Do you think Cinderella looked up from her ironing and thought “this is going to be a great story someday”? Do you think she could identify the elements of her narrative arc, living in the moment? No doubt the beginning was very clear, it usually is. But what was the inciting incident – was it the first kiss or the first argument? the first time she stopped pretending or the first time he made her cry? If the tensions rose and fell like the tides, how could she ever recognize the climax? And had the ending been foretold—Chekov’s gun-on-the-wall theory come to pass? Had she missed it in the exposition? Or did she choose to ignore it? It would all be explained, of course, in the dénouement, when the fibers of the story are finally woven together. Or untied, as the French word suggests? Untethered?

©2017, Jen Payne. IMAGE: Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire, Thomas Sully


In the pieces of memory
and scraps of conversations
transcribed in situ
I will tell you about
the headless groom
and the dead dog,
about the failure of Saint Raphael
and the irony of the phrase
“you could get hit by a bus.”
I’ll tell you the 15,000 words that broke me
and the ones that almost put me back together
until I realized my heart was better
cracked wide-open like that anyhow.
Now all I need to do is type

Happy Ending.

on the last page
and hope it will suffice.

Poem ©2017, Jen Payne. Image: Woman writing, Edouard Manet.


come, look closely
I am gold here
in between the pieces

no longer broken


each crack
part of my history
this shimmering self



this is no disguise

no pretending
you don’t see the scar

it is the thick hot line
that shows you
how I traveled here

come, touch it
trace your finger
along its golden trail

there is poetry there,
can you feel it?

Poem ©2016, Jen Payne, 11 years removed. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

August 31 at 50

And now you are gone again,
this moment on this day……gone
for almost as long as I knew you.


every formative year countered
in near equal measure for each one apart,
every lockstep moment faded
by the passing of tides and time,
until I become you.

Until I become you
in that standstill moment—
this age, this midway —
your celebration then
as familiar as my yesterday

now a present, now mine
to walk without impression.

Poem ©2016, by Jen Payne, daughter of Henry C. Payne.

What Remains

When I was nine
my parents parked
outside the plaza card shop
on a hot June day
so I could buy a present.
My sister stayed in the car.

The shop smelled like paper.
There was a back room,
separated by a beaded curtain,
where you could find gifts:
candles and wooden owls,
macramé and pottery.

The candleholders I bought
were avocado green
and hot pink —a pair,
two, like my parents.
It was their 10th anniversary,
and we were celebrating.

How funny to find them
after all these years,
candleholders in a dust-covered box
with hard wax held fast,
like memories
and how things used to be.

Poem ©2016, Jen Payne, National Poetry Month, 28.


When he left, I anointed myself in sandalwood,

dabbed oil on pulse points still timed to his heart.

If he could no longer hold me, I would let go —

assume the forest as his embrace,

place feet firmly once more on this small satellite

……………ever spinning, ever changing.

WORDS ©2016, Jen Payne. IMAGE: Sandalwood Forest – Marayoor by Madhav Pai, Flicker

Tipping Point

At the rooftop restaurant
overlooking London on the
honeymoon come 20 years too late,
my mother longed for the window seat.

It was the last of my father’s offerings:
the new house on the one-acre lot,
the blue car with a big red bow,
the Ethan Allen living room suite.

He could do no more to please her there,
at the all-expenses-paid last resort,
than in the beginning when her expectations
cast long shadows down the aisle.

A love can only take so much,
hide the wince of disappointment so long,
before it gathers lines that won’t erase,
turns to scan a distant skyline.

Words ©2016, Jen Payne. Image: Couple with Red, Nathan Oliveira.