Two Poems by Jen Karetnick

The Thrill of Quivering With Desire, Bill Wolak


for Jon

In one country, you glide down a ramp into an antiquated mine, quarantined in bleached clothing and cap. You are young and in love with the idea of travel, but not the overextended backpack, the turtling forward of neck, your cellular dirt under collar and cuff for a month. In the pallid abandonment, you realize you don’t like the hindering of a low ceiling, the jagged paddock 

so morgue-like you won’t climb out of it without help. You query your own judgement, though not for the first time. Every morning, evening, the blood fertilizes lidless bowls, holes in the ground. Is it wise to continue the journey? The doctors questioned your sex life, your gender, thought it HIV, refused to consider more obvious illness. But this doesn’t kill you. It is only 

the tax you pay for engagement: cavities quarried for organs the way sodium is hewn from the menagerie of surrounding stones. Decades after Austria, you stand at the ponds of brine in Croatia, once so prized the town was bricked in, jammed by a fort and its extremities. Most of the bottoms, cracked into sewers, need granite to become virgin again, the way sometimes

marriages need expensive resurfacing. You move forward for fleur de sel. Zinnias and zephyr lilies dissolve on finger pads, in saliva. As you buy unequaled flowers locals leave alone, unaffordable, blood jogs down your leg—a nick from razoring grass—reminding you again how much of yourself you will give for a voyage, how you will crack in such an unbalanced wake. 

The Progressive Lenses of Subdivisions

A reverse abecedarian golden shovel after Neil Peart’s “Freewill”

Zits, braces, glasses—the trio arrived the year we
young junior high schoolers learned how to line dance,
X-Fit for the b’nai mitzvah and confirmation crowd, on 
whatever modeling clay, lumpy and uncooperative, the

Venn diagrams of our bodies possessed. The strings
under our skin were tense with awkward desire, of
that we were sure. Whatever other non-super-powers
survived the stunning blitzkrieg of puberty, we

really wouldn’t know until later. We cannot
quite predict the evolution of self, only perceive
possibilities, glimpses of what might pass for the
ordinary kind of beauty that makes future stars

normative light until chiseled by age or scalpel. Aren’t
most of us relieved to be merely passable, aligned
like soldiers to the cause of fitting in somewhere? Or
kind enough, in the end, to someone else’s eye? Still, the

joke was on us in adolescence, when the suburban gods
insulted some, injured others, but cured a special few who were
hostages only to their hormonal blessings. Now we malign
good fortune as just that—luck—but back then we would blame

frequencies, the genetic code of un-coolness, the DNA map that is
evolution clothed in the wrong, most ill-fitting outfit. We’re better
dressed now, too, for the most part—that is also true. To
care about the exterior, we were always told, is to readily give

back power to the gaze, male or otherwise. But we’re more than
arrested in development. We’ll always be radios, set to receive.


Jen Karetnick‘s fourth full-length book is The Burning Where Breath Used to Be (David Robert Books, 2020), a CIPA EVVY winner, an Eric Hoffer poetry category finalist, and a Kops Fetherling honorable mention. Co-founder and managing editor of SWWIM Every Day, she has work forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, Crab Creek Review, DIAGRAM,, and elsewhere. Based in Miami, she works as a restaurant critic, lifestyle journalist, and author of four cookbooks, four guidebooks, and more.

Bill Wolak has just published his eighteenth book of poetry entitled All the Wind’s Unfinished Kisses with Ekstasis Editions. His collages have appeared as cover art for such magazines as Phoebe, Barfly Poetry Magazine, Ragazine, Cardinal Sins, Pithead Chapel, The Wire’s Dream, and Phantom Kangaroo. His collages and photographs have appeared recently in the 2020 Seattle Erotic Art Festival, the 2020 Dirty Show in Detroit, the 2020 Rochester Erotic Arts Festival, the 2018 Montreal Erotic Art Festival, and Naked in New Hope 2018.

If you purchase a book through the above affiliate links, we receive a small percentage of the cost