Jennifer Martelli


The Asian elephant has a blue jewel-tone diamond on the gray sky of his forehead. The jewel may change color–amber, ruby red,

green–but never its shape. The elephant is not wearing the jewel, anymore than we wear a birthmark, or the color of our eyes, or

the heaviness in our hearts. The elephant may be a cow. The elephant may be African, lucky enough to have ears shaped like her

continent, so she’ll never get lost. The diamond may be a diamond formed by squeezing coal for a million years or formed by a child’s

pointer fingers and thumbs touching, pressed up to the gray
stormy-sky-forehead of the elephant. The elephant never forgets

anything: the day she’s meant to die, where to visit friends who’ve gone, when the oceans were made.

First appeared in The Chiron Review

Miss Ice River 

He signs: I saw her hooves. Signs: I crawled across the ice. Signs: rope.

His right hand warm with signs while the left strokes
the brown velvet fawn with chandelier crystals hanging from her pelt.

The smoke from his breath as he signs and the smoke from the snout
of the fawn who will not leave his hand or his side. Her apple eyes.

Smoke from their breaths across the river and under the bridge.
No sound: not his idling truck, nor the oaks’ crack, or the frozen lake’s cut.

Signs: I name her Miss Ice River.  Signs: Farewell.


First appeared in Pittsburgh Poetry Review


Jennifer Martelli’s debut poetry collection, The Uncanny Valley, was published in 2016 by Big Table Publishing Company. She is also the author of the chapbook, Apostrophe and the chapbook, After Bird, from Grey Book Press. Her work has appeared in Thrush, [Pank], Glass Poetry Journal, The Heavy Feather Review, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Jennifer Martelli has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net Prizes and is the recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry. She is a book reviewer for Up the Staircase Quarterly, as well as a co-curator for The Mom Egg VOX Folio

Poetry is important to me because its rhythms mimic the tempo of a heartbeat, or better yet, blood flowing through veins. I think that’s why many of us respond to poetry in a physical way; why it gets us in the gut, why poetry can be gut-wrenching. Poetry can reveal the layers of the mundane. Without poetry, I’d just be sitting on a barstool, smoking, with a pile of scratch tickets.