Jennifer Martelli

Oloid and Pareidolia
March 20, 2024 Martelli Jennifer



Saturday, awake to the raw April outside. A dream that was on my tongue is gone with a swallow. Blue light from the TV, from my phone.


Doctors say blue light interrupts the circadian system, plays a role in heart disease, cognitive dysfunctions.


One day, my mother couldn’t remember the steps in making her bed. Which came first? The spread or the top sheet? I was impatient. Had never seen dementia. This was before I started falling asleep with the TV on. Or maybe not.


When I read circadian, I hear cicada. The cicada rhythm.


This happens in the spring once we pass the equinox: one day, it’s light after seven at night. And look: the maples have budded, the forsythia.


A sculptor/mathematician discovered a shape, the oloid, that Julie Chen, poet/artist, used in a visual project. She wrote in her colophon: It is the relationship of the circles that creates the shape. In her time lapse reel, she folds this shape into a chrysalis case after cutting it out with a laser and splaying it on a table.


One day, the oloid didn’t exist. Next day, it did. Like a death, reversed.


If I believed in angels, I’d say a two-dimensional oloid looks like an angel or a winged thing. I watch Chen’s process in bed, cocooned, on my phone. Beyond me, the TV is on mute (a French movie about the undead). The window is above the TV. Then the maples. Then the world.



One day, let me wake and feel different than I have my whole life.


The heart of the chrysalis, of the cicada, of the circadian rhythm, is a bisected, symmetrical thing, the spine of a book broke open, dividing the coherent past/from the incomprehensible present.


All night and into the shock of day, I can hear things: wings, a humming outside, the start of rain.





Brushed my back teeth down to the bone,
saw the sturdy three-legged roots of my molars,
flossed the tight spaces, stung my gums with gold


Listerine, amber astringents, paste. Even so,
my jaw doesn’t lie, grows tired, lets go.
I told my dentist it’s like he’s stolen from me,


took my ivories, my lies. I called him thief
when I was so high, pinned under a lead
apron, all lit up with x-ray and gas. Long ago,


when a god raped a mortal, he turned her
to stone or a river or into a tree, so
everything has a face. I crave eye contact,


but avoid it. I can’t bear my own cruelties,
though I search them out with my tongue,
love how they burn my mouthy insides,


that tender wet skin.
I read in The New York Times how
the brain lights up at faces, even if


they’re not real—a smiling teapot, a hungry
bottle opener baring its need, tongue
of an unlaced shoe. My dentist pulled


three good teeth from sockets: one was wise,
one too loose, one too toxic. They cracked
and sucked, they echoed. They tried


to smile from the stainless tray. It’s easier,
the brain and trauma doctors say,
to see an illusory face than a real one


I crave patterns, which must mean
raw meat to sink my teeth into.
At my dentist’s, the walls are papered


in gold ocean scenes, groups of three:
a lighthouse, a sailboat, a small island
with birch trees. I count them to pass


time, to keep my jaws from aching, to keep
myself from looking up at the tiny light
hooked to his glasses, his face.

Jennifer Martelli is the author of The Queen of Queens, winner of the Italian American Studies Association Book Award, selected as a “Must Read” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, and My Tarantella, also selected as a “Must Read,” awarded an Honorable Mention from the Italian-American Studies Association, and named as a finalist for the Housatonic Book Award. She is the author of the chapbooks All Things are Born to Change Their Shapes, winner of the Small Harbor Press open reading, In the Year of Ferraro from Nixes Mates, and After Bird, winner of the Grey Book Press open reading. Her work has appeared in The Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, Poetry, The Tahoma Literary Review, Scoundrel Time,Verse Daily, Iron Horse Review, and elsewhere. Jennifer Martelli has twice received grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for her poetry. She is co-poetry editor for Mom Egg Review.