Posts Tagged ‘Ally Malinenko’




It was freshman year of college Kyle

you and me hanging out in your room.

Me crying over the boyfriend

I left behind back home,

you doing the same about your girl.

It was a new city for me, Kyle

and I didn’t have any friends yet really

and I thought that maybe this could be

just that

after you hugged me goodbye

and held on for a little too long.

But it wasn’t until two years later

outside poetry class

when you came up to me


and called me a tease

told me that I had started something

that day that I didn’t finish.

Made me remember

10th grade when Rob told me

the worst thing a girl can do is give

a guy blue balls.

When he said that I started to think I had some kind of power

over boys

a power I needed to be careful with.

Something that could medically cripple them,

I thought of this

as the word


bubbled up out of your mouth

and I realized there is power here

but it does not belong to me, Kyle.

Worst Thing in the World

It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world

she says and shuts the fridge door, raising an eyebrow.

and I think to myself, please not you too.

Not now, in my childhood kitchen

with my niece running around.

Not now when my sister just told everyone

she was pregnant again,

not now when my first novel came out,

when we just decided what country number five was.

Not now.

But she turns her back to me.

I make jokes and she half smiles,

reminding me again that having a baby

wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world

and I think

no not the worst,

picturing the mountains in Salzburg

and Mozart’s grave,

remembering Caesar’s

and waiting on Beethoven’s

not the worst,

I nod,

not the worst,

but so awfully, dangerously close.



Do Say A Few Nice Things About People’s Homes When You Visit


The place is new,

built from the ground up,

big wide rooms, newly painted

a few pictures freshly hung.

There’s no stray hair in the bathroom

or scuff marks on the linoleum.


I stand awkwardly, shifting from foot to foot,

following from room to room,

the beer bottle in my hand

quickly emptied

now starting to sweat.


Look, the closet, she says,

and we walk in,

clothes tumbling off hangers

and piling on the floor.


All this space, she says

and I still don’t have enough room.


I smile and nod, I try to think of something nice to say.


And this, she tells me, will be the baby’s room.

She sighs. Eventually, she tells me.


Soon, I tell her, to say something helpful.


Please she says, a baby is the least I’ll get out of that sonofabitch.

You don’t know what it’s like, she says, turning to look at me.

Living with him.


Come downstairs, she says with a wide smile,

I’ll show you the holes he punched in the basement walls.



Not to Be Happy Is Not Just a Misfortune, It Is a Failure



the man

on the subway tells me.

Pretty girl like you,

what you got


to be

smiling about?


It’s the least

you can do, he tells me,

For the rest of us.




Passing Ordinary Time
It was a Sunday
followed by a Monday.

It was a story told in three parts, over the course
of a long weekend.

There were people moving slowly
and other crushing up against them. There is the beating of hearts
against hearts. A rough fumbling of fingers around glasses.

There were fathers with limps. Mothers who tended. Streets full of children.

This was a Sunday. Before Monday.

There was prayer being spoken aloud, somewhere, down in the basement of the building,
in the cellar by the laundry room. There was an argument.

There were lips together and apart and together again,
finding each other, just a small space left for breath.

This was a Sunday, followed by a Monday.
This is life in ordinary time.

You live here; you plan;
you tick things off the list you keep on the refrigerator door
the things you meant to do.

1.Cut your hair
2.Fix the window
3.Leave for Paris
4.Try to come back

This is much different from the list you carry around in your wallet, battered and worn.
You don’t open that list, it tears at the creases but you know all 21 items by heart
and sometimes you change the order.

You tell the story.

This is the way it is and if we are lucky, this is the way it will always be.
And we will stand over the crib of tomorrow and say,
“Where have you been?”
This is Monday now, and it is as if Monday is what it has always been,
for days and days and days.

It was nice to be back in the Grassroot.
We hadn’t been there in awhile,
not since before Paris
and the cafes, and the little dishes of peanuts.

