A couple of days ago my husband returned from the grocery store with a pound of bananas and a small coconut. The bananas were perfectly ripe for consumption, and I put them in a fruit basket. I held the coconut in my hand and noticed the beige, hairy shell covering it. The image of a coconut that I was familiar with was of a large, round fruit with a dark brown, hairy exterior. Our coconut had an elliptical shape and a groove around its widest part as if someone had chiseled into it. I read the label on it that claimed that this coconut was “easy to open.” I began to laugh aloud and was barely able to utter to my husband to cut it in half following that indentation. I didn’t believe the label, and the steps that followed in cracking it open proved me right. This coconut intrigued us both, and we wanted to taste the liquid and the white flesh inside of it. We first pierced a hole on its top and drained it. We took a sip and agreed that the liquid was flavorless. My husband had to use a hammer and pounded hard several times across the chiseled line until the coconut finally split open. After that, we proceeded to separate its meat from the outer shell. It was edible but bland, and hard to chew.
When I first became a bee I was just so nectar naïve.
I tumbled over petals waving my antennae frantically.
Then, when I was living life as a flower and not a bee,
well, to back up: this is tragic: I didn’t identify as flower
It’s the last day of school, and I get home with butterflies in my stomach. My mouth already tastes like summer, like heat outside and air conditioning inside, like the darkness of my cave, like cloister and crypt. I turn on the television and change the channel, change the channel, one to the next, discovering the lineup for the beginning of the end of the week, the beginning of my three-month rest, the beginning of a new wave of televised hunger, the same that ensues from another year of school.
The Albanian language is one of the oldest languages in Europe, although its written form appears rather late in the historical record, sometime in the mid-fifteenth century. It occupies an independent branch of the Indo-European language tree; hence it is considered an isolate within that language family, with no kin conclusively linked to its branch. It is believed to be the descendant of Illyrian, but this hypothesis has been challenged by some linguists, who maintain that it derives from Dacian or Thracian. However, to this day there is no scholarly consensus over its ascendant, and it is still a subject of scientific debate.
The first time I tried to see Judge Florence, I employed the same strategy as most petitioners: I camped out at the entrance to the courthouse in the administrative district next to the lake in the capital to try and grab her as she walked in. But that just showed my ignorance of the winding, inner workings of the judicial system—as soon as the magistrate appeared, I was thoughtlessly shoved aside by at least thirty others racing toward her with similar ideas. The only glimpse I managed to catch of Florence was a wisp of jet-black hair and a flash of golden glasses slicing a path through the scrambling masses.
The woman took a seat on the bench. She was wearing a little black dress and a coat that was also black, brightened up with a pale blue scarf around her neck. Long blond hair framed her rather beautiful face, which her eyes, drowned in dream, bestowed with a unique absence.
Mónica Gomery’s forthcoming collection, Might Kindred, was the winner of the 2021 Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. The book inhabits a variegated landscape, exploring the nature of home as a first-generation American. In the conversation that follows, Gomery and Handler discuss ancestry, identity, intimacy, and the liminal spaces between.
Poetry as Homeland: An Interview with Mónica Gomery
now that your dad’s gone your mom gets lost in the dark a lot; lost mid-stairs, or in the walk-in closet, or deep in the pantry, lost in the dark sub-terrain of the basement; or here, now at the kitchen counter, glaring out the lost window at the lost backyard, an array of convex and concave mirrors, rigged foil panels, little jet booster engines idling; sun pours in shimmering off her shoulder, crests around the gloss of her face; and you watch as she slowly turns now that your dad’s gone—