Jessica Haney


From the series Census 2000: Cincinnati Poems

I look down on the highway
from my third-floor balcony,
and out at polluting gray
smoke stacks of factories

that turn out personal effects
like shampoo and toothpaste.
I obsess about birth defects
from the sweet Seagram’s haze

in a different flavor every week.
The freight trains below make a ching sound
that almost makes me ignore the cheap
products they’re transporting all around

the country. When I get to the ground floor,
I brace my lungs for stale sewer air
hanging in pockets near the front door
where kids play on an abandoned chair

one week, and later it’s a full-sized couch
sitting out with no hesitation.
Then just before the corner, I slouch
past wilted, rejected carnations.

Their buds feel like bird brains as I crush them
under my shoe, but can’t make out the name
of the woman who tossed down the stems
or perhaps didn’t come home to claim

her gift on the sidewalk. I head up the hill
where cars rush past down or drag going up.
Across the yellow line, heads of daffodils
nod toward me and toward, on the ground, a B-cup

blue satin bra that’s persisted under the snow
with wrappers, cigarettes, Chinese food boxes,
and the ripped lampshade stuck in the woods down below
the cattail patch. But back up where the bra is

and remains for weeks, I pause and I wonder
if the breasts that filled it were winter translucent
or if brown skin was held tight with its under-
wire, and of course, I imagine just why it was sent

out of a car window. I worry about her.
I think of my students, invent crazy reasons.
I find myself feeling sad once I’m sure
that the bra is gone with the first mow of the season.


Jessica Haney
holds an M.A. in English and an M.A. in women’s studies from the University of Cincinnati. Until the birth of her son in 2006, Jessica taught English and advised the literary magazine at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, where she also wrote curriculum and worked on issues of diversity in advanced classes. A native of Michigan and graduate of Kalamazoo College, Jessica is a member of the Bethesda Writer’s Center and has had poems published in Earth’s Daughters and Court Green.

Published in Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 2007.