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Jen Burke Archive

Jen Burke

These Were Summers: A Meditation, Part 3

November 2nd, 2007
by Jen Burke

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

Baltimore: where the liquid movement of caffeinated roads convert me from office worker to day tripper

For the rest of the afternoon, I should be seated in a windowless office in Philadelphia with nauseating fluorescent lights that buzz louder than maggot-infested roadkill.

This place makes me appreciate windows, enough so that I take breaks, wander to the bleak stairwell, and look through the one window there that can never be opened.

My office mate, J., should also be seated in this office all afternoon, where our predecessors sketched on the wall above our desks a ballpoint window with a shaky, though accurate, view of the city skyline, complete with a filthy pigeon that never flutters, eats, or shits. There’s an upside to everything if you want it badly enough.

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Jen Burke

These Were Summers: A Meditation, Part 2

October 29th, 2007
by Jen Burke

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

Body memories ooze through pores. I once resisted the feelings. Not anymore.

I let my body relive the moment, whether it’s getting goosebumps, letting my shoulders slump, or tightening every muscle in my belly. I think of the place, and there I am, again, in that moment . . .

Richmond: where things shook under my fingers and led to uncertain paths

The Chevy becomes an extension of my body. The steering wheel isn’t something external to me. It’s the outgrowth of my hands and my handle on sanity.

I need to be in the driver’s seat. My Chevy is the only place where I actually am.

This is therapy. Or escapism. Same thing at this point.

I flounder in two part-time jobs.

My elbows grow calluses from leaning for hours on desks and counter tops while I work.

It is possible I am not a happy person.

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Jen Burke

Of Dennis Hof, Deborah Palfrey, HBO, and Mainstreaming Sex: A Chat with Amanda Brooks

October 27th, 2007
by Jen Burke

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

Welcome to the first installment of my first interview on TheNervousBreakdown.com.

I was inspired by Kaytie M. Lee’s interview of NOMAD, the graffiti artist, and by B. Francis Smith’s interview of David Breithaupt, Kurt Vonnegut’s pen pal.

I wanted to post an interview, but I had no idea whom to interview . . . until I thought about what has consistently interested me the most: the intersection of sexuality, law and culture.

In fact, all facets of sex and sexuality have interested me as long as I can remember. In the early ’80s, my folks let me take Dr. Ruth’s books from the library, something that other young grammar-school children weren’t doing.

Throughout three academic degrees, this intersection has regularly been my focus: mating and dating rituals, gender identity, sexual harassment laws, pornography regulation, obscenity laws, feminism, polyamory, rights for same-sex couples, sex work, and plenty more.

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Jen Burke

These Were Summers: A Meditation, Part I

September 20th, 2007
by Jen Burke

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

Certain places can be as random but particular as the procession of faces on the subway.

These are places from summers, places that branded themselves into my brain, landing in my memories viscerally.

I don’t see these places in my mind’s eye as much as my body feels them again - the intensity of the wind or sun, the smell of garbage, the feel of unwashed clothing, the strangeness of chairs holding warmth from an unknown person’s body.

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Jen Burke

And Here I Stand, With Ambivalence, Breast Tenderness, and Tidbit

September 15th, 2007
by Jen Burke

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

This post is about as tasteful as bedazzling a pair of acid wash jeans with pink rhinestones.

This is a post about boobs. Specifically, my boobs.

I’m on good terms with the girls, for the most part. Obviously, we go way back. They’re there for me.

Our relationship is changing though, and that has given me cause for concern.

Overall though, I happen to adore them.

I realize the rule is you are only allowed to adore your boobs if you bought them from the right surgeon and even then, you are only allowed to adore them if they aren’t resting on your collarbones or as wall-eyed as an inbred walrus.

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Jen Burke

Ponging of Omphaloskepsis, or: An Odd Way of Telling A Truth Without Telling My Truth

September 6th, 2007
by Jen Burke

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

This is a post about things I can’t explain, sort of like how buildings are actually built or why rain happens.

I should know these kinds of things, but don’t.

And, for the record, this is a post about things I won’t explain.

These disclaimers will let me talk about and around everything I want to say without actually saying it, which means you’re in for a bit of masturbatory navel-gazing.

This is a post that may involve a cliche or two, because cliches are easy and available and to my utmost chagrin, truthful.

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Jen Burke

She’s in Touch with Her Catholic Roots Again, Which Means the Saints Are Running Amok in Patronage

May 2nd, 2007
by Jen Burke

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.”
-Douglas Adams

* * *

In my everyday life, I see the impact of my Catholic upbringing.

