University of Minnesota Alumni Association

The Last Word

The Properties of Women Are the Properties of Life

A poem from Jennifer Willoughby, M.F.A '00

Illustration by Hadley Hooper

Do we attract iron filings? Yes, each follicle buzzes with steel. Do we penetrate healthy tissue? Yes, our amazing fingers leave self-sealing scars. Do we ingest chemicals? Yes, we wrestle our feelings into flammable capes. Do we enter and leave our feelings? Yes, we wear young antlers to confuse hunters. Do we represent disaster? Yes, it smells like sulfur after we rain. Do we lack an organizing principle? Yes, we do not follow a traditional axis. Do we howl and snap? Yes, it’s the only way to communicate with our demographic. Do we circle the house like any stray predator? Yes, and our teeth shine on.

Jennifer Willoughby, M.F.A '00

Poem excerpted with permission from Beautiful Zero (Milkweed Editions, 2015).