Poems by Janette Kennedy 2018

JANETTE KENNEDY, MAEd, MFA frequently dreams of multi-textured colors connecting people. Her poetry has appeared at Mothers Always Write and on the Tiferet Journal community blog. Ever since she wrote her education thesis on using comics in the classroom, she has been fascinated by the intersection of language and visual art. At present, she tutors students with diverse needs and lives with her family in Tennessee.


Stapled folds
tether a stretched out canvas
to a wooden frame
fibers sop up daily life,
textured pigment display.

But only for just now.

A knife plucks the staples
releases the canvas
to a crescent sail
swept up in swirling ascent,
so that as the rain comes,
we watch the wind paint the ether.

Rats in the Old Chapel

Rats in the old chapel, an antebellum core,
nibbled the tightly woven pile that mimics an old dirt floor,
scraped discarded pews and awkward stained glass images.

“Will you expunge me?” The old chapel requisitioned
the tempered grand windows of her new revision,
surrounded by brick that bats its eyelashes at the sun.

“There is so much to do, and you’re really only history.
Did you see the elegant woman, a picture of serenity
like an aquiline angel, down the steady slope to my sanctuary door?”

“Mildew’s infected the hymnal seams.
Lacing distant chants of prayers, rats scream
in the night. Their clicking claws beat out time.”

“Oh all right, we’ll set traps for your rats.” The grand church sighed
as sunlight streamed through the pillar shadow guides
dictating what would be lit.

Escaping through walls, the ground, and across vents
infiltrating shadowy crannies as they went,
the rats discovered new carpet smell.

Ode to a Gas Station Bathroom

So what is ugly,
but a speckled mirror in a gas station bathroom
transience framed by peeling caulk, and petroleum
infused morning sweat

Its the moment I could change,
if I dared, to drop layers of UV filtered glasses
and pus glazed contact lenses. I could step out
unhinge the door, let the mildew stains bleach
in the sun.

But alas, the gas station is not my own.
Tears slip from the faucet
pulling moldy slivers with them,
but still I embrace the flittering shadows
of what I see in the mirror.


Iridescent mica adorns the fine packed brick
that begins to bend beneath the heat from hands
worked out to form beautiful utility in the spin,
twirling zooms, solid ephemery yields
to the sculpting knife spilling wormy swirls.
Were I to envision the paths of each trail,
an artist watching a planet quicken between her hands,
kinetic energy bound into the life of minerals
water smooths the drying ledges and softens ridges,
but does not solve this thirst
for the clay is shaky today.

that morning

the stars’ last gasp dawned
she did not see the bend ahead
where blood-soaked newspapers
soon would lay
on the not yet dewy grass
their corners flicked
by a gusty wake
over a mangled bike

if only
a glint
or a flutter
or a falling cigarette lighter
had summoned her

Boulder Release

This morning’s
tossed safety
to the fire
reigned stalwart
beneath thick
air descends
rock again

in despair
I give up

stop to watch
road shift slips
brush leaning
wooden poles
in breezes
dance and drift

sweet wonder-
laced zephyr
gem-filled veins

after-rain scents
salt-lick tears

Afternoon Exhale

expectant gasp quicken
diesel engine scoff
brakes squeal to stop
children tumble off

little heads race home
the bus pulls away
afternoon waves
fall into play

all is ok

April by the Mississippi River

In carabiner creaks against a captive canteen, the lilting quarrel adorns each step through ridges of alternating saturated and caked mud like ancient tree rings that record each rainy season, how far the river widens this year unseen, overflowing seep loosens clay, a subterranean slow flow transcends the dark mapped region, beneath a dry perch until the sparkly genesis minerals soften and envelop.

A Lost Smith

What happens to the hatch
battened forge burning
still? What tools are set
aside as billows enflame
and lungs succumb?
When did you decide
to forego restless freedom
in a nighttime chill? Remaining
instead inside the smoky room,
can you ever dare to quench
the fire that comforts
and consumes?


