“The Autobiography of Miss Jane Doe” by Jude Marr

Image by Jenn Rhubright

Archaeology rescued J. Doe’s remains
from a re-zoned potter’s field, before the backhoes
flattened clods into the basis for a co-ed dorm—

dirt-rain muck-churned mud-red on midwife’s boot sheet-reek and mama dyed at my
first wake

Pathology measured Doe at fifty-seven inches,
and an estimated twenty years. Her diseased joints,
her skull’s deformity, screamed tertiary syphilis—

my Rory my beau lost at sea Rory raw and bonny rest his soul Rory made May maid
no more

History judged, from the situation of the grave
and the condition of the bones, that Jane Doe must have lived
a whore, before post-Reconstruction’s Gilded Age—

pa traded me for meat plucked fowl blood sausage mutton rare sweet not spoiled not like pa’s wee May

Women’s Studies gave Ms Doe more shape: urban-slum child,
further pauperized by gender; tender cherry-
flesh broken/sold/assaulted by misogyny; a face made hideous by pox—

nor bairn’s nor women’s sickness dosed with mercury I shrink from sticks and staines from stink from me

Art played with Jane. Art digitized her skull, repaired
the syphilitic parts, layered virtual clay. Maybe J’s
reconstructed face, her blunt unwholesomeness, failed to inspire;
still, Art clicked SAVE—

tenement bed-wretched breath blood coughed consumption they say can’t wake May

Meanwhile, Buildings and Grounds scheduled another hole
(fifty-seven inches—four-foot-nine) and re-buried
Unidentified Human Remains, Female #63.

dirt-rain muck-churned mud-red on digger’s boot who says amen wakes me wakes May

Moral Philosophy may plant a cherry tree at her feet.



Jude Marr was born in Scotland and has lived for many years in England, but always with the United States on her mind and in her work. In the last two years, she has traveled to workshops and residencies in New England, New York and Florida. Right now, she is folding up her old life and putting it in a drawer with her winter clothes, getting ready for the new school year as an MFA candidate at Georgia College in Milledgeville. Her poems have also appeared in The Cortland Review, and she recently completed a novel she hopes may see the light someday. She is fifty-two years old and feels like her life just got started. Dreams can come true.

Read an interview with Jude here.