Jennifer Gresham



He was as entranced with the perfect helix
of her hair as he was with the tectonics
of her breast. He adored how she flushed
each time he said parasympathetic.

She was the lemon, he the copper wire.

The days he circled in lonely orbits
around girls as beautiful and terrible
as black holes now seemed like a dream,
one he could dissect with pushpin
labels: the heart of ridicule, empty stomach
of Friday nights, the squiggly entrails
of disappointment. Something learned
and now stored away, allowing him to transcend
the normal laws of high school, to distill
something pure.



We held his heart in our hands,
passed it from one to another in wonder.
His was a heart you could see through,
understand. Caught mid-motion,
like a taxidermist’s snarl or a painter’s salmon
swimming upstream, the heart looked
nothing like its caricature: the arch of the aorta,
the imaginary flux from atrium to ventricle
and out. Valves blew open as curtains
in a light breeze.

The heart was hard, heavier than we expected.
The detail, down to the ridges and weave
of the great cardiac vein and the
left anterior descending coronary artery,
took our breath away.

Hot glass looks like cold glass, he warned us.
We were years away from this kind
of skill, our unscarred hands said we were young.
We wanted to be men not afraid
to make a thing so delicate, but there was
so much we didn’t know about hearts and the life
we could breathe into them.

Judy Jashinsky
The Sea

see more work by
Judy Jashinksy



At first, he couldn’t bear to see its glow—
no more a beacon, but a warning light
for dreams gone wrong. His wife reminded him
he was lucky to be alive. All that
he’d missed aboard the ship had lost its charm:
crickets hissed their lines of broken song,
his children curled in sleep, oblivious
to how even the palest lights can blind.

He said she couldn’t know his pain, but she
watched him each night, the telescope nestled
against his tired eye. He hardly slept.
They became a family of over-
lapping orbits. The Earth and all its din
escaped him. And when he spun away
from her concern, she glimpsed the dark side
he’d kept hidden, the heart of what loomed
between them, larger than she’d ever imagined.


Month after month, we charted the falling
stars of my womb, the wishes unfulfilled.
I could almost convince myself
this was science – some variation
of harmonic oscillation, tuning fork
of your tongue exciting
a chain reaction, cascade of chemicals,
Newton’s law of two moving bodies confirmed.

Our Catholic friends swore
by the method, even as their families grew.
We reasoned the reverse should apply
and so the calendar became our instrument,
each day crystal and half full
of promise, wet fingers racing
around the edges, the hours, the lights
of my body scaling from red
to yellow to green. Although you made
my fallopian strings sing, we still waited
for the choir’s answering crescendo.

Your antenna tuned to my finely timed
orbits, we became eager astronomers
sending carefully crafted messages
into the deep, outer space of union,
listening for the songs and sounds of life.
Tell me, how can a space be so empty?



Like all couples, we have our ups
and downs, but the fundamental attraction
remains constant. Inseparable,
we love each other’s shadow, people
call us reclusive. Who needs them.
We dance to songs so old
there’s only a needle in a naked groove,
like random clicks from a Geiger counter.
Every dinner is candle lit and we’re never
embarrassed to hold hands in public.
We watch the home movies of our first meeting,
that white hot explosion of emotion,
followed by the countless nights I drifted
through space unaware of the passage of time,
secure in your embrace. When we finally settled,
the mat outside the front door read
Happily Ever After. For who better than us
would know desire cannot be destroyed?



Jennifer Gresham receieved a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Maryland. She currently works as a grants manager for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Gargoyle, The Atlanta Review, and MARGIE, among others. She is the author of two collections: Explaining Relativity to the Cat, a chapbook from Pudding House Press, and Diary of a Cell, winner of the 2004 Steel Toe Books Poetry Prize, judged by Charles Harper Webb.

She writes: “Scientists know that the quest to understand the world around us is creative at its heart. It's the desire to communicate our wonder and excitement at the unfolding secrets of the natural world that makes poetry a natural extension of science. As the Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard P. Feynman said: ‘It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it.’”


Published in Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 2007.