Green painted pillow leaves
embossed glass pond
Nature filtered
Through the window
Architectural feat

There’s a snake curving
Along the pond’s edge
A wasp’s dying stagnant breath
Wings upraised, attack stance statue
An afternoon elicits sweat
From ripened dew
Muddy fingernails
Hay strewn hair
Sun swept skin
Poison oak grows on a forgotten field’s shaded border,
and dandelions fly
Beyond view


I walk the perimeter
bind up the shadow’s boundary
the crusty baked edges
of necessity,
groveling a step below hope

gasping above
what lies below
the growing shadow
the measures of small batch cupcakes
frosting falls
washed down the drain
because we are all sick of the sugar

but lurking forward
beyond my reach
choices are not my own
but will always be
the whole of me
as she bites in

My Name

My name means
god’s gracious gift,
like Joan of Arc, prophetic warrior
—sounds a bit much.

Except its not.
When absence comes,
I realize in the depths of a broken sky
this screaming puncture wound of light,
chaotic nebula mess,
is infinitely beautiful,
even if it is

An empty charred
frame tethers smokey prayers,
sweaty incense rises from groaning
joints, as cold overtakes,
I blow slowly,
determinedly on one lone ember,
and ashy flakes fly into my eyes
seeking one last bit
of burning grace.

Night Thoughts

Crepuscular drifts
brush canticles
in wind chimes
and breathy staccato sifts
chill, feather tickles.

Soft hands
add lavender honey
milk warmth
to tall bands
of percussive branches.

The coming storm
wrangles the night
scraping fondant
from a half-baked norm
spread across messy faces.

A New Wand

slices of dew
intricate grass shadows toss
back the daybreak light
and laugh in glinty grins
piercing polka-dots push
against logs, scaly
charred wet ash infiltrates whispers,
she reaches
into yesterday’s waste,
slips a knife along the verge
but leaves a scraggly blackened edge
to honor forging
a new wand.

Sleep, Once and Forever

Sleep done right
zoetrope adventures
through the night
means waking
body light.

Somewhere then
in three slow winks,
a body releases
soul over the brink.
Where does she go
as eternity slinks?


dreams awake
construct visions
of possibility

my feet, deep
in molten rock
my head, in giddy

failures fall.
forge forward,
Here is only.

Haiku by the pond

The fisherman’s arc
flies, then falls, purposely waits,
nourished by death’s grasp.


the cut bud lingers
dying slowly in water,
a ghost bloom,
going through the motions
even as petals
fall forward

The Evolution of Play

flip down, spin and swirl
figures lined up just so
scraped knees slide
frustrated cold running
chipped metal on hands
rules to bend, imagine
spectrum blurred reality
bookending school days
the only reason to finish anything
a purpose in life, “what if”
fashioning ways to keep the shadows at bay

restful release
enticing memory—connection
distraction, interaction
fluid norms
contorting hope into purposeful,
two colors emerge as life
settles into opposing ends
play and work
we totter somewhere in the middle
escaping the shadows
settling into the scratchy safe wool

convergent hurricane glass obscures
a brief oil lamp flicker
the remembrance of divergence
lifts the cage
turn the dial, raise the wick,
grow the flame,
transform the shadows


White Clouds
an adapted glosa

I thought those white clouds
were gathered around
some distant peak,
but already
they have risen between us

Ono No Komachi (Translated by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratini in Ink Dark Moon)

with challenged breath
pounding veins
we climbed
where blue sky
hides above
daylight moon unbowed
as if we could fly
over treetops
through the crowds
I thought those white clouds

couldn’t touch us
or the stories
we told in groups
fire lit drum circles
plucking the leaves
of books unbound
shapely quills
spilling eyes
ignoring warning sounds
were gathered around

the night
flicks through open
paths bending wafts
wind sliced fog
sluiced cotton
we seek
in ocean diving
clear water plunge
and banish the meek
to some distant peak

but already

silent creep sunlight
spectral dew adapts
flow in rain buckets
drown resting views
white terry cloth washes
collect remnants
of weeping willow walks
the memories coalesce,
they have risen between us.


