Jesse Lee Kercheval

Using these questions, would you please write a brief description of yourself?
October 23, 2020 Kercheval Jesse Lee

Using these questions, would you please write a brief description of yourself?

My favorite creature is the tree porcupine.
My earliest memory is sitting on the Emperor Napoleon’s bed
after I ran from my mother in the Forest of Fontainebleau—
the Chateau guards sat me on the bed to stop my crying.
Sometimes I dream I am an Emperor, born to rule all France.
French girl/ American girl—you cannot be both.
Secretly, I have always been both.
I like to collect stones because they have no idea
what country they come from.
I like to walk along beaches, watch the waves that wash up,
messages from other countries where
there are different words for ocean, water, salt.
I broke my back when I was ten
but my heart I have broken more often.
My good luck charm is a coin that no country counts as currency.
I am obsessed with moving, never staying for long
—walk, swim, take a bus—
if I’m not moving, I cannot breathe. I was born early
& I have always been in a hurry.
But when I see where we’re headed, I’m afraid.
My favorite movie is Bambi because the mother dies for her child
but I never tell anyone that.
I would die for my children
because of that movie, because life is like that
except when it is not.
When I was little I liked the Hardy Boys
because their mother died & left
Frank & Joe free to do just as they liked.
Honestly, I know more about silent movies than most people.
Don’t even get me started.
When I don’t care what anyone thinks, I will probably be dead.
I wish I were braver. I am probably too foolish for my own good
My favorite place in my house is my bed,
even though I am not the Emperor Napoleon. There I can dream.
Of all the senses, I use touch the least.
I would rather look at you. Listen to you.
But stay over there, please.
The worst mistake a parent could make is to die.
But then, we are all going to do that.
Also, abandon your child.
But then, really, if you do that are you a parent?
My favorite person is probably a dead author
you have never read.
There is no place I have traveled that hasn’t changed who I am.
The greatest injustice I have ever experienced
was being born a woman, but I’ve learned to live with it.
I am fascinated by paintings of the Dormition of Mary.
Did she dream while she slept & if so—
were they dreams of her Earthly life
or Heaven? Or was the gift of Dormition
sleep free even of dreams?
Favorite item of clothing? I like a good sweater.
Roomy, shawl collared, someplace to hide
from winter & the world.
When I smell the ocean, I remember being skinny
as a sandpiper, stalking the beach
looking for stones or shells. I remember what it
felt like to be sunburned.
The biggest mistake I made in my life—
I probably haven’t made yet.
I will stand up & run if you set fire to this room—
maybe. If it’s not a big room, I’d rather walk.
I would rather eat a bowl of plastic grapes
than tell you what I am really thinking.
What worries me most is that you’re bound to find out.
To lie is one thing. I write fiction. I do that.
But in life, shouldn’t there be truth?

Jesse Lee Kercheval’s latest poetry collection America that island off the coast of France which won the Dorset Prize and is forthcoming from Tupelo Press. She is also a translator whose translations include The Invisible Bridge: Selected Poems of Circe Maia.