Jendi Reiter


After years of writing standard narrative free verse, I began experimenting with the prose-poem in order to break out of my habitual rhythm of line breaks and syntax. The looser format allows me to free-associate and come up with fresher images. The four sections of "Delivered" were prompted by random words that I picked out of my Magnetic Poetry Kit, some of which remain as the section titles.








One day a man with a package came to the door. You'd long since grown tired of everything that was given to you. But like a good student you followed another stranger's directions, signing for the box of porcelain or steaks. Only then did you notice the UPS man's tanned legs messy with hair, his blunt fingers and their uneven nails. In another moment you could look him in the face. Still just a fixer for a different job. But you can't evade your signature, one more committed cost you'll have to borrow against the future to pay.



In the guest bedroom you can pretend to be new here. Lie back on the chartreuse field as if your white body were fresh from the store, a crisp and uncreased sheet. The man who brought something you've forgotten, the man in dark brown schoolboy shorts, tramps in. He resists imagination. You want to get down to the drive, the common underneath. But the wrapping, stubbornly real, frets you. His cowlicked hair, rough smell of truck fuel and sandwiches. He might start telling you about his hobbies. As if you needed to remember that in the shower. Your hands slick with pleasure, your mind a dark pool, would you suddenly think: ice fishing, carving wooden ducks?



This is your theatre. You slide out of your dress, unclip your brightened hair, curtains falling over curtains. The man unlaces his shoes. He takes some time untying each bow. You wonder if he is a careful person or wears his shoes too tight, what each possibility would mean in bed. There is an old red scratch on his leg. Your coverlet is smooth green brocade, lifted back for him, as you wait for him to descend. The space beside you is empty and fine. How amazed you are when he kneels beside the bed to pray.



An abashed breeze drags gauze across your thighs. The window light shows your man hesitating over a shirt button. You return your bare feet to the floor, touch the wiry curls of his chest. Let's go into the kitchen now. The modest box still on the high chrome counter. Shielded in your bathrobe, you slit the brown cardboard with scissors. Peaches in rows neat as billiard balls. Sweet sunrise juice till you hit the stone, dark red and involuted like a brain. The man puts his hand over yours, your hand on the knife on the plate. You cut a crescent slice, lift it to his mouth.




Jendi_Reiter.gifJendi Reiter's work has appeared in such publications as Poetry, The New Criterion, Mudfish, Alaska Quarterly Review, Alligator Juniper, MARGIE: The American Journal of Poetry, Saint Ann's Review, and Best American Poetry. Awards include first prize for poetry in Alligator Juniper's 2006 National Writing Contest, second prize in the 2007 Literal Latte Fiction Awards, a $2,500 third prize in the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg 2005 Poetry Prize contest, and two awards from the Poetry Society of America. Her first book, A Talent for Sadness, was published in 2003 by Turning Point Books. She is also the editor of Poetry Contest Insider, an online database with guidelines for over 750 contests.