Biography of Anna Journey
Anna Journey (born November 1980, in Arlington, Virginia) is an American poet who was recently awarded a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Poetry. She is the author of two collections of poetry: If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting (University of Georgia Press, 2009), which was selected by Thomas Lux for the National Poetry Series, and Vulgar Remedies (Louisiana State University Press, 2013). She teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Southern California, where she is an Assistant Professor of English.
Anna Journey Poems
She spends the night with a man who once hunted deer, who keeps squirrel meat stacked in his deep freezer, the white ice rising over red cubes like the animals' fur as it returns. Cold night, she rolls closer to fit the curve of his quilt- slurred spine. She remembers the patches' outlines: scattered houses snipped from dead women's linen, those thin A-frames. Better to snap the neck of a shot deer than to wait for it to slowly bleed. He believes this. A sleepwalker, he often wakes with a different woman's head between his knees. He holds her vertebrae in place as one hand cups the jugular, the other seizes the skull. He wakes to the dull warmth of limbs kicking the sheets, to the scream of a deer becoming a woman.
Moose Head Mounted on the Wall of Big Pa...
His form half-disappeared like the hind legs of your childhood. Like its hooves. The moose—whose body is now a stone fireplace with a smoked- over hole at the heart—stares elsewhere. One glance at his glass eyes sets your trigger-finger twitching. It's not a gun snug against your thigh, just your pulse that holsters a memory: that boy with the fetish who'd beg to suck your eyeball. You'd offer the roll of your right eye, then the left one's plush. His tongue tipped with nicotine flicked your veins a wilder red. You did this, sitting on the brick wall of the abandoned bread factory as scattered pigeon spines vertebraed the mapleleaf viburnum. The flock once flooded the chain-linked ryegrass among blue dumpsters, cooing for crusts. Now the kick of vinegar sours up from the coral sauce on your rack of ribs, and you sit with your past's camouflage sliding off in drops like a season. Like the one the moose head remembers, which is why the hunters must've craned his neck to the right before they stuffed it. A light snowfall, a starveling ginkgo. So he wouldn't scare off customers with the snipe of his stare. So they hung him there, the rest of him invisible. Who knows how long he's looked back.
The Spirit of the Hour Visits Big Pappa'...
No one notices my wings—folded, hollow- boned. Across the room a girl slurps red sauce from her fingers, and I fill with the scent. Its thick molasses marrows up my carpus, my metacarpus. This is why I come here. To remind myself I was once alive. To weigh myself down, down to the wishbone that almost breaks when I remember how the world tasted—summer rain on my neck that rolled off, off like the hour. Or the old house with its broom closet door—the oak grain pencil-marked with girl-heights. Once my sister and I were small enough to slow down time. We climbed the cedars on each side of the yard. Scent peeled from them in strips. Once we crawled up the swing set's ladders and lay across its top rungs at dusk. We watched for long-eared bats, hoped to get bitten by vampires and changed, until the flank steak flamed and smoke moved through the kitchen window, until the voice of our mother called us back. The rack of ribs arrives at my table. I raise its flesh to my mouth. I'm allowed this bite before my wing-bones empty, before I rise, red-lipped, a vinegar sting in each corner of my mouth.
Elegy Where I Initially Refuse to Eat Sa...
My mother liked to eat beach glass and sand people stepped in. Not many girls would forgive such a palate. I was willing to forgive her half moon- shaped cookies called Swedish sand tarts before I believed the old world ingredients wouldn't make me cough sea shanties or pirates' bones, notes- in-a-bottle. Like the letter my newly dead uncle's just sat down to write since his heart attack slumped him in the sand near his yellow house on stilts. He died digging to heal his hurricane- split sewer line. I was willing to forgive his last words to me— two weeks before—as we swam through the lukewarm gulf: Where'd you get those boobs?he laughed through his backstroke. He wore red seaweed on his bald spot. He refused dentures, drawled with a lisp that hinted at what's missing. I was willing to forgive his last words because I coughed up a salt wind, because I hummed, Way, hey, blow the man down! as I kicked the dark glass: a Budweiser's end. By then the bottle's note had vanished, or got soaked clear through. By then I knew Where'd you get those boobs, meant how violently childhood bites its mirage into the waves, or I painted the beach house yellow after your favorite storybook bird. My mother liked to eat beach glass and sand people stepped in. This Christmas I ask for the recipe that will raise all the gulf's grit in my mouth.
Upon Asking the Cashier at Kroger to Sca...
Turns out my body's a dollar sweet potato her register's screen said, as she lifted her scanner, and I laughed. I can finally call myself Garnet, Georgia Jet, Carolina Red. Those names of tubers—my accidental totems. So many varieties. I might slather my arm in marshmallows, burrow deep into the Southern earth. I'd gotten the tattoo at nineteen, drunk, after Alicia and I sneaked into the Jefferson—the fanciest hotel in Richmond with its old Deco fountain in the lobby where pet alligators swam circles through the Jazz Age. We sat on velveteen love seats wearing ripped jeans among the suits of Virginia politicians and Baptist preachers, daring each other: I'll get a tattoo if you do. We discussed passion vines on biceps or matching dragonflies winging our asses. I swirled my plastic flask's bourbon, decided we'd make a statement about consumerism—blue barcode stamped on each of our forearms. After the hotel manager kicked us out for vagrancy I tore a page from a book of grocery-store coupons so the tattoo artist would have an image to copy: a barcode's exact marks. I didn't think to stop and choose which vegetable, which object, didn't know my body would soften beneath the lines. Ten years later I'd finally ask a woman to scan the ink, wondering why I'd waited this long to find out I've always been sweet but slightly twisted, I've always been waiting to disappear like this, bite by bite, into someone's mouth.
