'Self-Portrait In Hobohemia' & 'Jack Rabbit': Two Poems by Jessie Lynn McMains


didn’t know what I was in for when I caught

out for the first time: no

one warned me

the only warnings given were the practical kind: beware

railroad bulls & rednecks

beware: lost limbs & death: no traingel

with his battered hat & ragged, soot-lined wings

told me: turn back

told me: if you don’t you’ll never again fit at all into that world of norms

& stay-at-homes: no

matter how many years it’s been since the last


so that that May day in Minneapolis: I walked past the factories of broken glass

& the carrion birds digging in the trash: down

to the tracks & hopped aboard a blue boxcar & I was never again

a stay-at-home: no

matter how long I’ve been at home: I still take walks alongside the tracks: haunt the graffitied yards of parked hopper cars

looking for a sign: left by a hobo I used to know

reading the spray-painted paeans of those

I don’t: worship satan / smoke meth: Chicago killed me

other times I just stand there: my boots rooting into the mud, like: I might start growing rail-side

like the summer

chicory: the ladies waiting in their indigo dresses

but I’m not waiting for my lover to return from war: I’m waiting

to glimpse myself: hopping from a train

car, fleet footed in muddy boots, coat flapping behind me, black & tattered as a traingel

or a dumpster-bird: it’s spring again & like every year:

the train whistles bloom through the rust belt

backyards: so thick after a heavy rain: I could run

my hand through the air & pluck a bouquet of them:

by summer they’ll have grown wild & strange, lank bristled things: along the roadside: going

to seed:

o one day I swear: I’ll float away on the breeze: dandelion puff,

the whistle & the steam: I’ll wake, drunk: nestled in the belly

of a gondola

watching stars draw themselves on the darkling

sky: one day::

I’ll never be going

back home



Five months: bellyful and three months: away from leaving

the west coast to return midward, I needed movement.

Pregnancy turned me fever-fidget, like I knew once I gave

birth I’d be anchored, and was I going to go it alone, hard-

scrabble or: scramble back to the man I’d wed and take

him with me. I drove to some middle of north-anywhere

California place, I don’t know: what side of the Bay

Bridge was I on, just a spot in the low hills, dirt paths and

scrub brush, scent of sage, low drone of planes high

overhead, and no: where, no one around, then a tremble

in the bushes and there: she was, jack, rabbit, long-legged, a deer

in the body of a hare, eyes dark dinner plates, black-tipped

ladles for ears, velvet-fur with smears of tan, sandy brown, raw

umber, kobicha. We stood: at a dozen paces, two duelers in the split

before the clash of steel or the gun’s report: our moment hung

like a pearl on the necklace of eternity, I saw the paths of veins

in the pink scoops of her ears, her whiskers twitching, in her eyes:

the whole swirl of the cosmos and I yearned: to snap her neck

and pluck her ocular orbs, certain if I put them in my mouth

I’d taste the blackberry juice of galaxies being born, and I’d know

all: the secrets of the universe slicking my tongue to oil. Yet I

wanted her: to live forever, for nothing to ever harm her. I let her

go: small dust-cloud and black-brush tail hopping away from me, I was

left knowing only my restless: hare-heart thumping in my chest,

rabbit-baby kicking inside me with his not-yet-human feet.


Jessie Lynn McMains (they/them) is a poet, writer, zine-maker, small press publisher, and spoken word performer. They are the author of multiple chapbooks, most recently The Girl With The Most Cake and forget the fuck away from me. They have been publishing their own and others’ writing in zines and chapbooks since 1994, and have been performing their work across the US and Canada since 1998. They were the 2015-2017 Poet Laureate of Racine, WI, and currently write a reoccuring column for Pussy Magic. You can find their personal website at recklesschants.net, or follow them on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram @rustbeltjessie.

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