Three Poems – Jill Khoury

“The Entire City” (1934) Max Ernst

Turncoat Erotica
after Kurt Weston’s Reticulation

I swallowed broken
glass to get here.

[Here is subjective.]

What I mean is
I rubbed vaseline

over my torso and scraped

myself along asphalt
to forget you.

After that I was pebbled,

gelid, licked. I can breathe 
under water; love me.


The sun lowers itself 
through a chemical cloudstack
faster than my rate of breathing.

Light drips across the mouths 
of angel statues. Sloughs off 
the backs of dead war heroes. 

All treetops tip toward me.
Someone takes a big bite 
of the street vendor’s wares.

I have a head full of. 
That I can’t get rid of. 
I scratch out tiny messages

with my fingernail and
then delete them.
There’s a vacant tree.

Deep ribs in the bark. I can push 
my finger in between each furrow.
I want to lie down with you here. 

I want you to cradle my husk.
It’s a slog, loving me. You can rest now.
Speak nothings into my receding eyes.

After Max Ernst’s The Entire City

I stand at the base of it; my feet crack dry branches or long bones. A treebranch 
hand could span my head, cradle each cheekbone between ring finger and index. 
Wild flowers come up in unlikely clots. I look at my feet, tell myself it’s just 
trees and vegetal rot. Somehow the grass has begun to grow over me, or I have 
started to sink into the soil.

To reach the top will be a long shallow climb. The walls are bricked like 
honeycomb. Their tops reach above my head. One needs faith, or a clew. The 
dead city is paved, ornamented, with bones, shaped so small I can’t reckon 
them, scaffolding a monument to what was human. It is already too late to 
reverse my path.

The center is a metaphor. Its crag almost touches the moon, perfect disc in a 
briny noise of sky. It might be morning soon. I circumnavigate the final ruin 
instead of entering. The wind says, ah, decay, ah, decay. Some walls have 
been sheared into dust. A buzz heats up from around my ankles. The grass 
has turned to a thousand red tongues. They have noticed me stepping. All try 
to speak at once. They beetle at me, discord of clacking. I hear a sound, 
monstrous inside me, breaking through, answering back.

About Jill Khoury

Jill Khoury is interested in the intersection of poetry, visual art, representations of gender, and disability. She holds an MFA from The Ohio State University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, including Arsenic Lobster, Copper Nickel, Inter|rupture, and Portland Review. She edits Rogue Agent, a journal of embodied poetry and art. Her chapbook Borrowed Bodies was released from Pudding House Press in 2009. Her first full-length collection, Suites for the Modern Dancer, is forthcoming from Sundress Publications in 2016. You can find her at View all posts by Jill Khoury

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