Jill Chmelko received a BA in English/Writing Arts from SUNY Oswego and a BFA in Visual Arts/Photography from Boise State University. Her work has appeared in Out of Stock, Timshel, and The Citron Review. Currently, Jill is the Communications Specialist for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Boise State. She loves reading, tap dancing, karaoke, and cheese.
She used to be the Editor-in-Chief to the Great Lake Review from Fall 1996 through Spring1998 and was involved in the GLR before then. She graciously recommended three poems for us to highlight.
Sestina for Sadness by amie s. arnold | Fall 1996
minneapolis, dec. 16, 1956 by joel b. boyce | Fall 1996
Who Had the Strength to Sew Me In by Andrew McIlwraith | Spring 1998
Comments by Jill - "I'm a sucker for sestinas, and this one shifts deftly and darkly"
The bugs escape in shadows, crawl in hollow
corners and yield to light, but wake in my sleep
to slither out of hung pictures and rings
of dirt in the bathtub. Around circles
the bodies falling drunken in drains to wash
with hair I brush into the basin. I gaze
into the mirror holding a brush, I gaze
and brush with thoughts as tangled as hair, hollow
and brown as a bug sinking into knots I wash
away. The bugs dance and I cannot sleep;
the noise of light and sound flash, the circle
of thoughts too vivid to keep or kill, the ring
of television drowning silence, ringing
desperate to be heard, a sound. I gaze
into the mirror, let the brush circle
the sink and clatter down, making a hollow
echo. The noises I make protect my sleep,
distracting silence that swallows, washing
over the emptiness, the hole, washes
over the place you laid into rings
of dust, of dissolved dreams put to sleep.
I am filthy with matted hair, I gaze
into the mirror until my figure hollows,
becomes ghostly and haunted, dances, circles,
and separates. I cannot brush the circle
of regret falling into the basin. I wash
away the bugs and drown down hollow
drains of dreams dissolved, I rise from rings
of dirt in the bathtub. Around I gaze
and drunken fall from drains into sleep.
The noise in water parts, recedes, I sleep.
The water in the basin swirls in circles,
the thoughts in silence slips from fingers. I gaze
in darkness turning into light, I wash
the night into day. With the bugs in rings
I silently wake from my icy hollow
The day falls and I sleep, the light washes
the dark circle of emptiness in rings.
In night I gaze in bug's eyes hollow.
Comments by Jill - This piece stirs like a simmering jazz riff.
one and a two and a three
and we're grovin'
in smoky darkness.
liquor and laughter
and sweaty bodies
grindin' in salty
darkness. sin and gin
and bodies bubblin' in
the dim-lit dark.
we opened at
the second hippest
jazz joint in town.
the key club,
a black and tan club
a night club for whole
and half notes. they're
sittin' and drinkin'
and dancin' and smokin'
and listenin' in front
of the bandstand like
notes on sheet music,
lettin' the music
turn the page. nuthin' but
half and whole notes
being fused together by
the beauty of music.
cymbols were tappin'
people were clappin'
and i was working hard
for my bread. gigs
seven nights, for five
weeks straight. and
i was workin' hard for
eighty five dollars
a week, tax free.
more money than i
had made at one time.
and the ladies were fine,
and i knew who i'd
be takin' home with me by
the end of the night.
and then there were
the shake dancers.
we played behind
black velvet and
the body beautiful
their half naked
under the light like
bright jewels, precious
black jewels and they
were music in flesh.
sun goddesses dancin' in
shakin' tits and ass
like the ten cent
vibratin' beds in the
roach motels we stayed in.
Comments by Jill - I'm moved by the quiet power of this poem's imagery and language.
My playroom spector is here,
A teasing childhood shadow
whispering rhyme and riddle
and pulling fine hair from a fair arm.
Speech sprays violently
from some discreet corner of this place.
Battered or only pinched by it,
I choke on thought.
Forehead scar a hateful symbol
of careless question mark placement;
I'm stitched to cement walls with twine
and sweating with indetermination.
Who had the strength to sew me in,
The strength and the tender dexterity of grandmothers?
And is my will lost
in the cracked grey linoleum below me?
Or scattered like the toys
of a wailing child possessed by tantrum?