top of page

    Room 52 • Poetry Hotel 

Four Poems / Jendi Reiter




When I wore my red dress to the barn

I knew I'd be wasted —

them Dust Bowl drifters

can't tell a live one from a rabbit skin.

Some of us gals are just born foxes

and sharp or dumb, all hounds hunt the same —

the tail's what they come for,

soft as a redhead whore,

but no teeth, no vixen

barking like a bored wife on a dry farm.


When his dull mitts snagged my curls

I was a mouse caught in the thresher,

a little squeak, a little snap.

They were counting on him, I guess,

to save up dimes for a place

where the dirt never quits yielding.

After it my legs stuck out like two broke straws.

C'mon boys, I'm dead now but

pull the other one.

No one loves a creature so hard it dies

by accident.




On Halloween there are no lies in the stores.

Not yet the turkeys in buckled hats thankfully

hopping toward the national fork

and knife, the feathered braves fading

with silent footfalls into history's woods,

erased from the cardboard pageants and football turf.

Not yet the wax apple cheeks and cotton beard

of the confessional franchise in every toy town,

the daddy actor sneaking kisses and milk

while children dream as they've been told.


On Halloween there is death on the calendar,

at last, the old lady taking a front-room chair,

unsung timekeeper of every holiday choir.

This is her one day to pull down the album

and coo over her resemblance to the grandchildren,

who learn too soon to be ashamed

to wear a crone's face on any regular morning.


On Halloween there is no loneliness

for motherless Frankenstein, no required bouquet

on the pine lid of Dracula's single bed,

his satisfied heart an empty chocolate box.

No witches circle the airports, caught

in snow delay en route to a dutiful dinner with parents

who kicked them out when their skin turned green.


On Halloween there is nothing to salute.

The flags of Pharaoh and Transylvania

contribute no colors to the explosions in the sky.

No one hands a man a harp instead of a potato

and asks for a sad joke song of the old country.

The oldest country is still ahead,

where twig fingers snap and beckon

to the bonfire's uniting dance.






when she said she wasn't doing what she was

when her friendship was your waiting

you thought your futures tight as rubber bands

you thought her elbow was a nipple

when she stopped naked and cried for a dead uncle

when she wouldn't have learned till this writing

you gave a pal her fingered scent to sniff

you gave proof that someone had been fooled

when she told you but you didn't believe the ending

when unkindness was the only means she knew to close her legs

you say now the story is yours to open

you say now your remorse should be obvious

when casting doubt that she had an uncle

when death like a blood spot on white jeans is a timely excuse

you had feelings like rubber stretched to snapping

you had feelings that should interest everyone

when she didn't want what she wanted

when she'd been taught Yes was wicked and No was cruel

you did not notice anyone saying this

you did not notice her pussy was a room you were alone in

when you made it your showroom then

when you make it your confessional now






A more famous poet's best friend once said

if you don't risk sentimentality in a poem why bother.

Sentimentality is what we call feelings

that the writer is wholly inside of, but no one else is.

In that sense it's the safest poetry act, no risk of transmission.

Videos of masturbation will always get more clicks than poetry

about the world wars or Midwestern childhood or discovering radium

or even love,

which suggests that sentimentality is unfairly maligned.

It's only a quarter

to peep through the glory hole of the poem

at the man wincing and sighing at the feeling of himself,

and we do, though the moves are so generic

he could be rocking to earbud music, or taking a burning piss

because he went bare the last time, what a mistake.

Sentiment-discordant couples, now that's a risk.

Unlike what the health pamplets tell you,

it's usually the negative who converts the positive.

After enough unprotected encounters

the writer becomes immune to roses,

may go blind to the moon, contract

every stanza with ironic ampersands.

This poem is not like that.

It feels like real skin.

There's a space at the tip to catch your teardrops.

If used correctly, the risk of reading this poem is lower

than what you did last night. Go ahead, now,

no one is watching.



About the Author

Jendi Reiter is the author of the novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press, 2016), the short story collection An Incomplete List of My Wishes 

(Sunshot Press, 2018), and four poetry books and chapbooks, most recently Bullies in Love (Little Red Tree, 2015). Awards include a Massachusetts

Cultural Council Fellowship for Poetry, the New Letters Prize for Fiction, the Wag's Revue Poetry Prize, the Bayou Magazine Editor's Prize in Fiction,

and two awards from the Poetry Society of America. Two Natures won the Rainbow Award for Best Gay Contemporary Fiction and was a finalist

for the Book Excellence Awards and the Lascaux Prize for Fiction. Reiter is the editor of, an online resource site with contests

and markets for creative writers. For literary news, readings, and reviews, visit and follow @JendiReiter on Twitter.  

Jendi_Easter2018_suit_2_closeup BW.jpg
bottom of page