Poetry: Two Poems by I.S. Jones


I lay on the exam table & the doctor injects my left arm with three ccs of Lidocaine.
Asks me how I know the precise measurement. I’ve been here before.
Every three years, I am cut open & renew this covenant with my body.

What was panic, has become ritual: to replace my small savior,
size of a matchstick, & open for its successor. We wait
for the Lidocaine to spread its veil from the needle’s circumference.

First a pinch then the fluid enters me. I tell my doctor pain
is less impressive when you surrender to its whim. Like being trapped in a car
headed for collision, how it’s best to relax the muscles

to avoid more damage. Or the day I forfeited my virginity
to my boyfriend who was too old for a high school senior,
splitting bliss like The Spirit overtaking me.

Crimson stain pressed to his bed, proof of my indiscretion.
I was eager to enter the tribe of girlhood, to gossip about sex & the pain of it—
how I believed becoming a woman meant wielding my body like a blade into a lover.

A scalpel drags its silent note across my inner arm & she distracts me:

                 When was your last period?

Once, the body held inside all its questions & presented on
to me a clot so luminous, I thought it could be alive.

                 How long have you been on this birth control?

Since M– pressured me into it. M– slipped a disk in their back
& said they couldn’t feel anything. Their pleasure, my burden,
a body is opened for each foreign defender it came to mutiny—

pills that voided my stomach. Weeping & bloating. Spells of rage.
Food tasting like gravel. I wanted what any woman wants: protection & pleasure.
I sought out a small savior adorned in white. A wet opening of the body’s first secret,

a lover slips a finger inside me and something in them is undone.
Work cream stains my inner thigh. They tell me my pussy is beautiful.
I tell myself one day they’ll notice I don’t move when they touch me.

It’s not out yet, there’s some blood in the way. It’s a little stuck.

The doctor rummages inside my skin’s pocket,
three years of red tissue anchored its protector in place.

                 Do you want children someday?

I am the age my mother was when she had my sister & I.
In her girlhood, she wanted a big family & a bigger house
to keep everyone in. Then she met my father & the window of her life

closed. Body of doors, I have loved others with a rough sweetness
& moved with you as though your machinery was something to be ashamed of.
I have fucked people I know I would never want children from.

I thought by now I would be rooted by clarity,
certain that I would want a cooing face staring back at me,
but I am nearly 30 & finally belong to myself.

I admit I am selfish with a freedom that I fear arrived late.
And once I did want the dream of domesticity. I weep
to my therapist that I dreamed of a lover on a train platform

& the face of a little girl—half mine, half the moon.
The doctor pulls me back into the room, tugging at my arm, until at last,
she unsheathes the small wand & lifts it into the light, as if birthed from my arm.

She asks me if I want to watch her put a new one in. Truth is I can never bare to
witness my blood’s eagerness to depart from me. A new instrument is wrestled under my skin.
I feel nothing, just a roving in the distance, like shadows in dense fog.

It’s finished. The bandage closing its reach over the wound.

Kitchen Work

I used to believe it was a conjuring: three clicks—
fire and its seven tongues lapping from the stove top,
bubbles rise from the metal floor and begin is rhythmic churning.
Mommy says to cook, you must bring together everything you love:
olive oil        onion        garlic        tomatoes        basil        sprig of thyme
The tongue can tell what is fresh from what is left petrified in the fridge.
I grind fresh habaneros and the labor pickles my eyes red.
Maybe I’m not the flower bearer but I am a romantic. Once I opened my heart
and now I cut my garlic fresh. Outside this kitchen,
my hands are an omen, red blade, legacy of moral surrender.
But here my hands are alchemical: fish flank in the pan, I say I love you,
I need you to survive with my hands
and no one goes hungry in my house.
Mommy teaches me clean a fish: In the neck’s opening
pull out the fish’s red accordion        open its hull with a blade
unburden the fish of its organs like some macabre celebration.
Red sky in the afternoon, red sky stirring in my pot, I make my stew slow.
Each of us knows a recipe for poison. I know my sister is allergic to peanut oil.
I consider the red accordion in her throat, her hands clawing, as any animal would,
for air. I consider the alchemy of the oil churning through her body,
the invader moving like shadows in her blood. Her blood revolting
into the color of winter. I put my dreams back in the cupboard.
I cut my sister a bowl of blood oranges, her mouth gleaming
a warning in the light.

About I.S. Jones

I.S. Jones is a queer American Nigerian poet and music journalist. She is a Graduate Fellow with The Watering Hole and holds fellowships from Callaloo, BOAAT Writer’s Retreat, and Brooklyn Poets. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in GuernicaWashington Square ReviewHayden’s Ferry ReviewHobart Pulp, The RumpusThe OffingShade Literary Arts, Blood Orange Review and elsewhere. Her work was chosen by Khadijah Queen as a finalist for the 2020 Sublingua Prize for Poetry. She is an MFA candidate in Poetry at UW–Madison as well as the Inaugural 2019­­–2020 Kemper K. Knapp University Fellowship recipient. Her chapbook Spells Of My Name is forthcoming with Newfound in 2021.