BathHouse Journal

Jennifer Nelson


To My Dear Ironists


hail haters
and hello distance-creators
please stop worrying and love your palms
with your mouths
like get your rhetoric out of my house
just because I’m real
doesn’t mean I tell the truth
there’s nothing to be scared of
there is no roof
for your barrel fire
at nostalgia a.m.
for the future you adorable sharks
for the love of your self-critical traps
stop crying on those gluten-free wraps
feedback loops make the couples on this ark
the engine beneath us is your pyre
the figurehead is a lumberfemme
my firm handshake bets on warm and dark



I’m Coleridge But I Think Carlyle Is Hot


no one will tell me
which barrios are part of
the merit badge
that makes the US livable

today I threw out panties
I bought ten years ago this spring
in Viareggio
the Ocean City of Italy
chased by chingchangchongers
down sand and cement
the whole place Rilke’s shitty color

a professor formed like a thin white phallus
suggested he was the hand in this puppet and
I prepared to peel my lips off my teeth

I’m a woman but
once you respect my scholarship
this counts as taking it in the ass

no throne but in love
no throne but in love, class
no throne but in love

but I don’t like thrones
I don’t like thrones
I do not like thrones though
all right feed me

grapes fermented on the vine
avec your trellis hands

here in the dressing room



I Told Wu Hung That Art Polices Absence


I want to roll over and devour
all of mankind as my father

I want to read Montaigne
as the best and most
ever, but

autumn grows thin
as the tree in Li
Cheng’s Reading the Stele
and Wu himself
appears in the painting
transparent as the hero
he guides, staff
pointing at no letters


a good art historian
puppets a skeleton
in front of the living
while being a skeleton
a little while





From the crispy edges of an old cut flower
to the soft inside

or splitting a bud to flick the pointless
engines of its future, proto-
stigma skin on ovules

taking on the metadream
that simulation doesn’t matter
unless we fetishize originals, I want
to live somewhere we don’t
fetishize originals

by violence if I must

The probability a string
will swing toward one
accident or any other
or configure many
or require another parse
informs the architecture of retrieval

on a planet where very loud thunder
recalls another planet



To the Patellar Tendon


I love it when adjectives deform their nouns
but meant that vowels destroy their consonants
and gender harms the faerie
when not chosen felt and known but pulled

When I think of how to push
a body through plastic
or follow a wave through an ocean’s many
bandages and urge

I don’t want to hurt you but I know I will
Did things that fly use to fly
so high before human buildings
or did we bring a need for that

I mean their ancestors
Gulls go low above the AIDS tent
but there’s no race for cyclists today
nor any visible nourishment

I wish for someone to see me as clearly
as sometimes Michael did
but in this version of life
love is precisely distortion

I accept, I absorb



The Inaugural Presidential Lecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago


while we were watching a video
of white cops killing
Black people over and over with a thousand
other humans
in an auditorium another
cop killed another Black
person while Black students
listening prepared to phrase
their questions about triggering
carefully because the video
was by a Black hero while other Black students
backed up the ones who got dismantled
by the hero while a Black
professor challenged the hero
on appropriation respectfully while my hero
fell short of catharsis on a horde
she almost forced to be “American”
while I cried and ignored my colleagues
while I got angry
so many people weren’t crying
while I refused
to medicate seek treatment
for being so easily disrupted
while deans mock the hypersensitive
while people fail as people
for watching with straight faces while
literal systematic killing
should dismantle
the fetishization of harm as art
while that sight should
disrupt everyone
while I don’t want to be cured
but want to choose disruption
while I want that freedom
another cop shot another
Black non-hero and he died

Jennifer Nelson‘s first book of poems, Aim at the Centaur Stealing Your Wife, came out with Ugly Duckling Presse in Dec. 2015. The second, Civilization Makes Me Lonely, was chosen by Anne Boyer for the Sawtooth Prize and will appear from Ahsahta Press in March 2017. Nelson is currently an Assistant Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism at School of the Art Institute of Chicago.