The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Jane Ellen Ibur



I am from night swims and apricot fried pies
from steaks grilled in the fireplace in winter,
gifts under the tree
and dogs running free.

I am from help and helplessness
the woods, the creek and the gullies,
from climbing trees smelling of sap
and bush forts,
from Firebird with baseball cards clipped
with clothespins to the spokes.

I am from doors left unlocked
and no safety at all,
from summer camp in the Ozarks,
dinner in the dining room,
opera sung through the intercom
on Saturday afternoons,
piano lessons, ballet and tap
and utter clumsiness,
from secrets and lies,
from working downtown – 4th and Olive,
black grime and pigeon shit darkening windows,
yes sir and hold please.

I am from expulsion and disownment
pushed out the door
dropped from the will
disabled and disrupted
ruptured and resentful
busted and broken,

returning and renewed.

I am from teaching and learning
corrections and connections and consoling,
hands writing, hands raised, hands wrung,
hands holding hands.
I am from St. Louis;
I, too, sing America.



Jane Ellen Ibur

Lady Dainty


It pressed on me, time running out, time
for one last chance, once more conversation with my mother
and of course I felt it most in my gut
flaring up again since last Tuesday
and I feel like a kid again, that child
who failed, who never became Lady Dainty. Read

my cracked lips, I couldn’t do it. Not read,
of course. I read to spend my time
in a happier place where I was a pleasant child,
one who turned out right and pleased Mother.
Weekends were hardest, I was such a tom-boy, but by Tuesday
I was calmer, pulled into the crowd, invisible gut

cramping and screaming unseen. Shut up, gut,
I say with Librax and Paragoric. I read
to escape, go deep underground, past Tuesday
holding my breath till the return of summertime
when the living was never easy. I tagged after Mother
to Lady Dainty to get her hair done. A child,

I ran errands, brought Cokes from El and Lee, a child
in waiting. I was skinny, drank soda which rotted my tender gut.
All I wanted to do was please my Mother,
but I was not that kid. I continued to read
looking for myself in pages in a book. Time
is not enough to heal the thousand Tuesdays.

I climbed trees knowing I was no Sunday or Monday, maybe Tuesday,
more likely Thursday, red and green, fairy child.
It took years for that to sink in, so much time
and all the Fridays and Saturdays straight to my gut,
the place where I’m holding it in, so I read.
How do I build the person house with no foundation from Mother?

How do I learn to be my own mother,
every day fine, no slump or slouch on Tuesday,
no statistic that ends up in a book I read.
Behind my eyes I will always be a child
but I need to learn to mother my gut
and be fine fall, winter, spring or summertime.

Chiseled in time the Mother/child
enigma haunts me most on Tuesdays, here in my gut.
Read me right, please, next time.



Jane Ellen Ibur

Baby Teeth


When your mom gave me your baby teeth
I knew that now you were truly mine
so I set them, little plastic box, within reach

on my desk. Remember when the ivy intertwined
snaking over the stacked boxes down to the purple wood
boards I used? Green and boards combined

to create a tabletop fort, even when I stood
the bay window hugged me with arms
of green connecting all. Then I believed I’d be understood.

Maybe I ignored the siren and alarms,
maybe I ignored the eyes looking in,
maybe I believed I’d come to no harm.

Now I wonder, when did that begin?
Losing my footing I see that I digress
so I shake off the memory, lift up my chin.

I’m thinking of when we met I confess.
Young enough then for a mattress on the floor,
I wasn’t exactly prepared for guests

and you were one who could not be ignored.
I showed you my desk with cascading flowers,
magic compartments where my secrets are stored.

We talked then for hours and hours and hours.
Night and day do se doed and exchanged
and I was drunk on new love’s confusing power.

Night and dark completely rearranged,
my jaw hurt from so much smiling
over feelings both new and strange.

I think that first night my hair grew miles
in competition with the green on the desk,
the key in the lock finally reconciled.

Me in my long hair carefully dressed
by the light of my old friend the moon
knowing all yet entirely impressed

as she hung in the sky, a marshmellow balloon,
like your teeth that shine as bright as the moon.




JANE ELLEN IBUR is the author of Both Wings Flappin’, Still Not Flyin’ and The Little Mrs./Misses both published by PenUltimate Press. She has garnered much recognition as an Arts Educator with over 35 years experience teaching writing in public schools, jails, museums, residential schools, social service agencies, with veterans, homeless men, the young and old. Lead Faculty for the Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute, she is one of its founders. For 19 years she co-hosted and co-produced Literature for the Halibut on community radio.



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