POETRY – 4 Poems by Janelle Rainer

Tiger Highway

There’s a dead crow
next to mile marker 377.
Looks like a shard of tire
from afar, then takes shape
for what it is.

The crow is on its back
in the middle of the road,
feathers blue-black
like the surface of a deep lake.

The beak points skywards,
open. Do we ever stop wanting?
Are we in death who we were
in life? Is there any use
asking questions without answers?

Here’s what I can promise.
The eyes were open—
round, dark,
impossibly alive.


Die Happy

The poker game was rigged.
What is there to believe in
when even your goddamn neighbors

will stiff you? I see Bill every day
watering his lawn. And now I’ll still see him
every day, knowing he’s a cheat.

America, America, where has your beauty
gone? Where are your cheap cigars
and honest men? It’s possible

to ignore how bad things are.
Keep eating and drinking, sleeping,
working, even fucking, if you’re lucky.

Watch only re-runs on TV
and keep your eyes closed when you leave
the house. For God’s sake, never

pick up a newspaper. Talk
of how things used to be.
Turn the page and forget

all this happened. Die happy.

Wherever We Need to Go

He bought a car, a red one
because it’s her favorite color,

but she says watching the bur
of asphalt rushing by makes her

nervous, and she won’t get in.
He bought a boat with full sails,

but the water is too deep
for her to stand in, so

she’s afraid of its darkness.
He bought a small plane,

but she hates having her feet
off the ground.

That’s fine, he says.
That’s just fine.

I’ll carry you wherever
we need to go.


Washington Summer, 2015

The town is surrounded by wildfires.
The sun is orange and blurred

behind the smoke. We’re living
in a bowl here, in this valley.

All the buildings seem to sink
towards downtown. Maybe the people

are sinking, too. Maybe we’re waiting
to be drowned by something heavy

and dark, like the smoke
from our mountains, burning.


Janelle Rainer is a 25-year-old poet, painter, and community college teacher living in Spokane, Washington. Her recent work has appeared in Harpur Palate, The Louisville Review, Oddball Magazine, Atticus Review, Emerge Literary Journal, HASH the Mag, POPLORISH, and elsewhere. Her paintings can be viewed at JanelleRainerArt.com. She earned an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. 

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