Jon L. Jensen, “Sestina Dickinson Would Never Write”

This week, four new poems by Jon L. Jensen. 


At night sometimes her ache
is deep: she wants to feel
its weight; she pulls out her record
of the “Pathetique,” puts it on
to play. It drowns out the sound
of her husband’s sleep. It helps her
savor fate. But she doesn’t
want to think of her son

awake in the room
at the end of the hall,
listening in his childish bed,
hearing the sorrow through
walls and doors, and sweetly
humming along.


Finally she lost it, after
five and twenty years. Not that great—
little pleasure had, much less pain.
Was no crumpled prom night formal,
nor any use left in feeling
that fabled night in white’d come.

This might be all there’d be. Come
fifty, would she still be after
the same fey bullshit? some Great
Coat Darcy to share the pain?
Was take this or waste, like formal
lace, for well-suited feeling.

What then was she feeling?
Along the river they came;
told herself, “he’s after
my ear”—as if some great
shame once shared’ll stop the pain
of feeling queer, malformed.

He knelt. No formal
warning. She felt him
work his mouth. She comes,
wonders what comes after.
Gravel. Kneecaps. Grate.
Then he talks of pain—

A shattered pane
of guilt, all form,
devoid of feeling.
His kingdom come
wouldn’t after
that. Ingrate.

Em’ wrote: “Tho’ great
the pain,
a formal
kinda feeling’s
bound to come
just after.”

She just stared after and down
Amherst Ave. Feeling Formal. In wait
for that great Pain. He never comes.


Husband, Summer of my Wedding: Don’t spare the wind. Blow.
Blare the trombone. Gust a glissando. Dare the wind. Blow.

Marry the breezes. Brass, woodwind, gales through the reeds.
Send, my love, our invitation wherever the wind blows.

Union, amount to disintegration. The fiber.
Fabric. The very foundation. Who cares? The wind blows.

There. This is Lady Left. Moaning among the leavings:
Spooled yarn. Toys from yard sales, bagged, still. “There, there,” the Wind blows.

“Weep out your eyes,” cries Old Mother West Wind. “Harp no more.”
“Climb, Lady Trick Knees. Brave the winding stairs, the wind’s blows.”

Bones grind to flour. She tops the crossbeam. Her A-frame tower.
Bosom boy’s gone. The widow’s walk leans where the wind blows.

Bass to my tenor. Legal, my lawful. Sing, Jonny,
Down so low. Our hang our head’s over. Hear the wind blow.


In time it’s
Monday, godless
holy days—Memorial,

without him. Others—
a stranger, fast
five-minute friends,
old loves & colleagues

fill the space
that grows, the more
his clothes turn
yours, his morning

hack and piss
as dear as that
love letter he
wrote you once.

You think things
through, wake him
to fuck—sleep
mask still on his eyes.

Not all that bad all that bad.


JON L. JENSEN has spent the last decade in Harlem, New York, but his poetic universe has never escaped the badlands of his native Wyoming. He also works as an essayist and translator of Russian verse, holding degrees in Classics, Russian and Rhetoric. In former lives, he has worked as Mormon missionary trying to save Evangelicals in the Deep South and as a Peace Corps volunteer trying to teach HIV prevention to sex workers on the streets of Moscow. The poems included here are a part of a book-length manuscript, The Flannel Lord. He is currently completing a novel in sonnets. He can be found at