The First White House Screening

Jessica Q. Stark

Like writing history with lightning—all sharp corners and dead-blind.Jungleland bleaches its teeth for itsfirst high-house silver screening.President Woodrow Wilsonsmiles, recognizes the oak treesmistaken for Southern reserve. Alitmus test for a better view, a cleanerplot, a place to call one’s own. Only.Under President Wilson, a photo-graph became required for all newfederal job applicants. The Navy, theTreasury, but most importantly,the Post Master General where,shortly after election, ghostsbegan floating behind screens.An elegant solution: the details ofa look for a tidier exchange,a salve for the face-to-face and theaverted eye. Your finest termaccomplishment: a populationof alternatives working hard under-ground. The Dead Letter Office isto the left, down the hall. Blank formstucked away from public view, anenvelope carrying the rust of brightmachinery away from the tongue. Notdead, no trace. No one here by thatname. An easy opacity for the splice.The imagination is most activewhen the body is scared. I graspanother letter, find your faceon the highest denomination ofour currency. Sort to Destroy, Istamp it, but outside the reportersare already getting it all wrong.

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Jessica Q. Stark is a poet and scholar living in Jacksonville, Florida. She holds a PhD in English from Duke University and teaches writing at the University of North Florida. Her poetry book, Savage Pageant, was published in March 2020 by Birds, LLC and her work has appeared in PleiadesGlass Poetry JournalHobart PulpCarolina Quarterly, among others. She is an Assistant Poetry Editor for AGNI and the Comics Editor for Honey Literary.

"Jessica Stark's Savage Pageant is a map, an 'undulation,' a 'fold,' something lightly sketched then traced on 'something blackened, worn-out, and organized.' Stark's brilliant move in this powerful new work is to problematize the paper itself: the surfaces that receive the many marks that a poet, an inhabitant, an animal, an archivist or an audience-member might make. What a brilliant writer. What a lovely and strange book."
—Bhanu Kapil

"Part poetry book, part collection of private, personal, and public histories, part summons, part rune, this book takes you headfirst into the other world where all you can do is swim past your own hurt and traumas into the sunshine hole of the unreal. It's a book we must remember as we begin to forget ourselves. I'll risk it all to say that we need this book for all of time, to take with us as a guide from here until the everlasting, because, as this book says to us, 'We are only here for a/ short time.'"
—Dorothea Lasky

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