Devil’s Lake

Spring 2017 Issue

Jessica Tolbert: Dialogue

we the family die in gnat swarms

aortic bloom round and jubilant

the family is many things

various good grapes grow from this soil

olive and pomegranate truly the scripture

is soft inside hard outside

gnawing the carob

I’ll chew on lead and sniff the glue

eat dirty on the couch

with hands

a local uprising like the fairy tales

highways sweep the night broadly and warm

edge city

reek of cedar

spread the mulch

god love the bruises bitten like a plum

where you came from

sucre like my grandfather

like sugar

like sugar yes


I. in the tradition my mother taught

from Ashkenaz and the mountains

we tear our clothes we

do not have elaborate coffins only plain

wood held with wood pegs we

are buried in plain clothes which are

conducive to biotic decomposition

white cottons we value

decomposition we value

the bread and the hardboiled egg

soaked in salt water sometimes

the funeral home

provides a fogging spray

for your mirrors

if you cannot cover them in sheets

or white cotton the shrouded mirror is

the sign of the dead

II. in the tradition

slivovitz and honeyed tea in Lublin

in Majdanek a bone pile

III. the new york city patriarch who leapt

from the apartment window

during dinner whose

daughter turned out to the club that night

IV. the mark of a genuine suicide note

is its practicality remember

to change the tires. Remember to

change the oil. I drew a check, but I didn’t

put the money in. Please go ahead and make

the deposit. Remember to feed the cat.

V. in a sweltering warehouse she swills a forty recalls

his death crescendos louder

does not change pitch

on the other side of town her endonym

derby baby

conceived in the raucous aftermath

myth originates and functions to satisfy a need

a photo of the author, Jessica Tolbert JESSICA TOLBERT’s writing has appeared in PANK, GlitterMOB, The Collagist, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn. More from this issue >