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3 poems

by Jude Ehmka

Jude Ehmka runs on New Haven decaf and peanut M&Ms. With their thirteen-year-old cat, Pumpkinbutt, Jude takes creative writing by the shoulders and shakes. They're an Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program alumnus, with work featured in Jawbreaker Zine, Storm of Blue, and Verses Mag. Jude prides themself on their Jeopardy-ready useless knowledge and bad handwriting. You can find them on Instagram at @h.eadyarange.

Note: we recommend reading these poems on desktop due to their unique formatting.

my hands are heavy. i've been screaming a lot. maybe too much.

                              When was the last time you felt like a danger to yourself or to others?


THE TRUTH:          On a scale of one to ten

          I am running underneath the steady winter rain looking for a place to smoke. But everywhere is packed and the reflecting lights could give way to anyone

                    and what if the government is watching—

                                        let me tell you about the chip they’ve got in all of us, it’s in

                                        the Stop-N-Shop brand almond milk. The kind I drank

                              instead of formula

instead of my mother's—                                            did you know that you can be

                        lactose intolerant          or have an intolerance to lactose?

    I got my first english lesson before I could speak.   Intolerant and intolerance, not quite

the same but          the last time I tried to hurt myself          was this morning

when I told my mother          to call.          Hoping to get Real Sick from waiting room,

get so skinny the wind cuts me like the big fat chocolate cake I dream of. 


                    That’s a lie.

I only like vanilla cake with rainbow sprinkles

          like to count the wax figures inside the layers

          like to see the colors melt into each other. 


Two          is the number of pills I forget to take every morning. Too much is what I want.

          Androgyny and stability and understanding and enlightenment and to feel feel feel feel

                    until this heart explodes and the brain melts and I want to breathe.

                             To   Slow Down.   

So I buried myself          into passions and fake confidence and so

          when I get side-swept, forgive me. I'm not very good at finishing things or staying consistent, a byproduct of

          being seven and counting back from ten to try and avoid Being seven and letting HIM pull the swing so high it almost kills you. Being seven and almost drowning mid-November.

Being seven and learning that silence is the easiest way to get nothing done.  Being seventh in line and when HE pushes you forward, being afraid that the boy at the counter will become HIM too. Being almost seventeen and being Afraid-Afraid:

                                             the piss your pants, the mom come pick me up mom I can't do this anymore mom HE’s scaring me mom please I know you’re busy I know it's far away please

before they know I’m on the phone—




is the last person I'm going to tell about my double life. She is practicing my name in the mirror next to me


like it’s got all of me locked inside of it.

And the next person to call me by the old name is going to taste how it feels

to have it scraped into the back of your skull.

How it feels

to be the only one HE ever loved

and how

that name

was HIS tennis ball to sky high fence on summer day. How HE’D hold

palm to eyes and repeat it again and again

and again and again and again and

               sometimes when I smoke I talk to God about HIM. I ask Her what sort of greatness you can make out of this and because it’s a parking lot 12am She stays silent. But I keep spitballing:

               Why couldn’t HE have been progressive

                                                               and picked on little boy          or feminist

                                                                                                                                  and liked my voice

                                                                                                                 over my body.

I was just learning       to understand the way flesh meets bone

and now when I see blue heron it’s the devil             it’s not elegant it’s elementary

playground with blood on my face                 and it’s because HE built my immune system

on deer and

squirrel and

those pieces of gum kept in HIS pocket.

                                                                                I could've been exceptional.


         I could never understand

how time could work like this for me—

                              so when I pass on chocolate cake,

I am remembering seven         with calloused hand over my eyes

and I curse Her for      letting me go on like this.

