By Julianna Bjorksten


On the night of starry time-bomb and twinkling blunder
Caught in the stagnant bulk of two page compositions and futile coffee treks
Shared sheets and tender television
Was a moonlit crater —a plunge

I slipped inside with nimble eyes and flapping pride and all at once
My spine was swallowed
My backbone mashed and mollified
Melting into slow solemn serenation
Scorching soft–fleshed girls and hard–hearted husbands
This must be Jazz nation.

There– underground
Where trumpet-men improvise lightning sounds
I stuck out my tongue and tasted the floating notes
like firefly candy
I saw chalky droplets of hard-boiled ratatat
icy as a cool knife in the kidney
cling like sweat to the bare skin on my face
Doo be doo be doo
At Smalls Ella and Louis were funky felines
reborn with Nine lives

Chronic fright
All of jazz was housed in that brittle body
but outside Manhattan was strewn with steel
Shuffled into an underground attic
a bomb-shelter
Our synchronized solitude heaped in honeycomb voice
And on West 23rd a clamor was seen
In pieces

I was inside
Close by– listening

That song, like this city, was alive.
It grabbed me by the throat and shook
Writhing in and raping me
I grew pregnant with plump pitch
Sharp tenor blare and double time detonation

Saxophone sobs stung like salty ocean eyes
A Sidney Bechet melody

And one unbuttoned blouse on a clementine- headed miss of perfect posture
who stuck out not like a sore thumb
but rather like a finger in the middle
Who undid it all with one cool look
Beady pearl eyes – dormant
That’s what it was
To be a New Yorker.

I had been in Manhattan for under three weeks
Coming from prairie skies to find
a dark underground club
Seeped in flair
And night life soaked in crime
“Si tu vois ma mere” tell her I don’t belong

In New York Jazz
God was a rhythm
Virtue lacked religion
And between 6th and 7th avenue
No one seemed to listen

We only felt
the acute sting of holy lungs
The hollow piety of a jive jazz vibe
Leathery tongues
Pipe Pipe Piping the tune
Drowning the clatter

And it was
Dangerous to expose to a young person
like a loaded firearm
Or a bomb at 8:31 p.m.
A gross juxtaposition
A jazz club and a dumpster bombing
On the same night
On the next block
in my city?


God was a rhythm.
He sang bleached diatonic harmonies
Bent through juvenile voices
like a dimpled bell
Struck in a overgrown hospice chapel
Trite in unison
Blubbery tongues flailing at the prospect
of that almighty salvation
An eyeless mouthpiece
Blindfolded declaration

For lent she gave up prayer and punctuation
The Cartilage of god
Strict Catholic formation 
Bones cannot feel
They have no nerves
Unlike a skinned virgin knee
of a Wide eyed Cherub child
Gobbling stones to hold her down
Elementary sin
Obstructing her ascension

Hands folded
On suckling’s First Communion
The roof of my mouth was cold
I tasted nectar’s formula
God’s poison
And I prefer my mother’s cooking

About the Author:


Hailing from the underpopulated and underrepresented state of Wyoming, Julianna Bjorksten recently completed her freshman year at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized study, where she is studying literature and creative writing. She is very excited to be allowed this opportunity to share her poems. This is her first published work.