La Dolce Vita, or Love Letters to Poets

by Mara Jebsen

Part one, with photos by Syreeta Mcfadden (


Una Poetisa Counts Her Blessings While Reading Woolf in a Brooklyn Cafe
  1. I like the sound of poetisa!

2. Louise Bourgeois drove a screwdriver

down through my skull at the Guggenheim.

3. I am so proud to be une poete, the sun

makes a raging silver shape

out of a car, flips it

onto my retinas, shouts it there

incandescent, a good knife.

4. This café hum of fans and clatter of plates

is very nearly the sound of bathwater running

at 8 o’clock simultaneously

in all the bathtubs of my childhood.

5. Here the angry bird in my chest un-tenses,

drops feathers, is become

sweet again.

6. Now there is the wilderness of Virginia Woolf,

the fishing line of her sentence, that suddenly

catches. I’m caught. The bones in me

rock, mercurial. Eyes wide

I’m blinded, all spine. I count the lives

I border. I count the lives

I swallow. My shadow mixes with their shadows

to form a jagged skyline.

7. Martin is crumpling an Ikea catalogue.

His customer teases, she’ll bring another one tomorrow:

It’ll be like, you know, in that movie.

Where the guy is God. And his beard

keeps growing back. No matter what he does.

More and more Ikea catalogues!

8. Martin is Irish, and has a terrific sneer.

9. Tennessee Williams. I am grateful for Mr. Williams,

And for my friend R, who wrote a very good play

And for our poeta N, whose quick Queens brain

Disallows most of our bullshit.

10. Across the street there is a brick wall

Painted pale beige, that slopes

Like the whole neighborhood


And yawns for light with a terrifying openness.

11. Someone fixed it in the night

With cherry-red spray-paint.

You can almost understand it.

It sort of looks like tosay

And sort of like nosay.

12. To say or no say. I love this question.