The Tower Journal

 Jessica Purdy

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

The ocean borders this thin strip of bony arm.
Ospreys work the currents of sky, dive
the vortex into its dim dime shine.
What is overarching, deeper, higher,
the raptors’ sleek bodies steal,
slip their feathers between breezes,
make this vast world small.
Their solitary journey south starts suddenly,
over the Straits of Florida to South America
and back again where they mate for life.
Nests high atop man-made boxes survey
Wychmere Harbor’s ruffled water, patterned with boats
whose masts clang with metal sea sound.
One waits, the other vaults into the air and, screeching,
searches the shift of layered fathoms, the great metallic
sheen, and the black jutting jetty,
a backbone dividing the safe from the rough.

A transitory gray overhead as on our wedding day
where all our guests believed in promises…
But down in the matter of the poet’s mind,
like a tattoo pen’s staccato spirals,
fear stitches its itchy thread.
Our child, that scratched up gem—each day readies
to migrate away from the magnetic light of home.


             For Mark DeCarteret

I come upon a scene in the dark on the road home
after feeding your cat as you recover.
A deer in the middle of the road looks as if it’s resting
settling down to sleep maybe, but then I see the blood,
greasy as black oil in my headlights,

and a woman pulled over on her phone.
I stop and ask if she’s all right
thinking she must be the one who hit the deer
but no, she’s only the one calling the police

whoever did hit the deer is gone
and all the people and cars pulling over
are a microcosm of a world
that illuminates suffering and dying.

The blue lights come—
their order-inducing panic—
the officer steps out
draws his weapon,
says nothing.

I think he hates this
I can tell by the way
he aims, checks, aims again
so he won’t miss and cause more pain.

I cover my ears and the shot
is nothing I can prepare for;
the deer’s head simply drops hard
the plumes of breath that had been vapor
dissipate, dissolve into the air

like the cars and people who soon leave
the road in darkness
the culprit just one of the bad in all this good.


They’ve hired a body language expert
to interpret my dreams
of other women handing me their sickly babies
and being able to nurse again.
In pity, my breasts recall the twinge and spurt
but I wake up dry.

They’ve hired a handwriting expert
to analyze the cuneiform
on the walls of my uterus.
My son said he saw wolves in there.
I don’t imagine this was a good experience.
I visualize it cut out and discarded.

My daughter asked if I could still give her a sister.
That she feels this as something missing saddens me.
What’s worse, at twelve, she’s begun
to ask me why her hips are so narrow.

For proof that women are real
I look at Tintoretto’s Origin of the Milky Way.
Juno’s breast milk sprays past baby Hercules—
denies him immortality—
as if its propulsion is what rockets her to the heavens,
keeps her painted flesh suspended there.

Oh, but the stars her milk births,
and the lilies of the earth
experts agree were cut from the canvas—
as if proof of their existence
depends upon their disappearance. 

Midsummer Murder Suicide

Thunder drums the vellum sky.
The treetops serrated edge, incised,
like writing down to the wood
of the kitchen table where they ate.

A white moth bumbles through
the chain link, plaits the air.
The dragonfly alights, stays.
Spider webs soften the porch corners.

The annuals, leggier now than in May
the light somehow lighter
more seared with clarity and slanted shadow
like an etching left too long in acid.

Slice of pool blue,
tangerine slash of shade,
fiery lilies curl open, close,
like a hand that signals shut up.

Leaves like fish of the air
torn with bullet silver.
Cars with no one to drive them
abandoned in the driveway.

The news in the neighborhood.
Two helicopters circle.
A man who killed a woman is dead.
The curtains are all closed.

The porch light burns absurdly
through this eternal daylight.
Cryptic glyphs, each burned-out
blade of our doomed lawns.

Copyright © 2018 Jessica Purdy

Jessica Purdy teaches Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University. Her work can be found in many small press magazines, such as Café Review, The Ekphrastic Review and Literary Mama to name just a few. In 2014, she was nominated for Best New Poets and Best of the Net. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. Her two books are Learning the Names (Finishing Line Press) and Starland (Nixes Mate) She lives in Exeter, New Hampshire.

The Tower Journal
Summer 2018