Jessie Janeshek

Secrets of an Actress (aka Memory Lane)

Relationships are hard and I understand
            their fear of the unknown        of being stranded
how at summer’s end
            we pose in blue swimsuits       redder lips, whiter skin
                                                on Fire Island
            and suck in our stomachs.
Maybe we need a burning forest          to brighten our minds a little bit
            but we read big books at the playground
the East Coast so different
                                                than daylight horror/dark Hollywood drive
            country club specters   where the girls lost their heads
            and I can barely touch             I swim through their blood in the pool.

I can’t wake up. I am a prisoner of the Lady in the Lake
            paradise séance loop
                        of my switchboard urgencies   of my sensitivities.
You say I’ll feel better             if I write a letter
            so I guess I’ll give up
in velour and just stare at the camera
            and mock the delinquent girls then become one in the end
or haunt the shopping mall
            where all children have guns and I need to pack.

I’m always the flighty heiress              ideas, relief
            my platinum head        silhouetted against
            black velvet so follow that bird
                        and that bird is blue
            and we might not exist
switchboard murder and blood    drained from our bodies
            egg yolk-eyed kids           appraising our ids.

Look how this is the end
            how you’ll never have time to be you again
how on a cold foggy morning
            you’ll ride the fast elevator
up the Empire State Building
            wanting to jump/afraid to cum
what the public will say
            your legacy long lovely legs.

Camp-Colored Fire/Special Problems

Is it better to be a loser, baby
resisting the call of straight language?
Bats in the attic are belfries
but I don’t want you coming in.
I drive through the countryside, think Valentino
purple ornamentation  how I’m never quite capable
passing the axe murder house.
I pretend unpaid bills and built-up calls
and touching myself    make the heat last forever
china dolls, velour cats, crystal castle
the trash film so iconic                I’m afraid to rewatch it.
He says there’s always story    can’t suspend disbelief
skins my eyes and leaves me rhetorical skeletons
leaves me in gold velvet          curled on the couch
I sob what’s cooking?

Maybe I haven’t thought it through enough
maybe I’ve thought through too much
but I’ve made the living room a myth of brocade
blood-red carpet and pearlescent fangs
and me in gold velvet curled on the couch
and you in a middy dress playing the piano
and my time expands to eat Sunday, sore ovary stubble
flooding at least once a month
and I can’t keep up with the dishes
when I’m secretly helping the killer
and I don’t get star signs         only dark booze
and if my makeup’s kabuki      my torch song is camp
and I’m the only one who can’t stand it
one star-mood earring stuck in my hair for two scenes
and I rip the wig off                
of some showstopping numbers of bone
as the soggy ghost tries to find home
and I might need to rise likewise  out of myself
but I can’t resist empty landscapes
flashbacks w/in flashbacks w/in flashbacks
where all headless chickens run wild.

A Summer Place/the New Look

After the Scopitone     it could be thick-dick noir
            egg-yolk smock dresses
                        and the devil’s baby     a sensitive lady typing a sensitive poem
or a grey faux-fur coat and sneaking away from private school
            to sell the mink and snake away the beach boy’s baby.

            I know I’m desperate and disparate
really weird with my thoughts             really need to scrub my face
                        let my salt lips dry
            the beach boy’s bare chest on the boat
                        and the father drinks himself to death
            and oooh it’s such a soft fear
                        all those bathing suit blues and middy skirt fevers
                        and all the seawind and never wearing them
and ooh but I know                 a secret space between house and beach
            where we could be alone         all skin and bones but nevermind.

I’d rather time take me back
            to the aqua t-shirts      and the marigold firecrackers
to my hair breaking off                        to the thin line between           public pool and country club
                                    soft-focus peachy lipstick
                        take me back to when I cared
            no breasts yet and I washed my hair
                        so I would smell good for you
or farther back to when I threw           my orange-sequined moon over the rail of the cradle.

Take me away                         since my handwriting claims    immoral animation
            let me fuck against the sea’s ammunition
since I’m afraid to lose the season       I’m afraid of sun séance
                        and are any girl’s thoughts darker than mine?
            I want to ruin her face             where only the glowiest powder matters
                        where the glittery horse                       is half nervous breakdown.

Maybe it will be all photos of me naked
            pink as a pig in the dimly-lit alley
I might be haunt          or I might just not know
            how to love or think
in my red headscarf     praying time stops
                        I might just be another                        assembly-line bombshell
torpedoes of pep shots                        fired in my arm.

