top of page

[Poetry] Woman, 41 by Jessica Piazza

Elegy, 2020

Inside, the clocks are everywhere. They tear

at the thought that there isn’t time, that time

is no more, that I’m not anywhere. I fight with him.

I work. I cook. Look up, it’s noon. It’s night. Lock up.

The door’s right here, and no one knocks.

The door’s right there; I can’t go through.

A mask, a glove, the air, the flu, the pollen,

fear, the always here, the noise. A group

of boys heads toward me on my walk. I balk.

The ground is scrawled with children’s chalk.

Flash bang grenade. I close the shades. Alone now,

scour news. Hit snooze. Hit booze again.

My friends can’t breathe. Can’t breathe around my friends.

This reckoning’s the sum of our million sins.

Woman, 41

Her years have been prism and primal.

Her decades a prayer to tackle.

Her summer woes like line-dried

clothes, stiff but the promise of supple.

Her springtime flings, the crackling

of leaves; like confetti, but better for compost.

Her lovers: a field of teeth, all colors.

The biting they’ve done: through cheeses

that yield, marrow they teethed when they

cracked sallow bones. For her, just the

tongue, the cove of their ears, the lone,

salted taste of their many-hued skins.

The life she sought was a hole in the dirt;

she thought maybe she’d fall in and die there.

But she made it a well, its groundwater glacial.

A meltdown, an ease. She dug. Said please.

The biting of frost undid the trees

and under its grieving the shoots came.

She knew no hell but the flooding of seas.

Sorted her losses, untangled weeds.

She knew no hell but incessant months.

Then seven years, held down by a mouth.

So much time, just to learn to breathe.

She stretches, ages, spreads her knees.

Her days are reaping the rows from those

seeds. Her heart, a silo. Her body, a plough.

No more hells. No more vows.

Just the hope all shall be well now.

Woman, 41

: poisoned at the roots.

Losing everything but weight.

Waiting impatiently. Left. Bereft.

Broken-legged and -hearted.

Biblically bad-lucked.

Barrenish. Bleeding for no

reason. Baroness of boredom.

Royally fucked over. Regularly

fucked, and well. Trussed and

braced. Lusting, but why?

Without embrace. Plucked

from safety, hurt most by

her trusted. No fun.

Overworked. Undone

-by nuptials

-by functional irrelevance

-by thirty-seven kids whose essays still need grading

-by all this wading through the past:

What was real?

Where is the lie?

No explanation, alibi, no why.

Plied. Haunted. Goodbyed.

Meticulously revising her latest version

of the truth: this life was never really

hers. It belongs to the previous

occupant, the woman she once

was. The stranger she was before

this wrecked and reckless woman, 41.

Jessica Piazza is the author of three poetry collections, and a children’s book. Born and raised in Brooklyn, she now lives and works in Los Angeles as a writing professor at the University of Southern California and a book club facilitator for Literary Affairs. Jessica co-founded Bat City Review and Gold Line Press, and was the 2019 recipient of the Amy Clampitt residency award. Her poems have recently appeared in Best American Poetry, The Cincinnati Review and The Baltimore Review.


bottom of page