I D K     I S S U E     5


jessica poli

Poem for When You Realize That You’ll Never Look at Brussels Sprouts the Same Way Again

When you’ve spent hours picking them
off their thick stalks thinking he doesn’t love me,
will never love me, did he ever even
love me, November weeds wild around you
like you’re some kind of frost-summoned half-god-
half-goat, and the cold slices your cracked fingers
and etches the cracks deeper, stinging, drawing blood,
and the white bucket that you drag from stalk to stalk
stays mostly empty, the plants bug-eaten
and yielding less each day.
There are many ways of living.
One is with a hole inside of you that never gives
or forgives. Another is to collect memories
as if they’re shards of light in what is otherwise pitch-dark.
The buds snap off the stalk like a moose’s heavy antlers
shedding in winter. Moments of light:
every slanted balcony in Syracuse. The smell
of brussels sprouts in the oven on Thanksgiving. Cate running
to fill someone’s wine glass in the living room.
Cooking by yourself in your small kitchen in Lincoln,
organic sprouts washed and spread across the cutting board.
Their imperfections—browned edges,
insect tracks. You eat a bowl full of them
and think of people you’ve loved:
your aunt, a thousand miles away and not speaking to you,
who you want to ask: When did you first know
your sadness?
On Friday you go to your therapist’s office
and talk about light, about feeling like you’re fractured
by light, and she writes and says yes and says okay
and you drive home in the egg-yolk yellow evening light
and cook dinner. Later, wine-drunk and stoned,
you talk to the ceiling fan
and curl your body around the sound of trains
roaring their way into the deep Nebraskan prairie.
Winter light. Lover’s light.
The way light and shadow slanted
across the vegetable field in September,
October, November. The light that glittered
in the rainwater inside the plants’
cupped leaves. The light that fills you now,
knowing the things you know,
forgiving yourself the rest.


Jessica Poli is the author of four chapbooks: Canyons (BatCat Press, 2018), Alexia (Sixth Finch, 2015), Glassland (JMWW, 2014), and The Egg Mistress (Gold Line Press, 2013). Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, Southern Indiana Review, and Caketrain, among others. She earned her MFA from Syracuse University and is pursuing her MA at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She edits Birdfeast and can be found online at www.jessicapoli.com.