Jae Nichelle

What to Do When There’s Nothing You Can Do

if you still exist          is it nothing

if you still wet your toothbrush with water

or spit             if you still

have spit in your mouth

if you still tweet

which is praying since you still

say something & no one


if you still smile         say howareyoufine

if you still write

do you still write if you can’t write about

well     do you still

think anything matters if you still

don’t scream if you still can’t stop your avocados

from browning          if you still


you still say empathy you feel exhaust you still

a definition of that one word

whatwasit       something you are

if nothing ever changes

yet you still & you still?

From Her Laugh

we cohabitate inside her mouth & don’t sleep often.
cohabitation means various reactive warnings: glass &
tomato lodged in my foot. I dropped a jar of spaghetti
earlier. be careful. & various commands: take the chicken
out the fridge. it’s marinated—encrusted in tearsalt.

if there was a nonblasphemous word for godly I could
describe her laugh. I would mop a floor for it. Knock my
teeth out & feel it fill the spaces. cohabitation means we
bleed at the same time & smear it on the walls.

I like what you did with the place I imagine a visitor
saying & her laugh. we tell them it was inspired by the
way cayenne pepper tastes. the way we inhale it when
we miss home. funny thing about home—we never
want to recreate our old ones but we always do.

we tack our achievements on the fridge: make noise,
make chicken, makeshift. make me still want to smile
without teeth. make my body into a cake. vivid my
dreams. god me. find me another word, find me.

From Her God

Lie down next to me & we’ll cry until we laugh. Make a
water bed out of plastic bags, kiss until we asphyxiate,
make it worth it. I associate love with the kind of hurt
that you smile after—
Cracking your fingers. Deep massage. Your little
brother growing up.

Two truths & a lie— 
my first kiss was under a high-school stairwell
I’m scared

I want to pray with you

Lie still & you can feel my heart through the thread

I want new memories. I want to hear lie still & not think
of a high-school stairwell. I want your name to be my
first church-learned hymn & prayer.

Lie still and silent, near the window. If it rains hard
enough, it sounds like the universe is clapping for us.

Jae Nichelle is one of the few people from Lafayette, Louisiana, who has never met Cupid. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, The Offing Magazine, Muzzle Magazine, and elsewhere. She also loves Taco Bell and is not afraid to admit it. Her chapbook, The Porch (As Sanctuary), is available from YesYes Books.