeed Reader, among others. Verlee collects tattoos and kisses Rottweilers. She believes in you. Find her at jeanannverlee.com.