Jessica Goodheart
    Jessica Goodheart—whose first collection, Earthquake Season, is just out from Word Press—writes  about brutal and clueless and blundering men, but she often uses rhyme and meter to do so.  Jessica writes about childbirth and motherhood, but not in a bland, greeting-card, pastel way—far from it.  There is a quality about her work that is decidedly Diane Arbus-like; what is memorable about Jessica’s poems is their careful retreat from easy, deafening Confessionalism in favor of a restraint that renders her content all the more disturbing. She is an observer: she will watch little boys at play and come to the harshest conclusions about mankind, but she won’t try to hit you over the head with her observations. Everyday chores loom large: a visit to the dry-cleaner’s, a day or two forced from home by the termite removers, instructions left for a house-sitter. Everyday chores are what fill up most of our lives, and Jessica is good at weaving deep observations into the fabric of mundane tasks. This is a poetry of uncomfortable surprises: an aunt’s sadomasochism mixes with odes to dinosaurs and shopping trips out with a relative undergoing “pain therapy.” For in Jessica’s world it is always somehow earthquake season. It is good to reach for our children and hold on to them in the night, when the night is frightening or bleak; Jessica’s work is all about that grasping onto warmth, that groping for connectedness, that so much American writing concerns itself with. 


Earthquake Season

We can hardly tell anymore
whether the earth’s trembling wakes us
or my seismometer heart.

Sometimes your aftershock footsteps
make me cry out. I’m not talking
about anything as trivial as the sun
but the loss of it.

What if I die without you
on the greasy tiles of a Taco Bell
in that radioactive light
where no one ever hopes
to look beautiful?

And yet this morning,
the floor rocked me
gently to the breakfast table
and you were there
with sunlight on the cactus.
And the only death I found
buried deep in the paper
as if beneath the collapse
of a house: a boy not yet fourteen
shot in the neck
under an open sky.


After Touching Down

The man seated in 22B cannot speak in words.
He makes the sound of a smooth landing,
like the boy he once was, the boy he is now.

His hands ride the updraft his mouth has made.
Then, fingers first, they plunge into a darkness even our pilot—
with his upbeat forecasts and sun-dipped vowels—knows is there.

In a stage-sized gesture, the man wipes his forehead, relief.
Tired, packed-in, ready for open spaces,
we do not smile at him or wipe our brows.

So four times more, he enacts the safe landing,
all 100 tons, the godly geometry of it.
Four more times, disaster movie-style: the crash.

His prayer hands turn upside down and inside out.
He’s teaching us something, this man, about probability,
something we suspect but dare not say.

Tails we go down, into a night of scattered parts and fire.
Heads — wheels on the tarmac, crescendo of arrival —
and we are on the scarred earth.

Originally appeared in Earthquake Season (Word Press, 2010) 

2010 Jessica Goodheart
Jessica Goodheart was a Featured Poet who read her poetry at the August 2010 Second Sunday Poetry Series