mirrors manage
contrast of black and white
into brown

long neck sentry
while another picks,
prods web foot lilting lift
and smack down

Between Jobs

the bits
like balloon rain
drops bouncing
off in ecstasy
sharp sleet infirmity

the iron shell of a focused train barreling down the well-planned track

unfolds into wings
sails slicing sky,
open-air glider

or maybe
its an ocean
today and I, a clumsy submarine,
negotiate mines
tethered to the ocean floor

grasping for something
to give shape to the space
I travel through


roughly hewn beneath sleek stain,
forgotten stories integrated in grain become
my kitchen table

years of drought and plenty
trending the earth’s paths round the sun
support plates, laughter, and work
—the glitterstained glue fingerprint

that now I scrape with a fingernail
cutting my own small scratch
into the silent memory
that gracefully sits
roughly hewn
before me


Moss covers elbows and scraggly bends of bark
frame raw woodpecker holes. Resilience
grows over scars, branches criss-cross
the sky in a shade covered system.

Such trees don’t fall in just one night, it takes endless
days of rain to overwhelm the roots, persuade them
to release. Crashing splinters
create whole new habitats for earthworms
who had yet to taste the sky.

Chainsaws carve and grind
the stump, but not before we see
the hollows that hide within.

When the last behemoth
bit is flown away, the sun shakes
hands with its old friend, the ground,
germinating new seedlings.


step off
faces follow
knees bend
I walk on through

that room and the next one
the train has passed
over worn out lines
I lay down the rumble,
and glide on through

my feet flit up
over the uncrushed grass
the clicking beetle feet
I fly on through

Sitting with you
the shadows flow
and before you speak
I catch a glimpse
of you.


Lavender Sky

Purple scent murmurs, lost
in blinding summer
cooked tar parking lots
rear-view mirror glare

I did forget
those whispers,
until a cloud
smothered the flame
so recently shared,

leaving two
slight figures
left to make the vacant sky
regain its lavender body.


Children cascade tumble
down itchy green bluffs,
ear over ear,
squeal over hair,
until alighting
in spins by too close cars zooming down riverside drive.

Breathless races
seek steep slope
again and again.
Dirty hands pull
spiky overgrown
ragweed, crushing
dandelions. Sparkling
eyes glitter the evening air pounding through lung ache.

Golden hues drip
into the river’s welter
whirl bluster of core
currents and side
eddies. Ribbons
whip past open ears carrying the pulse of bicycle clicks.

Loosened breath,
background bass,
attends an ancient
flute song that sees
churning tears
and blood-tinged
mud, growing the goo that festers, not yet rinsed in the sea.


ready to sink
into yesterday’s old news—
the follicle effusion
of tangled months,
releasing remnants of dreams,
still attached.

How to Build a Wall

away from this dark spring
where angels seek their recompense
where it hurts to heal
and guilty are the oblivious

dig big holes into the ground

“Something hurts” the fires cry,
releasing blood into the sky

set the posts straight and tall

“something hurts” the smokes rise
and we cover our eyes so they don’t tear up
because in the end its all really too much
and everybody hurts anyway

let the cement harden around them

“something hurts” so off we go,
behind the walls to what we know
to shelter in our platitudes
and forget the rectitude
as if its already too late

wielding fire-forged iron nails

too late to cry
too late to look
too late to feel
so all that’s left is really thus:

fasten the wood impenetrable

and wonder why the sun forgot to rain

but if the walls succumb,
your bubble
might pop
you free

Crocodile Dreams

submerged sea blue sunlight entices
me above, water falls and leaves
glistening drops from an indigo surface
buried beneath a molten flame
—the night’s time capsule

I ride a crocodile into the sunrise
in the midst of gold glittery wave-peaks,
grip rough geometry-leathered edges
and face the fiery sky, for it is not the sparkles
but the rough back of the leviathan
that will measure me