Joanna C. Valente ~ Four Poems

My Vagina Will Be the Death of MeJoanna-c-Valente

In the morning a storm like breath
dimming in dread, twists like silver
around fingers, a bit too tight
so it leaves a mark, almost stops
blood but faintly quivers back–

larger like smoke from a house
fire–blacker–heavier like
colonial brick. Part of surviving
is to keep moving, grow up
& ignore the distance where

dogs sometimes bark–most
people will try to write a novel
without using their hands, praying
to a sack of human bones dug up
in the sand, asks WebMD if

we’re hypochondriacs, if a man’s
hand at the base of a woman’s
vulva is haunted with alien symbols,
is a weapon salting infertility,
is an abandoned Victorian decomposing

in Louisiana heat, his hand over
her mouth stales her desire for
anything, her mind sets an ultimatum:
Heaven or Brooklyn? When she
gets home she tweets #StruggleCity

& cuts an apple like sun lighting
the holes between maple branches,
a voice wafting a million years homeless
like burning garbage the shape of
woman’s first body, a hole drilled down

the middle of a long damaged earth.

Mother in Law

Describe adulthood
Most things mean nothing

What is your favorite time of day?
A separate reality
Coming into being
Silverish & freezing
As a foul abandoned
By it’s mother & tasting
Fresh cherries for the
First time

Have you seen the dead?
What can’t the body do?

What was the first word you spoke?
A shed in the woods holds
Roots deep as the sky
But not the heart

Sometimes ghosts eat the hands
Of the living
Covering their tongues
In decadent moonlike mystery
Masked as worship

Driving to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring
They did the math: the road was torn up & underneath the roads,
there were cities where boats dug at sand, where sailors wanted to be
thrown head first. A lover told me poverty is like a swan—dangerous

but too beautiful to go unwanted. There were three sisters in that car looking out
the windows past the glass, wanting to get their money’s worth out
of every episode. They were surprised they were still on live syndication.

Before she died, their grandmother told them a love story: a man had come into
her parent’s restaurant in a navy suit & hair already the color of dust
& ordered a grilled cheese. He described three star-crossed lovers

who had gotten lost in a forest. They fell in love wrong like moths circling a dwarf star,
enveloped by rose thorns, each puncture a dead lover. Have you
ever made love before? he asked her. The rest was history.

They, too, wanted history. It was there in the middle of the street,
just passing the double-yellow lines. It stood with open arms & smiled
for the longest time. Reader, can you see the crush of their minutes?

Can you see their lame bodies?

Sunset Park

Every time I listen to D
in my car down route 80, I stand naked

as a fetus in the road
as a teen learning how to insert
a tampon for the first time.


Walking down 5th Ave in Sunset, I hear
the young boys in my gym class, again
say the word fags.

I remember the ring of ringing and all
the sounds ringing off the walls,
a broken phone.


Sometimes strangers undress me like a dog
in a pink raincoat, address attached.
Do I walk with my keys out like rusted nails?

Or do I pretend to talk on the phone,
bring someone with me as live pepper spray?

Or do I bomb my cunt until it floods out
teeth, a full stove?


In the azure light cutting jagged spaces
between the pine trees, your morning

hands are paint
brushes bursting with heavenly light, yellow
teeth sinking into white peaches, juice dripping out.

It is only this moment that stays.

Before your body begins to age
again, turning into something else—incomprehensible

to me like a child who hasn’t learned hot, who
learned death.

If your body could stay untouched by time
the word fag, the sound of betrayal
in the ocean beating as a clogged heart.


When I bring my hands back up,
they are covered in a white film—I
dug so far in the sand that I reached wind,

newly wet
on either side, identical trees lined
like guard dogs

stretching to the eyes’ eternity—
there is only a dark pinpricked cosmos,
a nothing worse than hell.

We live as if the earth is already dead.

© Joanna C. Valente

Joanna C. Valente is a human who received her MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press). Some of her work appears in The Paris-American, The Destroyer, The Atlas Review, El Aleph Press, La Fovea, The 22 Magazine, and others. In 2011, she received the American Society of Poet’s Prize. She founded and currently edits Yes, Poetry, and is the Copyeditor and a staff writer for Luna Luna Magazine. She resides in Brooklyn, New York. More can be found at