Poetry

Poems by Kate Jennings

(1948–2021)

 

Once there was a way to get back home

For Djuna Barnes who wrote The Book of Repulsive Women

 

Thinking about home

and where it will be,

thinking about home,

preoccupied with thinking about home

and where will it be.

Where will it be?

For when a woman lives in awful haste/A woman dies.

 

A house,

comfortable and beautifully sequestered

with a garden, cats, cigarettes, dill pickles and gin.

Will it be home?

Can I make a home with myself?

Will it be home?

Dreams snagging and tangling my better judgement

because I know

over and over,

so well, so plaintively

once there was a way to get back home, once.

 

What has happened?

Puzzled,

why is home impossible?

I would make a home with you,

a man,

for a while, a sort of home,

touching you,

but it is constancy I wish and want.

I think I would wither if

there was no way to get back home, but

once there was a way to get back home, once.



Thinking about home

and thinking about the pain that men might feel.

I’ve not often thought about their pain,

not allowing myself that particular heresy

but wanting now

to except a few men while believing

they are all culpable, and their pain no pain.

What has happened?

Puzzled,

why is home impossible?

 

It has killed and is killing many of us,

this awful haste.

Slow down

and the men that made us and our haste,

kill them instead.

Giving up, surrendering with

thinking about home

and where will it be.

Content with terrorist fantasies and gin,

I’m knuckled under, and they are winning.

Where nothing came to take the place/of high hard cries.

 

 

 

All of a heap anywhere, Megara, Megara

 

Some poems fall anyhow,

all of a heap anywhere, dishevelled

legs apart in loneliness and

desperation

and you talk about standards.

                                  – Sylvia Kantarizis

 

 

Pick yourself up

and start over again

she said,

 

Instead I decided

to walk out on it all,

$100 in my pocket

and leave everything behind.

 

The only thing I wanted

to remember was my mother,

and that so, whenever

I found her

I could kill her.

Still blaming mummy

and not daddy.

 

I decided to call myself Megara.

I decided to work as a barmaid

or waitress in country towns,

and if anybody asked my surname

that, too, would be Megara.

 

Kate Jennings, you could have become

a daughter of

the earth and the shadow

but you knew the walls

and the waiting would be the same.



Instead, you’re picking yourself up

(laid on the shelf)

and starting over again,

Megara Megara,

I am crying over you and wondering

What you would have been like.

A laid on the shelf barmaid?

Sometimes one says this,

sometimes that and

the spirit bloweth whither it listeth.

 

The Titanic, after all,

was only going from one place

to another place.

I’ve seen that look before.

Is he running away from some woman?

No, he’s running too fast for that.

I love you. I love you

still.

 

                                        ****

 

but i became

a man a woman a person some frogs grow to a

large size the bullfrog of eastern north

africa grows to nearly eight inches from

snout to vent. 

 

These poems were the first and last poem in Kate Jennings’ first book, Come to me my melancholy baby (1975).

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 8, 2021 as "Kate Jennings (1948–2021)".

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Kate Jennings was a poet, novelist, memoirist, essayist, speechwriter and feminist.