Jennifer Pilch


Seated in the Théâtre des Folies-Dramatique, Louise watches actors on a starry stage.

A mapmaker’s sister turn constellation’s wife

How distance drapes through nowhere reach

I lament the bodiless lure

God shut the doorways of his head/ The days have vanish’d tone and tint ¹

He wouldn’t bother when he’s out with Circinus...Pictor

What’s real need be left, as when I thought I married a painter

Workers on the roof catch falling stars in pails.

Who with light pencil once made finer points 

‘May some dim touch of earthly things / Surprise thee ranging with they peers’ ¹

In morning he’ll sit for his portrait as a weathered tin cup

 ¹ Tennyson, “In Memoriam A H H”


Seated in front of a vanity mirror, Louise holds a pair of scissors.  She appears to cut images from a magazine or portrait album.

Table-to-chair doldrums or the preponderance of a dream?  

A his-to-her stalemate or want for cut above?  

Regardless ties were severed—his shoulders left a fantasy precipice

Not to waste a bit of silver, ground a hill of cheek—firmament 
an examination table—

Frontier where she may set things.  Utensils out and water in to wrought the panes

Albums dimmed with pathos, connections wry but could be soft 

Hedge boots on a duckling—complexions cutting holes in her reflections

Sheared with mechanical wing, the future edges—butterfly 
to couch—

Boat to bedraggled mouse—his face perched on the handle of a spoon


Gertrude, her face taut with anguish, moves her patinated robe aside and opens her hands to speak.

Chorus:  There was a child who died

A maiden in prayer in shadow 

Framed by open shutters like eye whites power a gaze 

Would there be a take-over? Barrenness or loss?  

Asked without the gentle lap liquid promises

Until an undulating landscape made out to be sea shapes her face—

The profile turns toward the flowing out and in

Chorus:  Toward what the body prizes most

Rain takes the window in silver sheets down through darkening earth

Origin drunk on the levity of reflection

When there is no one

Chorus:  —Nothing

to take the quicksilver gaze.

After Gertrude Kasäbier’s “Silhouette of a Woman” (1899) and “The Heritage of Motherhood” (1904)


Gertrude opens her hands to speak.

At last in autumn, an instant of depressed silence, as if someone capped 
the fire

Her bowl over that blaring light for a world beset without him

Chorus:  A child who died

Because earlier in Spring was late in his childhood, consumed with all things 
metal, smelling foundry-like, he built his bravery armor-clad

Her spade cut the garden trench and mound to shadow

But something peeled away like a storm hoards what’s light and loose

Like when she feels an opening, a chance he might be with her

Gertrude, her face taut with anguish, moves her patinated robe aside.

Chorus:  A child who died

Years later she finds him

A twisted junkyard remnant, the earth grabbing first by spine to swallow him.


Amy stands before a screen projecting a procession of black and white flowers:  chrysanthemum, violet, black hollyhock, rose, lily, black hollyhock, hortensia, carnation, black hollyhock

As the flower procession repeats, she speaks:

What tarnished by holing the platinum plot?

Cabbage or gill of deep entity

Dark weather dream how my legs wouldn’t move, gummed to a bulwark 
of pavement

...daffodil, daisy, black hollyhock

If this veil of wine is hopeful design

To live but to not be a part

Aperture chaos, marooned dopamine shallows, hung in pale vegetable stock

...larkspur, pansy, black hollyhock

Dim marrow soon manifests

Angel dust left on a party dress

Cut from from night’s river from last wilderness—

The projection locks on black hollyhock.

—a blossom that punctures that blots.