H E R M E N E U T I C C H A O S J O U R N A L
J E N N I F E R G I V H A N
Jennifer Givhan is an NEA fellow in poetry and the winner of the 2015 Pleiades Editors' Prize for her poetry collection Landscape with Headless Mama, forthcoming in 2016. A Mexican-American poet who grew up in the Imperial Valley, a small, border community in the Southern California desert, she was a PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices Fellow, The Pinch Poetry Prize winner, and the DASH Literary Journal Poetry Prize winner. She earned her MFA from Warren Wilson College. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets 2013, AGNI, Southern Humanities Review, Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Rattle, The Collagist, and The Columbia Review. She is assistant editor at Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and she teaches composition and poetry at Western New Mexico University and The Rooster Moans Poetry Coop.
The Jane Lumley Prize '15 : Finalist
T H E C H A N G E
When I was still small I began growing antlers
as a stag grows antlers, as a girl grows
breasts. My chest remained flat & the blood
didn’t come, but the velvet skin
sprang spongy behind my temples. No one at school
laughed at the antlers like they did when I’d grown
hair under my arms & razor-scraped my shins
but mom said she would’ve given me warm
water & lotion. Instead the girls asked if I could
pierce my antlers like ears or a nose, & if they
hurt. The boys asked were they strong enough
to break glass, crush tin cans, & how long
would they grow? The doctor
said to stick out my tongue & drink
peach tea from a soda fountain in the nurse’s
lounge so I could pee into a cup & prove
myself. Sometimes a female deer grows
a stub. He asked if there was any chance I could be
growing something else. I told mom
there was a boy but it didn’t mean anything—
I couldn’t even use a tampon yet.
Soon small red birds gathered & settled
as the velvet turned to bone, matured into branches.
They were too heavy & I knew I had a choice:
Mom scoured every myth, required
that every curandera crack eggs
over my belly, rub sagebrush across
my forehead, chant & pray. One even told me
to sing. I could learn to love my antlers. I could
wait to see if they fell off on their own—yet even
if they did, how long would they stay gone?
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