Wedding Night: We Share an Heirloom Toma...
for David We imagine Natalie held a gelatinous green sliver on her tongue, that its watery disk caught the lamplight before she slipped from her yacht to drown in the waves off this island. This was thirty years ago. And our tomato's strain stretches back decades, to an heirloom seed saved before either of us was born, before Natalie's elbow brushed the clouded jade face of the ancestral fruit in a Catalina stand, before she handed it to her husband, saying, This one. We hover near the plate, where the last half of our shadowed tomato sits in its skin's deep pleats. I lean toward you to trace each salted crease with a thumbnail— brined and wild as those lines clawed in the green side of the yacht's rubber dinghy. Those lingering shapes the coroner found—the drowned actress's scratch marks. That night we first met, I had another lover but you didn't care. My Bellini's peach puree, our waiter said, had sailed across the Atlantic, from France. It swirled as I sipped and sank to the glass bottom of my champagne flute. You whispered, Guilt is the most useless emotion. After Natalie rolled into the waves, the wet feathers of her down coat wrapped their white anchors at her hips. This was 1981. I turned a year old that month and somewhere an heirloom seed washed up. You felt an odd breeze knock at your elbow as I took my first step. We hadn't yet met. Tonight, we watch the wet date palms tip toward the surf and, curling, swallow their tongues.
The Atheist Wore Goat Silk
I've wanted to visit the genetically modified goat spliced with silkworm DNA spinning white threads from its pink udders like a piebald spider. I've wondered how much for a whole goat silk dress? Always I save the spiders that shimmy near my eyes but never the bristled silverfish which drop to the boatwood dinner table from the skylight. Come Indian Summer the fuchsia bougainvillea unpurses its dry lips, licks the sweat from my neck. My mother tells her childhood best friend—who's dying from liver cancer in Jackson, who consults a Pentecostal woman who speaks in tongues—that her two daughters are atheists. Meaning my little sister and me. Somewhere there's a goat that squirts a rare silk so bizarre maybe no one would actually wear it. That webbed dress sticking to my chest, the grandfather clock, all over the bedroom walls like a past that drags everything with it. The thread leading back to an animal I badly need to believe in. Its impossible milk steams in the twilight. There's a dress that rises from its udders with a misted sleeve I can almost see.
My parents come from a place where all the houses stop at one story for the heat. Where every porch—front and back—simmers in black screens that sieve mosquitoes from our blood. Where everyone knows there's only one kind of tea: served sweet. The first time my father introduced my mother to his parents, his mother made my mother change the bed sheets in the guest room. She'd believed it a gesture of intimacy. My grandmother saved lavender hotel soaps and lotions to wrap and mail as gifts at Christmas. My grandfather once shot the head off a rattlesnake in the gravel driveway of the house he built in Greenwood. He gave the dry rattle to my mother the same week I was born, saying, Why don't you make something out of it.
Accidental Blues Voice
My ex-lover received it at seventeen skiing the steep slope at Wintergreen called Devil's Elbow. The early snowmelt along the Blue Ridge had slipped the white limb of a birch through the crust, jutted that camouflaged tip into the center of the trail. He hit it, full speed, flipped over his ski poles. One of them split his vocal cords with its aluminum point. He sprawled in the snow, his pink throat skewered like Saint Sebastian or the raw quiver of his Greek father's peppered lamb kebobs. The doctors didn't let him speak for a year and when he finally tried his choirboy voice had gravel in it. His tenor had a bloody birch limb in it, had a knife in it, had a whole lower octave clotted in it, had a wound and a wound's cracked whisper in it. The first time I heard him sing in his blues band, five years after the accident, I told him his smoked rasp sounded exactly like Tom Waits. Like my grandfather sixty years since the iron lung. I couldn't believe a growl like that crawled up from the lips of a former Catholic schoolboy. But as he shut off the halogen overhead—leaving only the ultraviolet of his bedside's black light—he stroked my cheek, crooned, Goodnight, Irene. His teeth and his throat's three-inch scar glowed a green neon.
The Atheist Wore Goat Silk
I've wanted to visit the genetically modified goat spliced with silkworm DNA spinning white threads from its pink udders like a piebald spider. I've wondered how much
Wedding Night: We Share An Heirloom Toma...
for David We imagine Natalie held a gelatinous green sliver on her tongue, that its watery
My parents come from a place where all the houses stop
at one story
for the heat. Where every porch—front
and back—simmers in black screens that sieve
mosquitoes from our blood. Where everyone knows
there's only one kind of tea: