Jean Prokott


Seventh grade, science project, my partner Theresa tells me We’re Doing Abortion
and shows up in my dining room with glue, glitter, a cardboard trifold,

mock-fetuses that fit in her hand, and baby Holocaust photos: piles of dead
babies, sacks of boneless flesh like laundry gathered with a bulldozer,

dented, veiny blue heads like rotting cantaloupes, hollow, black circles
where eyes should be—a baby costume I could pull over my face

so my own eyes peeked through. She flips through the propaganda
like it’s Teen Beat, she points and says This Is The Vacuum They Use To Suck

The Baby Out Of You. I’m twelve, I’ve never heard of abortion, she hands me
a red marker and says I’ll Glue The Pictures On, You Color Blood.



oval                                                  small black bean
penned                            clitoris                                  tired eye
mark                                inside the lines



You are small and carry half of me
with you, but if I could have it my way,
it would be all of me. I am a selfish mother

like this. Please do not ask me how many times
I’ve been drunk, because the answer will be
all the times. If I am a mother, I must tell the truth:

one time I fell in love and I wasn’t.
I’ve said bad things about good people.
I no longer think that when we die we shut down
like our lights are unplugged forever,
because last month our dog Lenny died, and I held
his body, bawled into his soft ears, and refuse
to live without him. I am a selfish mother

like this. If you ask me where you come from,
I will answer: who knows? I can only tell you, daughter,
that you and me—we’re animals. We eat, we sleep,
we thrash, we run and pant in our dreams. The world
is hot garbage most of the time, and I don’t know
how to save you. So we hold each other tight.
We catch each other’s eye and it burns

until we look away. Here is what I have given you:
the right to complain. Rhetoric. Blonde hair,
that when combed enough becomes fine like a violin bow.
Permission. An appetite for sugar in excess. A healthy
obsession with shelter dogs. Unbridled, important rage.

Daughter, you are the song before the lyrics match
the tune. You are the sundog captured in the shot.
Every day I ask you where you came from
and you answer: who knows?



I came as a six-legged horse,
cobalt cold,
Picassoesque Man o’ War

carrying a jockey made
of bubblegum and branches,
my entire life muted fanfare,
a race lost to Upset.

             in the race
             between woman and man
             my breasts hold me back—
             azure and cinderblock.

I came as indigo as time,
riding a balloon
the balloon was filled with glass—

I came as stiff as seized gears
I greased the pinions with acetone
the acetone was on fire—

I was born sapphire,
and I don’t know why
I’m here.

I iron my cornflower cape
and question joy.

Unhappy birthday to me,
I come as an ocean,
navy and bored.
I will major in lazy

and become a galaxy—
hold stars
between my fingers

I got baby reds
I got baby greens
I got baby blues


Jean Prokott has appeared in Quarterly West, Midwest Gothic, and RHINO, is a recipient of the AWP Intro Journals Award, and a finalist for RHINO’s Founders’ Prize. Her poetry collection received third place in the Cathlamet Prize for Poetry with Ravenna Press and was a finalist for the New Issues Poetry Prize. She is a graduate of Minnesota State University Mankato’s MFA program, holds a Master of Science in Education, and currently teaches in Rochester, Minnesota.