Jenn Habel

In Place of All the Poems about Departure, Lessons, and Ends

I had an old life that kept repeating.
I was the shell drawn off and on
the more or less same shore. But not
just “drawn” or “tossed” or “drifting”
for I was also the flower: opening, opening—
or so I felt. It would take years to see
I’d rigged the elements against
the very exposure I thought I sought.


The house that stands for many
was mustard. Largely carpeted.
Offered almost enough hot water
to wash my hair and shave my legs.
For the nth time, I arranged
the furniture, draped the couch
and chair, jammed the bed frame’s
screws in the wrong then right notches.


The small new thing I bought to mark
that beginning was chosen for
the eye of an imaginary beholder,
the same one I pictured assessing
the titles on the coffee table
or eating the tomatoes I tended.
Even the house itself was rented in part
for the chance to offer its directions:


Pass the abandoned car shop, take the first
gravel road to your right. . . .


Evenings, I’d sometimes drive to
the closed bridge, then reread the graffiti
while slowly walking its span.
What did Gina look like, I’d wonder,
who loved Dusty? Did someone
still think Sylvie would be 4ever?
Had a male or female written
Treehuggers Suck Dick, an individual


or group that There are no girls
in this town? After reaching the bridge’s
far side, I’d return to its center where
Good Night Bynum was sprayed
in wide black letters, each word capped.
Good Night Bynum, I’d whisper, palms
pressed to the cement ledge, Good Night
Sweet Bynum
, a watered down Ophelia


watching herself watch the waters
run. The trees that lined the banks
would have been thinning in
the cooler air, losing the thick green
haze they’d possessed when I
arrived. I saw their roots instead,
those gnarled attempts to hold what
the water would continue to erode.