JoAnna Novak

JoAnna Novak is the Pushcart-Prize-nominated author of three chapbooks: Two Fats and a Virtue (winner of the Slash Pine Press 2014 Spring Contest), Laps (Another New Calligraphy, 2014), and Something Real (dancing girl press, 2011). A finalist for the 2014 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and a nominee for Best of the Net 2014, her writing has recently appeared in BOMB, Joyland, DIAGRAM, Guernica, The Nervous Breakdown, and The Rumpus. A founding editor of Tammy, she lives in Massachusetts, where she is working on a novel.

White Duck

Edifice, Throat




White Duck

White Duck

White Duck

I fall into the water, and my head comes off. I am a pearl-bearer, exhaling sudden camphor. My spine is gold.

The hag in her barrel jounces the horse. I nail myself to coffins, preparing for ghosts. Neither spend all your coins nor eat all your gruel says one wiser than me, but I don't heed: we're in the forest, wresting freedom from the lyre.

Now the days reveal their riches. Green, they confetti my field. I was never ruffled; as a matter of verity, cherries dressed me. As a fact, matter quacked in my mouth. Caution undoes the oars and sends me bottling to my other king's pond.


Edifice, Throat

Edifice, Throat

Edifice, Throat


My window  

webbed with interruption 

voice               if I could

put you in a card                            I don’t know 

I would.                               Tweet across the street

rage plus pulse.                           Sunday when 


I saw                            smectic post-shower 

saccading heart     
                   talk blink 

so I seem          hours   

                                                    bash the light

first my sheets              thrashed 

compression. I had been

awake, whores, worse                                                 woman didn’t know   

dreaming new last 

names, afraid I want   

what I shouldn’t   

          gum survival 

hallway trauma  

tonguing grout    

experience twerked

them selves are tired   

           those aperk. 

What if I forsake my grand

dame, pink brute lost in the post?            Town 

             people wheel the sidewalk. Ivory army

concrete                  my spine 

              smack-ax to the arm.          Everything

tin then gold, tinged old night skies, so              long  

calorescence, my BFF. 

Left Route 2 and right accents.         Day one clouds  

        peddle fluff        

                                swaddled my 

service.    I talk  

        reception, but        I was                      open

to anything  

        man in the woods

train of women  

coyotes and carrots

field-mice anklets  

tails and stripes

ears                      ears                            ears    

       detached or dangling 

stomach-mouthed I was                  spanning the gorge 

       Turners Wendell

Aries and smoke  

scarlet bass

white polish 

        Black Honey  

 liquid smoke    

          nuts as exception

three ingredients for bones.       Backstory 

         my judgement. Silenced

my wife               apron

         gravy                       jewels meat, cubing

butter for braids                         leaves and scrolls  

         doves. The end of this 

rope and all my goods: the swing-set 

         capuchins, the sandbox. Happy 

Meal castles. Dinky 

         shovels. Scowled and 

swallowed before me they got          


         mange-battered all                       ready to jump   

                                     in the pool.





I sweat my funeral

dress downhill

a regular July,

like rejection,

a stick of black

fabric against open

heat. I’m sorry

nothing not one

second. All weekend

I didn’t

look on you,

check in, nuzzle

my folds —sullen

I sat last

row, spread

my fingers:

spinster. Be patient

with me, shames

that can be always,

counting checks and

blackberries, checking

the mail. It’s been

this way since

I was a child.

We learn unless

we don’t. I won’t

police my thoughts.

I’ll be courteous,

reposed, responsive,

heavy, lazy, gracious,

pizza. Wait for

my weight, its greatness,

pepperoni. I’ll write

my tomb with mint

water, a goose  

I call myself an

embalmment, mannered

or not.







What do you want from the dark outside?            


A man collapsed on the street. 


He was carted away—then I could move my head.                                   


                                                                        He lifted his hand and I walked away,
me, my familiar, my fou-fou, my fam.  




I keep an ear to the window for happiness.                         


I keep my body to the bed for feeling. 


I keep waiting for lift-
off                                                                                                     to win without work.             


That’s home—a right                         


and a trophy 


for wearing the clean shirt.  




I keep everything 


kind of worse.             


Sheets could be 


clean. The should be:                       


was I on the sidewalk? 

Yes, by Dunkin.



       Kill me I say  

    moreover on the interstate.                                               Move over: a patient 


hot metal, her cold skull. Death in air conditioning. 


My thighs look pretty-                       


sick with goosebumps. 



I wait so, sweet for warm air.


Your mouth at one point or other: 

Stop believing people come back.

Stop expecting your belly.

Start accepting night ends.

Night comes quicker.

Come less often. 


Less I tell others you. (This could be sexual if you let it.)                       


I want to let you             


but the moat is so deep around 


blinded by bricks and shelves and a beautiful                         


Italian dama. My family pretends 


to be Italian. There is no cruelty                       


in imitation. I will take you 


let you buy me cheese             


aged three years.


I flirt the counter 

boys                                                                     for an extra scoop. 



Every summer I wait for myself there I am:                       


patient ewe.                  


Sheep’s yogurt is so fatty.  



Faulty                                                my feelings  go burp in the night.                       


Excuse me. I was on sheets and doom. 


Dog at my feet and killing the mood. 



The interstate buzzed lawnmowers. I slowed my motor. 


Out the windshield, I had no famiglia. 


I belonged to the police. Everywhere they wanted me just the way I was.