Note: This poem takes some of its ideas and imagery from the 1959 film A Summer Place.

Queen Bad Seed Two

            Cherries on your full lips
such a pretty pie          but so thin in the haunches
            you keep your powder dry
      and I am the pink pig            hoof on my hip
wearing a cloche hat    in the flower advertisement.
            I lost my movie list      it’s ok since I prefer the phone
and I walk Sunset alone          at dawn in a purple knit bikini
            skimpy until all the silent films die
and I’ve only got a few more days of summer’s hot fraud
            until my talent’s gone.

Goldilox gothic sleeping on a pink raft shaped like a coffin
            I joined your cult for makeup
got tricked into ritual
            the firework-thunder conundrum
something flashier than war.
            Now I need a secretary    without the fear of calories
now I need a secretary             who will not lose my head.
            It’s the Biloxi premonition
watching the blood      clot in the air conditioning
            dripping in bobby sox
twisting in my dainty   platinum wedding band.

            But no one is in charge of me
my new husband took the gun
            and I let the drama play out
among the smoky bookcase Scotch and cognac
            and it was my kidneys or it was
the glow-in-the-dark needle in my teeth
            or the faux-stone tiara.
The flowers were published
            a funny spider walked across
we positioned his body                in the shape of my star
            skin nightclub shiny
but I was the light one
            I just wanted hotdogs and ice cream
before the horror stopped.

Heat Makes Me Licked Clean and Slow

the ghost of Dr. Pepper           or Marilyn Monroe.
            You lied about the thunderstorm
                        but your windows look just like my windows.
Hear the cat on the steps         warm up her plate
                        but it’s hogs that stick with me.
Hear the crunch of the cat       eating the wrong food
                        pissing in the wrong places
but it’s the hogs keep me up    all my dark imaginings.

I guess I just go with Tennessee heat
            and any pills and free cookies and hurricane bikinis
I guess I just wear the same clothes.
            He says get home before night and I guess I don’t care
right now I’m a stand-in alone.

            Heat makes me licked clean and slow
I have time to think     no watery birthdays     no communiques.
            Remember the time I jumped off the side porch
to shatter my ankle?    Maybe I hated it since glitter
            was too close to home.

Time seems endless on the back roads until I die
            and in my dream of Iceland it’s just one blue lake
and the sunset and the picture I take but don’t save.

There is a kind of freedom being Tennessee skinny
            a bus ride         a red jumpsuit              some sort of moral
but I will never swim that quarry
            and your window looks like full-color noir
                        and I always blame a man for death.
Time seems to stretch and he keeps yelling
            make it fit, make it fit
and I won’t stay awake long                high kick, high kick
                                                            he’s dying/don’t answer
            and I won’t show emotion
                        so go ahead and fetishize me dressed like a leopard
                                    and posing in roses.    

A Come on, a Stare Girl, a Pair of Binoculars

There are a couple of recordings of Valentino’s voice
and the other night I listened to one
and thought I’d drive my car into the garage and leave it on
and shut the door and die and leave a note I can’t sleep
and there is a gold velour dress that ties at the neck
and it’s too expensive and I thought about wearing it, touching myself
on a green brocade fainting couch and letting a beehive inside me
and wearing no makeup except fake eyelashes made from real hair
since I feel inadequate and the masturbatory image and the buzz
is my pregnancy and I show my stomach to a faith healer
on a lake beach. My thing is I take evil and keep it.
My thing is old movies will ignite immediately.
I used to hurt more when I’d sleep the garage door so heavy
I might lose the baby. All summer is gluttony, ice-cream, the Dari Owl
Hex. All fall is tight whites, a sore throat. Game fortune
is strange and all truth is beyond me. I toe the line between
horror and noir. My dead kidneys ache and all my wounds
drain and why do I do this? They’ll have to find a double
to finish my movie in a big hat, big sunglasses, nine shades of ivory.

Jessie Janeshek's third full-length book of poems MADCAP is forthcoming from Stalking Horse Press in 2019. Her first two books are The Shaky Phase (Stalking Horse Press, 2017) and Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010). Her chapbooks include Spanish Donkey/Pear of Anguish (Grey Book Press, 2016), Rah-Rah Nostalgia (dancing girl press, 2016), Supernoir (Grey Book Press, 2017), Auto-Harlow (Shirt Pocket Press, 2018), Hardscape (Reality Beach, forthcoming), and Channel U (Grey Book Press, forthcoming). Read more at