Jasmine V. Bailey
2009 Chapbook Contest Winner


Because I want to know how many ways there are
for you to name my hair, because I want to see if I
can see it growing through your fingers, because it was
a dogwood whose petals and red seeds and gray leaves
and voice of my grandmother brought the first poetry
to me, and because the only thing I believe in is that
there is a place where those poems still exist, and we
can walk there, we can take my life like a bridge there,
and the words will come back to me with the noir films
of our finished evenings, and that is the beloved place
that was promised to somebody lost in some book whose
pages tear when we read it, and that was what we wanted
when we made intelligent decisions as if there were a reward
in this world apart ftom curtains and saffron and roses.

Because it was a dogwood we sat under, or because
someone wrote this out like a coda, or because of nothing,
because there are no causes, I fell into you and came out
of a French river whose name sounded like a cello sounds
when the cellist is neither practicing nor performing.
How long can I follow these banks, startling mallards,
slicing my feet on wine bottles? I will take this walk
all the way to the Mediterranean through strawberry festivals,
through fields of irises, through abandoned train routes, catching flying neckties and pastries that careless people toss.
I will drown until I arrive where I left you, right hand
on a dogwood branch, on your lips a thousand thousand ways and more to say brunette more beautifully.

© 2009 Jasmine V. Bailey

Author Biography

Poet Jasmine V. Bailey was born in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia and raised in New Jersey. A graduate of George School and Colgate University, she traveled to Argentina on a Fulbright grant before receiving her MFA in poetry at the University of Virginia. She lives in Charlottesville.

Critical Response

"The poems in Jasmine Bailey's Sleep and What Precedes It make an 'argument for the eye' (as Ruskin called it. They are unafraid of beauty, pleasure—'the gleam of semi-permanence.' They take the measure of the earth, 'the heaviness of it, the meanderingness of it' and achieve a wonder from seeing things in their firstness. The lushness of the horizontal axis is crossed by the vertical axis of history, exile, and an autumnal feeling. In the intersection of these two comes a poetry that has 'all the ripe devotion of the created.' It's ardent, alert, and mindful."

—Bruce Smith

"It is the power of Jasmine Bailey's long-lined and gorgeous poems to 'make simple things holy with (their) excess.' In landscapes where 'the floors of New Jersey woods/ are rendered golden with falling walnuts' or lakes are 'misplaced in heavy mists,' her characters move in urgent, elegant search of what eludes them. These poems braid oonging and grief into rich, evocative song."

—Gregory Orr

©2009 Longleaf Press at Methodist University | Fayetteville, NC