Jennifer Wrisley

Grace is the egret, whose legs stream behind
like thin ropes when flying, whose thick
white tendril of neck curls back. They are beings
of another world of  blue. When they land,
they are different birds altogether
(as grace must become different
when it alights upon earth)
their legs snap into angles for stalking.
We’re told Grace has something

to do with mercy,

and those legs, in their stalking, their military
finesse, and the plunge of the head
into murky waters, and the frog in the beak,
four legs jerking on either side.
How hard to keep looking.
The little frog legs, the little legs twitching. Feebly,
now, like a beetle’s, stuck on its back. And now
the bird’s swift slug and the lump in the throat.
How hard to keep looking, as it is hard

to look the beggar in the eyes,

even if we fill his cup.
Grace is the egret, whose legs stream behind
like thin ropes when flying.
Now the egret has caught a green-yellow fish: glinting,
sparkling, as the thick muscle of its body thrashes.
It is hard to keep looking. It is hard

to look, as it is hard to look at our meat

before the first bite, and imagine,

for a moment, the great beast

it once was, how it lived.

Whip-whip, glinting, and the egret tries to swallow,
scarlet on the beak, but the fish won’t hold still.
It is hard to keep looking, as it is hard

to stare at the photos in the papers,

of the cities we’ve destroyed,

the twisted faces of grief.

Grace is the egret, whose legs stream behind
like thin ropes when flying.
Or maybe, grace is the act of looking
when the head wants to turn. Grace in the sky,
and grace on earth: on earth, sometimes, it is
wanting the truth, and this, a small act of mercy.


Weeks of over one hundred degrees.
The gecko stops to flash a pink tongue
into  a drop of water I’ve spilt
before fleeing.
The slow surrender of green
and the textures of that color–
everything scratches, cracks, burns.
The mind as parched as the rows
of dead maize, and flammable.
The season of dull, aimless anger
and terrible desire.
We want each other and we want
each other, but conversations
are only kindling for future rages.


The crabby, heat-dazed duck chips
her own egg, so I steal it,
warm it, shine a flashlight
through the shell daily to watch two
webbed feet kick against the glow.
Then one day they are still.

So I crack him out of his liquid world,
where he floated, boneless, his gummy
little wings and feet, his Buddha belly
unsupported by a spine. Eyes that seem
to know, and a pliant bill that smiles.

I swear:
That smile was positively sublime.
The smile of the unborn, the uncalcified.


I swear the first garden was under water.
A liquid world. I swear Adam and Eve
had no bones, they floated, weightless
and gummy, I swear they spoke a liquid
language. Words of water, with taste:
Adam said Love, and it was this Eve took,
the briney sweet, and when they were cast ashore,
their new bones creaked and ached,
they felt their bodies become heavy
with knowledge and calcium,
they labored up the beach
as the brilliant sun stole
the last drops of innocence
off their backs. They looked at one
another and did not know
the other as they had thought,
but they knew they wanted.
And in their mouths, the first thirst.
The land was dry, and hot.

Jennifer Wrisley was in the MFA program at Texas State University. Her work is forthcoming in Copper Nickel and has appeared in Smartish Pace.

On February 26th, 2010, Jennie took her own life after suffering from chronic pain and seizures for years. She was naturally beautiful in body, mind, and spirit, and she is greatly missed by her family and friends. Jennie was thirty years old.