Bad news


By Jennifer Brennock

I come into the kitchen. Grocery bags. Car keys. The same loose doorknob. He’s waiting at the table. Home early. He hasn’t poured a drink. Boots still on. “I have something to tell you.” I go soundblind. The mouth is doing the things it does when making words. He folds, refolds his hands. The wedding ring he doesn’t wear scrapes across the table: I am deaf but only to him. In California, a butcher saws through a meat joint. In Berlin, firecrackers in the back alley. The hum of an intersection in Mexico City. He stands. Footfalls in reverb, a child finding an old piano in an empty barn. He wants to hold me against him. Crackandbuzz crackandbuzz inside his ribcage. What’s that sound? He insists, holding my shoulders, his palms comfort circling the way I can’t stand. I pull away to read his lips. I’m sure he’s saying it is only the wind through the trees. Behind me, ice cream melts in the brown paper bag. The cold sweat railroads down the carton. I hear it metalscreaming. Like a baby. Taken from her mother’s milk. Too soon.


jennifer brennock

Jennifer Brennock

 Since childhood, Jennifer Brennock has gotten into trouble for not keeping her mouth shut. She’s written poetry, prose, and play. She’s worked for arts organizations, created arts organizations, given readings, emceed slam, made zines, busked, facilitated, studied, and taught in all literary arts she could wiggle her way into. Jennifer is uncomfortable talking about herself in third person, but she’s getting used to it.

Editor’s note: I met Jennifer during an Orcas Island vacation several years ago when I attended a writing workshop she was leading at the public library. We met for coffee a couple days later and a friendship bloomed between the two of us native Californians. I find Jennifer’s writing nothing short of amazing.  


From the author: A note to one of my writing communities (VOA) about another of my writing communities (TILL): You guys should really know each other. I wrote this prose poem at TILL, a writers’ retreat at a farm gone feral in western Washington. Every year, I’m amazed by the organizers and their ability to keep it low-key, low-stuff, pitch-in, inspiring, egoless, and generative. I’m more convinced than ever that every creative person needs to drop out of the rest of their life for a bit on the regular. Check out TILL and buy a chapbook. If you’re in Seattle, come to the reading in the fall.

till exterior

Till began as a collaboration between Arne Pihl and Chelsea Werner-Jatzke in 2013. (Photo: Chelsea Kurnick)

jennifer at till

Jennifer Brennock at a workshop in the equipment barn at Till. (Photo: Chelsea Kurnick)

claudia castro luna till

Till 2017 included workshops given by writers Matthew Simmons, Rachel Kessler, Jane Wong, and Claudia Castro Luna (pictured). (Photo: Chelsea Kurnick)

till interior

Till cultivates time, space, and community for writers. (Photo: Chelsea Kurnick)

Tomorrow: Michael Granberry, My Watergate summer

16 thoughts on “Bad news

  1. Damn, Jennifer. Your words. Just damn. Some are writers and some are artists with words. You definitely excel in the art of writing.

  2. I hope I didn’t just miss a chance to hear you read this. I flew into Seattle yesterday and I’m over on the Kitsap peninsula for a few days before heading to southern Oregon. Any chance for a personal performance?

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