Poem of the Week | November 04, 2019

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Jaybirds” by Kathleen Balma!

Kathleen Balma is a Fulbright fellow and the author of Gallimaufry & Farrago (Finishing Line Press, 2018) a poetry chapbook. Her poems have appeared in the Montreal International Poetry Prize Anthology, the Pushcart Prize Anthology, Spillway, Sugar House Review, and elsewhere. Formerly a resident of Spain and Australia, she found her home in New Orleans.




If someone is denuded, shouldn’t that mean they are clad?
This word is a wrong locution, a shame to itself.
It should stand for an act of dressing, a stripping away
of nudity. Misleading, too, in Spanish, desnuda could do
as Italian does: just take that prefix right off.
I clothed myself in public after a striptease once.
I stood in an unlit spot, far from the stage where all eyes
should have gazed because Raven was there, nuding herself.
I costumed in slow motion, partly for the luxury.
Garments cinched, I looked for Ahmed and Fouad.
They were playing pool in overalls. I crossed the room.
Along the way a man stretched out his arm, gave me
a dollar. This is going to sound strange, he said,
but the sexiest thing I’ve seen is you getting dressed.
If you’re offended on my behalf, deoffend thyself.
A dollar is as much as some can give, and my business
was to inspire such comments—odd but honest work.
The naked get paid, the clothed leave broke, and none lose face,
until someone outside this place exposes us.


Author’s Note

“Jaybirds” is part of a series of memoir poems that I’ve been allowing myself to write after fifteen years of working almost entirely from the imagination. Publishing these new poems is terrifying. Telling the world that they are memoir is, too, but I’m worn out from hiding long chapters of my life in order to conform to an idea of respectability that I have never really believed in. I’m also tired of not finding poems about people with histories like mine.