Jessy Randall lives in Colorado Springs. Her poems, stories, and other things have appeared in Asimov’s, McSweeney’s, and Poetry. She is the author of several books, including, most recently, Suicide Hotline Hold Music (Red Hen Press, 2016) a collection of poems and comics. Her website is http://bit.ly/JessyRandall.
Annie Jump Cannon Cataloged Stars
Annie Jump Cannon
the work was tedious
the pay was terrible
but every day for forty years
she went to work
and held the universe together
Copyright 2018 .
First published in the journal Asimov’s, January 2018.
Annie Jump Cannon Goes Home from the Lab
She can't stop seeing them
black and white smears of stars
they look like throwaways
they look like nothing
but not to her, to her they're clear
as alphabets, she's good
at what she does and proud
of her work, it's important work
it will last
First published in the journal Asimov’s, January 2018
Mathematical truth: a perfect right angle
cannot exist in the physical world.
How do the mathematicians
go on with their lives,
knowing these things?
How can they survive,
understanding that infinity
is equal to infinity-minus-one?
Didn’t the floor beneath you,
just now, become
Copyright 2004 .
First published in the literary journal Snakeskin, March 2004.
Atoms are so small that if
you take a glass of water and pour it into the ocean
and then mix all the water of all the oceans of the world
and then reach the glass in
and pull out a full glass of new water,
two or three of the atoms from the first glassful
will be in the new glassful
and that means there are some atoms
from Phil Owens’s sweaters and blond hair
still stuck to me, and I will
have them forever
Copyright 1998 .
First published in the literary journal Snakeskin in November 1998.
The Secret to Writing Poetry
Take something that happened
to you, once, and make it seem
to have happened to everyone,
everywhere, over and over.
Take something that happens
to everyone, everywhere,
and make it seem to have
happened to you, once.
Copyright 2009 .
First published in the journal Statement, Spring 2009.
Going to the Library
In the library there are pathways
you follow to find out what you want to know
imagine – somewhere in all these books
or on the face of the computer or in parentheses
at the back of a magazine, there is
the perfect sentence, the answer to your question,
the words all around you like
the tornado in the Wizard of Oz never
go home Dorothy – Dorothy, never land –
language can be your bed, the
beautiful wonder of all possible poems.
Copyright 1998 .
First published in the literary journal Möbius, March 1998
She’s in shreds,
an old woman
in mismatched stockings.
She's teaching a class
at the community college.
She eats fast food
and bothers her neighbors
with her unkempt animals
and late night dancing.
Pippi, we still love you
even if your gold ran out
and your braids fell down,
even if all you do is make pancakes
and save one kid from one shark
just once a year, that's enough.
Copyright 2012 .
First published in Injecting Dreams into Cows (Red Hen Press, 2012).
The Seductiveness of the Memory Hole
“He crumpled up the original message and any notes that he himself had made, and dropped them into the memory hole to be devoured by the flames.”
— George Orwell, 1984
We have an invention. We
invented it. What you do is,
you email us the thing
that you want to forget.
You list every detail. You
describe in full. When we
get the email, we delete it.
We don’t just delete the email.
We delete the thing. The thing
never happened. No one involved
will remember it; no one
who heard the story will
repeat it; even you yourself
will forget it.
We have done it already.
We are doing it right now.
Copyright 2003 .
First published in the literary journal The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, December 2003.
The Gender Argument
“The word Kleidungtakes the masculine
not the feminine die,”
said Frau Wimmers.
I asked why.
“Because those are the rules
of German grammar. And
Katzen is plural, so it takes die, too.”
“I think it should take das,”
I said. “I think it should change
from day to day.”
“It doesn’t matter what you think,
it’s die,” the teacher said.
“But it does matter,” I said.
“Nothing matters more
than what I think,
what people think.
People are the ones
who make these rules!”
“Mädchen takes das.
Hase takes der. You
are going to fail this class.”
“Fine,” I said, and took my F.
Copyright 2015 .
First published in the literary journal Poemeleon, August 2015.
Ballerinas Do Not Fall on the Floor: A Found Poem
Ballerinas do not fall on the floor.
Ballerinas keep their thumbs in.
We are not allowed to touch the pole now.
We are not hopping now.
We’re going backwards!
Don’t touch the pole – that’s the rule.
I’m not showing that.
I’m showing beautiful ballerina arms.
Let’s not forget our bodies. Ballerinas don’t make noise.
Can you tell me, should we keep our legs straight, or
should we bend them?
No, I think we should keep them straight.
In this position we have more space.
That’s too much space.
Copyright 2010 .
First published in the literary journal Press 1, September 2010.