Poem of the Week | December 12, 2022
“Infusions” by Jen Karetnick
This week’s Poem of the Week is “Infusions” by Jen Karetnick.
Jen Karetnick’s fourth full-length book is the 2021 CIPA EVVY Gold Medal winner The Burning Where Breath Used to Be (David Robert Books, 2020). Her work has won the Tiferet Writing Contest for Poetry, Hart Crane Memorial Prize, and Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize, among other honors, and received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Artists in Residence in the Everglades, and Maryland Transit Administration’s Purple Line Writers’ Program. The co-founder and managing editor of SWWIM Every Day, she has recent work in American Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, Cutthroat, Hamilton Stone Review, Notre Dame Review, and Ruminate. See jkaretnick.com.
after a double diagnosis
Vivid as conception, the needles spout proteins like
odes to the future, targeting functions so that they cease to
erupt with the fervor of patriots. But are these needles different
from any other? The ones that offer tiny sips of viruses?
The ones that pull Jean Valentine in her night train of
sky dreams that will now last forever? Here we have guts
as porous as the cork they yank from trees in southern Portugal,
planes of bark stripped from oaks once they turn 38 years, the trunks a
runway or a Brazilian vulva, they’re left that smooth. Here we have
circle after circle pockmarking vertebrae, sponging the sacred hump of
land between lumbar and femur. Here we must ask: Do we trust such rituals
again, that might damage more, that despite confirmation offer no nod?
This poem is about the week that my daughter and I were both diagnosed with chronic conditions. It so happens that the treatment for both disorders, which are radically different from each other, is injections. But there are no guarantees that either treatment will actually work for us. The other irony, if that’s even the right word, is that we were diagnosed during the part of the pandemic when the vaccines were just being released, and people were arguing fiercely about whether or not to get them, or if they’d even do any good. As immunocompromised people, we were, of course, very interested in these debates.
I wrote this piece in a self-invented form called an American sentence acrostic. The first word of each line, reading vertically, forms a 17-syllable American sentence, as defined by Allen Ginsberg. During the pandemic, I wrote 26 of these American sentence acrostics, one for each letter of the alphabet. This is (obviously, I suppose) for letter “I.” Now these poems comprise one section of my recently completed sixth full-length manuscript.
The second stanza refers to “Even All Night Long,” Jean Valentine, Break the Glass, 2010
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