Go Ahead and Call Me Anything but My Name

girl meant to be bastard is saved by six days and is instead cut out above cancer wing. girl comes out yellowed and choking on air and mother picks front cover name out of nervousness. can’t get too attached to first one. father brings everyone and their mother and they feast on shitty italian food in front of resewed mother and she screams. girl takes this as life. girl stays above cancer wing until april shifts from freezing to 100 degrees and leaves full snow suit in father’s clunky car. mother father and girl jump from babushka to herbst and back again until good deal on house. house is ugly pink, smells like too many things and this is where girl learns to love and to walk and to speak and not in that order but just about. girl grows fast underneath twenty-somethings and becomes business woman but only on poker nights where she can get drunken family to show their cards so father can win new shoes for girl. she is not her father’s daughter unless it is easiest. girl is made of her mother’s anger. girl fights on the playground and puts her big brain to use. she is given quarters and dollars—lunch money savings—for a taste of exclusivity and feeds a boy dirt saying it is the body of christ. that is when girl stops understanding church, when girl rereads the bible and finds the plot holes and mother can only laugh. girl continues to grow until she can ride her bicycle on dirt roads. girl continues to fight. girl bites the hands that dare to question her self-imposed time outs. girl goes out of her way to make mother and father proud when mother and father only cared for happiness. girl can’t say happiness because there’s too many places to stutter. when girl gets told she’s going to special middle school girl cries. girl cries and cries and cries but when girl meets special middle school she loves the feeling of the carpeted library. she meets male teachers made like her father, trying to be tough in a sea of children and she crushes them. she makes grown men bicker and makes grown men her bitches. girl is brilliant. but girl cannot compare herself to anyone else because she’s the only left-handed girl in her grade. so girl gets even angrier and starts to try and cut it off. and when the pencil sharpeners are all broken she moves on to those funny little white skittles and that’s when girl figures out she’s forgetting the love she learned. girl tells the entire world she hates, even though she knows hate is a strong word, and does not stop to hear their response. when girl is back in hospital but instead in cancer wing she tells the doctor to jump off the roof if they can’t cure her grandfather. and then draws them falling like birds first flight and no guidance counselor can hold onto her. girl gets too smart for her own good and father starts to worry. father takes worry out on mother and now girl stays home thinking they’re going out on dates when really it’s marriage counseling and when girl finds out she wonders how much those people must make. probably millions. girl decides to be anything but that and gets so lost in anything but that she loses herself. girl doesn’t respond to front cover name anymore and starts thinking it's the men’s fault. so she takes a vow on heterosexuality and the first girl girl kisses makes her eyes roll back and bless every neuron. mother and father never notice because girl only talks about being brilliant and so girl starts telling lies. girl skips garden club for four months and when mother finds out it is the same night girl declares her brain is made of fish tank rocks. girl tries to throw out the whole thing but father locks girl in her room instead. girl cries and cries and throws out everything instead. girl does not realize until junior year attic picking that mother collected everything up and pocketed it. girl thinks her ugliest parts are the only parts and mother throws a pair of shoes at girl’s chest. girl catches shoes and tells mother does this mean everything is going to be alright? and mother has no good answer.

when am i going to get a better head?

import longing;

import the worst romantic comedies;

import last season's best shoes;

import jazz / played blind;

import sickness, importantly;

import green eyes going blue going inside and melancholy and;

import how it feels to bite into a stranger's skin;


import unhinged femininity facing adversity through

            a sick haircut and screaming; {


       try {

                       two.  key = new personality for new love(System.sixth.try.this.week)

                       she’s deconstructing herself like autopsy, how long till she can program

                                  new life into blue no black no brown no green eyes ;

            do {

                      three. System.out.psychic.temperature("never met girl like u before.");

                Scan palm = she’s got a love line like you’ve never seen (getFile());


                words into late night conversations and go sideways when


                                              we imagine ourselves together, queen sized bed comfortable;

      "maybe if you weren’t so sad:");

    she scams for superglue to make herself wings / she constructs anew



    // determine distinct problems using an array of broken cards

    private static explains that this means nothing (this means absolutely nothing) {




    // she sends me evites:


                        would u like 2 share coffee &

                                    i’ll call you handsome ?


   allow her to become you / you being {


        act one


she says / i feel like i’m in a movie / like nothing / is real and there's not much to say except

            this is our movie, darling / i’m b list and you’re my audrey megan lindsey so we

sleep together / eat together / shower together until / something worthwhile brings us

            to main villain / and maybe that’s me.



        act two


this is one month sober / this is californication / i make camp in her stomach

and wonder / if a born again would ever consider dunking me into their holy water.

am i worth cleansing ? / she mouths to me

poems i can’t stand / that instagram bullshit / that healing through a wooden maze type /

and i cry with her when it hits / even though




        act six


                        LISTEN TO ME

                                                THERE IS NOTHING HERE

                                                            ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

                                                SHE LEFT ME EMPTY BED AND

                                                            STAINED SHEETS.

                        i miss her.

                                    i miss

                                                midnight romance and understanding another and

                                                            i miss the exclusive couples only club and

                                                                        listening to music i miss dearly she’s

                                                                                    every song even the bad ones.



    // perform a series of experiments on yourself. Determine how long

    // it takes to break

    private static voids self() {

        String[] smallerWorks = {"smallWords" = "simple girl", "happy girl", "girl who wont fight

back real loud"};;

        timing ( wasn’t right );

         timing ( means it could happen again );


        timing  (how many seconds until i drown in this);



    // pre: us != i was part girl part abstract

    // same path as my father

    // read words from angry men and pretended to be strong;

    private whispers lead me to believe my body was meant for demolition

 (String[] excuses, spit[] blame) {

        try {

                to understand dead lesbian syndrome          

         we discuss dead frogs and lost ex loves as though

                this will be any different.

           Stopwatch st = new Stopwatch();


                    two months till explosion


                  she says not to be so dramatic

                    times[j] += st.time();

                  she says that eight times a week();




               (i / am_afraid);

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