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"Bodiless" and "Permanent Address: 1956"

Two poems by Jill Peláez Baumgaertner

Jill Peláez Baumgaertner
Jill Peláez Baumgaertner

Bodiless

  • You leave your signature like the atom
  • whose footprint is its only proof,
  • the pencil’s sharp point indenting
  • the paper next to my poems’
  • lines. With what voice
  • you have uncovered my concealed
  • intentions, presented my images
  • in bas-relief, and textures
  • I could not see until your hand
  • revealed the design — just as I mark
  • the pages of your book of poems —
  • a blade of grass, a faded ribbon,
  • a pressed leaf, a leather strip.
  • In the solitude of this house
  • I read your words aloud printing the air
  • with them. Like fragrance
  • the atoms dance,
  • disperse, escape,
  • as light as flight.
  • I roam through rooms of them.

Permanent Address: 1956

  • The leaves slick with rain from the afternoon storm,
  • the small, tough leaves mixed with grass clippings
  • for my doll’s salad, her tea laid behind the side hedge.
  • The tiny cherries ridged like pumpkins, sour,
  • the pits almost as big as the fruit, the juice sticky
  • on my hands, dripping down my wrists, the pits
  • a small pile in the grass mixed with dirt and ants.
  • Grandma’s anger flaring indoors, her apron thrown down.
  • The continual drone of mosquitoes seeking flesh,
  • and giant orange grasshoppers, poison-spitters, Grandpa says,
  • as he bends over his sprouting pineapple growing at
  • the back door, his coffee always warming on the stove,
  • ready for his back porch newspaper and his cigar.
  • His silence when Grandma slams the door.
  • I fit myself into corners of the outdoors, I wedge
  • into interstices, find freedom in small places,
  • the games more challenging the smaller the playing field,
  • the games unshackling blood bonds to anger foaming and burnt.


Jill Peláez Baumgaertner is professor of English and dean of Humanities and Theological Studies at Wheaton College. She received a PhD from Emory University and has taught at Valparaiso University.

The author of five collections of poetry — including What Cannot Be Fixed, a textbook on poetry, a book on Flannery O’Connor, and the poetry anthology Imago Dei — she has also written lyrics for compositions by Richard Hillert, Carl Schalk, Michael Costello, and Daniel Kellogg. She received a Fulbright to Spain and has won many awards for her poetry. She serves as poetry editor of The Christian Century.

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Jill Peláez Baumgaertner
Jill Peláez Baumgaertner

Bodiless

  • You leave your signature like the atom
  • whose footprint is its only proof,
  • the pencil’s sharp point indenting
  • the paper next to my poems’
  • lines. With what voice
  • you have uncovered my concealed
  • intentions, presented my images
  • in bas-relief, and textures
  • I could not see until your hand
  • revealed the design — just as I mark
  • the pages of your book of poems —
  • a blade of grass, a faded ribbon,
  • a pressed leaf, a leather strip.
  • In the solitude of this house
  • I read your words aloud printing the air
  • with them. Like fragrance
  • the atoms dance,
  • disperse, escape,
  • as light as flight.
  • I roam through rooms of them.

Permanent Address: 1956

  • The leaves slick with rain from the afternoon storm,
  • the small, tough leaves mixed with grass clippings
  • for my doll’s salad, her tea laid behind the side hedge.
  • The tiny cherries ridged like pumpkins, sour,
  • the pits almost as big as the fruit, the juice sticky
  • on my hands, dripping down my wrists, the pits
  • a small pile in the grass mixed with dirt and ants.
  • Grandma’s anger flaring indoors, her apron thrown down.
  • The continual drone of mosquitoes seeking flesh,
  • and giant orange grasshoppers, poison-spitters, Grandpa says,
  • as he bends over his sprouting pineapple growing at
  • the back door, his coffee always warming on the stove,
  • ready for his back porch newspaper and his cigar.
  • His silence when Grandma slams the door.
  • I fit myself into corners of the outdoors, I wedge
  • into interstices, find freedom in small places,
  • the games more challenging the smaller the playing field,
  • the games unshackling blood bonds to anger foaming and burnt.


Jill Peláez Baumgaertner is professor of English and dean of Humanities and Theological Studies at Wheaton College. She received a PhD from Emory University and has taught at Valparaiso University.

The author of five collections of poetry — including What Cannot Be Fixed, a textbook on poetry, a book on Flannery O’Connor, and the poetry anthology Imago Dei — she has also written lyrics for compositions by Richard Hillert, Carl Schalk, Michael Costello, and Daniel Kellogg. She received a Fulbright to Spain and has won many awards for her poetry. She serves as poetry editor of The Christian Century.

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