December 21, 2020

Jessica Goodfellow


A feather’s architecture is a mystery
to a fish whose mosaic of scales would be-
fuddle buffalo. Alluvial allegiance & blue
swamp swagger, you could make your home
in time if place didn’t matter, but it does.
Ask anyone who’s been in a plane struck
by lightning, or a body blindfolded by eight-
minute-old sunlight. “Time and again,” my father
used to say & if what he meant by again wasn’t place, 
then what was it? The skin that comes between us 
like a scale or a feather, like a father or the weather, 
is it place or is it time, this foreign skin of yours, 
because I thought that it was place until it disappeared 
and then it seemed like time, as centerless as time.

from Rattle #69, Fall 2020


Jessica Goodfellow: “This poem came from the exact experience you’d think it had: looking at a feather and wondering how it would be perceived by creatures who’d never come across a bird. I live in a country not my own; I don’t think this is unrelated to my errant thoughts.” (web)

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November 9, 2019

Jessica Goodfellow


Tools of antiquity—the compass, the straight edge—
could not square the circle, couldn’t tame
its numberless sides. Arcs, curves, chords
of circles remain, tracing hollows of shells,
clawed waves, parabolas of sand. See
how matter curves around the emptiness,
how it cups and gently holds
the space where things are absent.
Matter buckles and spirals around it,
proving what is missing is more potent
than what isn’t.

Matter aches to escape the discipline of being.
Creation longs to possess the freedom
from being a thing begotten. Even babies
in their mothers’ wombs lie curled,
crouched around the swell of the primordial.
Straight or curved, tools cannot measure
what it means to be, after all this time,
still nascent, beholden to what
you can never know.
Armless, legless, a seahorse
unrolls his tail, reels it in endlessly
bobbing and straining in the tides.

from Rattle #23, Summer 2005


Jessica Goodfellow: “George Russell once told the young James Joyce, ‘You have not enough chaos in you to make a world.’ Russell was wrong of course. As for me, I have only enough chaos for the odd poem now and again, but it’s all the chaos I can handle, and the only way I know of handling it.” (web)

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November 22, 2015

Jessica Goodfellow


For preservation, some say salt. Some say ice.

A deer bounds across a meadow, balancing
its bone chandelier: ice.

There are lakes which have islands
which have lakes: ice.

In Wakayama, crows are worshipped
as gods: salt.

Venus rotates backwards, and slowly,
dizzy with the counterclockwise logic of desire.
A day there is longer than a year: salt.

The Japanese have more than 50 words for rain: ice.

Why everyone hates mimes: salt.

When we say refugee crisis, we mean the sum of the parts
refuses to be whole: salt on ice.

The frosted window panes of memory,
the brackish leakages of longing—

whichever sibling dies, it’s the wrong one.

Poets Respond
November 22, 2015

[download audio]


Jessica Goodfellow: “This poem is about one human being looking at another human being, and denying her refuge. It’s about the dichotomy of classifications (not my nationality, not my religion) that allow that to happen. I began with Robert Frost’s “Some say the world will end in fire, Some say ice.” and turning that around to consider the dichotomy of items that preserve rather than destroy, or ought to. But do they? And how arbitrary are the dichotomies we cling to. And what do they perpetuate?” (website)

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March 24, 2015

Jessica Goodfellow


In my dreams my uncle rides
the glacier like a surfboard,
arms wide open like a savior.

If he had lived, he might have
saved my childhood. He dismounts
the mountain, astonished to see me

no longer two years old and mittened,
hands hobbled by love. I’m sorry, I say.
We almost never speak of you.

It’s okay, he says. A snowman is a man
built of snow. A snow angel is made
by taking snow away.

from Rattle #46, Winter 2014


Jessica Goodfellow: “Poetry unmuddles my muddled thoughts and muddles my clear ones. My current project is writing based on the loss of my mother’s only brother on Denali in 1967, in one of the worst mountain-climbing accidents in U.S. history. We hardly talk about this tragedy in our family; by doing so I am both muddling and unmuddling our feelings and fears.” (web)


Jessica Goodfellow is the guest on Rattlecast #63! Click here to watch …

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