Jessica Kaufman is a wordy poet who barely uses punctuation. She does this because she prefers her work to be nonchalant and conversational, which contrasts her topics, since they’re usually heavy. The poems are primarily based on personal experiences, and their being first- and second-person allows the reader to connect with Jessica. The goal of Jessica‘s poems are to bring an outlet and a way for other readers to realize that they’re not alone in that similar experiences have happened to others and everything that they’re feeling is normal. Currently she is a poetry student in high school, allowing her to paint the picture of her memories and thoughts.
Eyes peering into the core of my apple heart
Sliced and squirted with lemon to stay fresh for you
Leaving spots and bruises with every bite you make
Still falling for you even though you abrase Braille into my skin
As if I’m blind no longer able to see the words you say
Only able to feel the words left on my apple peel
Codependency marking my existence
Even with the lack of your existence, you still label me
Titled unmarked untouch only left with my eyes
A Conversation between Jessica Kaufman and Courtney Felle
1. Hi, Jessica! The fruit imagery in this poem is so powerful: though we expect fruit to resemble freshness or innocence, you subvert it here to discuss an abusive relationship. What inspired this reversal, and how does it work to capture the intricacies of the story you’re telling?
What inspired me to capture the story with fruit is that in the beginning of a relationship it is fresh and exciting, where you grew up as a person with the relationship, but what you don't expect is that the innocence and freshness in the relationship will expire like fruit. People bruise easily and the more you put yourself in that position the harder it is to be fresh.
2. This poem starts and ends with the word “eyes,” but throughout the narrative we shift whose eyes we’re seeing through, from the ex-lover’s “eyes peering” to the speaker themself “only left with my eyes.” How does “picture frame” operate within this kind of circular structure, using the same metaphors but shifting them each time? What does that allow?
By having the circular structure, it allows you to see the deeper meaning behind someone's vision and what you see isn't just surface value. Just like a picture frame, it holds up an image to protect it and allow one to look at the image seeing every detail made.
3. In only 9 lines, this poem manages to capture the complexity of a toxic relationship: a desire to make it work without overlooking the fact it isn’t working, a romanticization of pain that’s aware it’s a problematic romanticization, a recognition that the self has been changed and will continue to change because of this hurt. What responsibilities do writers have in representing toxic relationships without glorifying them?
I believe that it is very important for a writer to express their experiences in order for toxic relationships and other issues to be part of a bigger conversation. I find a misconception with toxic relationships is that people don't realize how much it affects a person because sometimes you don't see the abuse directly. Another problem about being in a toxic relationship is that you believe that maybe it will get better, so you remember the good in that relationship. But you also have to remember that your suffering matters and what happened in that relationship didn't go away, and you can come back from it to make yourself happy.