We shouldn’t use Latinate words,
too many syllables, abstractions, flowers.
Instead, use words with Germanic roots,
shorter, to the point. As if half our tongue
was wrong. As if flowers, too,
didn’t belong. Oh, you know what I mean.
Yes, I do: erase those empires and the gods. Say fall,
not autumn; ghost, not phantom;
drought, not famine; fire, not flame.
We have aches, not pains, graves, not tombs.
As if no one from such places
could speak of concrete things,
as if no one came here from such places at all.
Like immigrant. Say one who comes.
Angie Macri is the author of Underwater Panther, winner of the Cowles Poetry Book Prize. Her recent work appears in The Cincinnati Review, The Fourth River, and Quarterly West. An Arkansas Arts Council fellow, she lives in Hot Springs and teaches at Hendrix College.
It’s like knowing there’s
a house on fire and only
you have the key, but
there’s no address, the
streets keep changing
numbers, and if you
don’t make it in time,
everybody inside dies.
Even the houseplants.
You never make it in
time. I still like my
brain. This feels as
impossible as crown
shyness, but it’s true—I
feel its lure flash like a
camera bulb sometimes,
the magic and the grief
like two rivers necking
where they meet.
My father teaches ethics at a university. My mother teaches ethics at a university. They save. Their money. Buy a large bungalow in Connecticut. They continue. Saving. Enough to support the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and their baby. They read the news and wish kindness into our laws. One of them will say Sweden hasn’t been to war since 1812. The other says you can start a business in Sweden and get free healthcare. They’re excited. About my arrival. They remain. Calm. When midnight cries wake them. My father waits. For my mother to heal. Before asking for sex. She’s good. At saying no. She throws meditation and exercise and intense therapy at her trauma. Still goes to AA. When wrong. She promptly admits it. Every night she arrives home from the university. Her soft. Low voice. Builds a replica in my throat. She wears minimal. Makeup. Cuts her nails down because who needs the fuss. When I walk. Into a room. And see my father. I continue walking in. When my father and I leave. The house. Lots of women introduce themselves. When we get back he tears. Their numbers over the trash. On weekends my father and I dig in the dirt. I watch him plant lilac bulbs around the spruce. He lets my small hand pack the ground. Affirms it as help. When my father puts. me to bed with true stories of him sewing clothes for new mothers in Ukraine. I fall asleep fast.
Water. At the shore we don’t build anything. Behind our sunglasses, our eyes dart in every direction. A man carries a sandcastle on his back. A fish. Or is that a tattoo of a fairytale palace? His arms are full sleeves of ink. Maybe he’s been working in the financial district for years. Maybe he’s only here for three days.
In the water we talk salaries and offices and how much saltier this sea is compared to ours. Ours? We talk about hunger, the likelihood of lunch. On my left, Burj Al Arab juts forth its belly of glass and steel.