The Ballad of Sexual Dependency by Jessica Baran


Adapt a naturalist conceit in which the central image is avian. That’s something I can’t do. For years I
took pictures before realizing I couldn’t see anything in color. Imagine a red kerchief caught among tree
branches, indicating data about heat and place by its toss-away flight. That’s within my realm of
knowledge: a lost commodity side-eyed for drops in price. I toured catacombs and smoldering lava pits
while my husband flirted with other wives on a tropical island. Our estrangement was illustrated not
through clashing colors but perceived nature: Vesuvius versus palm; museum versus cabaret. Life was
scarce even within the human body — covered in overcoats, siphoned down streets, captured in heroic
poses cut into stone or plaster, filling the space where a corpse once burned. Evidently, the reverse of inti-
macy is documentary. The longer I watch, the more I’m satisfied. Baby strollers, cars, soiled linens blan-
keting tangled legs — they fly by unguardedly, unthriftily, unaware of balmy primitivity.


Jessica Baran is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Common Sense (Lost Roads Press, 2016). Her poems and art criticism have appeared in numerous journals, including Flash Art, A Public Space, BOMB and Poor Claudia. With Ted Mathys, she co-curates the 100 Boots Poetry Series at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, where she lives.