It was just after five on a Sunday afternoon,
a day of walking the city behind us,

an evening of home cooked curry and a movie ahead of us.
I told you I was sorry for being distracted
and for mistaking other people’s joy for what I wanted.

I told you that I won’t do that anymore. That I will recognize
the good in my own life, the way it arches away from me
and comes back around again, like a sunrise or the way a good poem should.

I promise to not ruin it, to not to squeeze it to tight
demand things from it, shake it so hard in my fist
till it shatters and I cry about all the blood.

I tell you I just get distracted sometimes,
like a goldfish with no memory or a crow with something shiny.
You laugh.
But I mean it and in those times I think that my joy is empty joy
or that maybe I’m doing this whole life all wrong.

I tell you maybe if I had two lives, I could have it all.
You give me a side smile.

“But not anymore. You aren’t going to do that anymore,” you say with a nod.
You lift your drink to your mouth.
“Not any more,” I answer, staring out the door
to the flashing neon lights in the tattoo parlor.
It doesn’t look like April outside. It looks like September.
But then again, those two are the same, aren’t they?


My husband reads me the details,
about the couple killed in the city
we used to live in.

And I picture Main Street, downtown,
where the subway is. He tells me about
their children back in Texas.
Orphans, now, he says.

And just like that, I think about the fire
down the street from my job,
the conversation, the air full of soot
heat and ash, the crumbling blackened
charred bones of the building,
its sisters, standing open windowed
as if shocked, dripping wet.

You gather these people,
cell by cell, that share your space.
You breathe the same air as them,
jostling against them as the bus
chugs through the city
like a dying thing. You hate and love them.

You stand in front of these building,
these streets, and you watch the body fail.
Limp and bloodless. Smoke filled and charred,
like inanimate thing, a body transformed into ash.
I know nothing of the spirit; neither, I suspect, do you.
You wait and watch but in the end,
eventually the destruction is gone,
cleaned up by the men whose job it is to clean the body,
the building, to make new the face of the street,
and you nod
and you shuffle off,
board the bus,
thinking of the day behind you, the night ahead of you,
rub your eyes and exhale into your hands,
your breath filling the pockets of flesh from bone to bone,
It wasn’t me. Thank God. This time.
It wasn’t me.



“We don’t have to go to Tangier,” I tell him.

“No way,” he says. “I’m not going to be the one who

messes up your chance to go to Africa.”


“It’s not that, I tell him,

it was just that book.


I got this crazy idea in my head that

I would step foot on every continent

from that book.”

But what if there are other places I want to go?

I ask the empty room, looking at the map taped to the wall.

There just isn’t enough time, I worry.


“Sure,”he says, from the bathroom,

then there is the sound of him spitting

out toothpaste. “Doesn’t matter to me. Besides,

that crazy fuck is burning the Koran down in Florida so…who knows.

I don’t know if we want to walk around a Muslim country

screaming‘American’ you know?”

Then the sharp inhale as he sucks in

and looks at his teeth.


I examine the map again and I think to myself,

man, these books, all of them, not just these ones,

but all of them,

even the ones about to be written,

they are going to be the death of us.




When it come on, it startles me.

This realization of how many of us there are.


The subway car pulls up to the platform and I watch their

faces slide by, these people, who walk the same streets,

breathe the same air.


Their fingers touching the same metal poles,

and handrails, the same doors


Coming in. Coming out.


It is all of us, we alone.

I wonder what they are searching for


and I hope they wonder what I am searching for,

before the train clanks and heaves,


this vehicle of mankind.


The woman waits, pulling her hair out of her mouth,

the breeze underground can be strong.


She sighs and rubs her eyes.

I am you, I think as I pass her,


and we can trade lives. I can live inside your little world,

and with you pull poems

from your teeth.


You live inside a room I can’t imagine, and have never been to.

The moonlight probably falls on the floor there, long and elegant.


The woman on the platform leans toward the train,

leans, the way one must lean into pain.


Keep it, and then give it away, like breath

and keep passing that way from one of us to another.