Yet in my head, religion is an empty, blank theatre, a thing fallen out of use long ago, and somewhat obscured.

Religion was supposed to give me answers about the universe and How It All Started.

Instead I was left with questions about myself.

Healing from the Church has meant unlearning the Church.

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Jen Burke

Uneventful Redemptions, or: I’d Rather Sleep in Dew Than Kneel in a Pew

April 19th, 2007
by Jen Burke

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

Don’t bother to turn the water into wine.

Not again.

Please.

I’ve seen that trick before.

I crave subtlety, a lighter touch.

I’ll look elsewhere.

I’ve had success elsewhere.

I find redemption in odd places.

I used to think redemption would always pass me by, hide from me, or be like the beautiful stranger who’s just out of focus, out of reach.

I’ve learned redemption is not this spiteful or particularly elusive.

It does sneak up on me.

It can be quiet.

For some reason, I thought redemption would have loud footsteps, as if a massive, lumbering Almighty with a majestic, white beard were chasing me for not having a hall pass.

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Jen Burke

Transcendent Sensation Seeking, or: I Wonder if Cenobites Dream of Being Tied Up with Soft, Silk Scarves

April 6th, 2007
by Jen Burke

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

* * *
Michael: “Stanley, see this? This is this. This ain’t something else. This is this. From now on, you’re on your own.”
-from The Deer Hunter
* * *

There is plenty that is scary about unending disease.

I say “unending” for a reason: despite the prattling of well-intentioned folks, I have never expected a remission, given the severity of the symptoms, the ANA count, the other diagnoses, and the drug cocktail I’ve needed from the beginning, lest I pitifully howl on the kitchen floor.

I have never had a remission since starting this sickie game in 1998.

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Jen Burke

Outted, or How To Be Clumsy While Getting Busted with Candy and Redheads

October 7th, 2006
by Jen Burke

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

And take upon ’s the mystery of things,
As if we were God’s spies.

-Shakespeare, King Lear

You really don’t know what’s lurking under the lid when you start to ask someone about obsessions.

It might look neat and orderly from the outside.

Obsession begets its own melodramatic light, becomes a self-contained beacon leading us in twisted, inspired directions.

Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you.

You’ll never get me to talk smack about an obsession.

I like obsessions.

I’ll take the lid off and poke around.

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Jen Burke

The Power of Christ Compels Me, or Maybe My Repetition Compulsion Does, or Maybe I’m Obsessed with Letters, Mail, and the Possibility of You

October 2nd, 2006
by Jen Burke

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

Earlier tonight, I performed an exercise that is part inspiration, part ritualized humiliation for sins past.

I opened one of my file cabinet drawers that houses years of my writing attempts and publications.

You might be able to see from the picture that I label items ever-so-carefully and helpfully so that I know precisely what is in each file: “writing stuff I,” “writing stuff II,” and so forth.

Unfortunately some of the publications are far more cringe-worthy than some rough drafts that never reached another human’s gaze.

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Jen Burke

Filthadelphia, or How I Found the Love of My Life in the Dumpster

September 25th, 2006
by Jen Burke

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

This is a love story. It involves a poignant moment of collecting urine.

Maybe it should involve velvety rose petals and a suburban porch.

It doesn’t.

It starts here, where my love first bit my fingers and left bits of rotting food on my hands:

I’ve peered at overflowing dumps with wistful eyes ever since.

That’s how I met him, the reigning love of my life who died on May 21, 2005.

In 1995, I was walking to work when a friend said, “Want a cute dog? He’s a really cute dog. I know you’ve been looking for a pet.”

She took me by the hand into the nearby set of dumpsters, where trash overflowed onto the ground, sidewalk, and street.

Among those decaying, forgotten things, I spotted a bright, intense face.

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Jen Burke

The Blackout, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Embarrassment

September 19th, 2006
by Jen Burke

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

The first time you sleep with someone, some childhood skeleton will awaken and creak.

Maybe it will only be in your head.

Maybe it will happen out loud, and you’ll squirm in the moment, truly naked or almost revealed.

I’m scared of the dark. There. I’ve said it.

I will never forget my first night with my ex.

He usually smelled like grass, rain, and cars.

I know that because I live on and through smells.

I remember them like skin.

He leaned over my side of the bed to turn off the light. I shrieked.

“WHAT are you doing?”

“I wanna sleep now.” He cowered.

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