a poetry e-zine










Carla Criscuolo

I repeatedly print your name
across blank pieces of loose leaf
notebook paper, punishing myself
the way old schoolmarms once punished
misbehaving elementary school students.
The arch of each “m,” the continuity of
each “o” and the sting of tendonitis remind me
of all the ways I asked the same question
hoping for a different answer; the question
put forth every time I scribbled hasty
notes just to say I was thinking of you
and wondering if you had read any
good books lately, the silent question that
accompanied every mix tape I sent to you
even though a twelve year old could
tell you what music compilations and
their labor mean, the question that
secured our secret firmly between
my legs in the shadow of the massive
field house where no one could see us.
My mother used to say there was no such thing
as a dumb question. I would add,
only if you do not already know the
answer. Your name is a question
I put to myself with the turn of each
full page. I want to know how
I got so wrapped up in these letters;
I want to know if there was an
“I” before you wrapped me in them.
I want to know how I can explain the loss
of something that may not have existed
at the time of the robbery, and if it is
robbery if you give something away
and then decide you want it back.
I dot and cross and punish myself
for asking stupid questions.

The Appraisal

This would be so much easier if you would just throw something
at me. Maybe that Lladro figurine your father gave you for your
eighth birthday: a ballerina tying up her pink pointe shoes crouched
in a pose reminiscent of Rodin’s “Thinker”, a treasure that has perched
atop every dresser your knit sweaters have ever graced from your childhood
bedroom with the gauzy white curtains and canopy bed, to our first
studio apartment above the bodega in Spanish Harlem where fat men in
straw hats sat out on the sidewalk playing poker and smoking cigars
all summer long. Do I mean that much to you? Could you bear to pitch
that satin and laced beauty at my face, watch her delicate weight crash and
shatter against the mantel just to show me what you really think of
the phrase I’ve been mumbling at my shoes for hours: She meant nothing.
I pictured an outburst, a banshee cry and your French tip fingernails
taking aim at my eyes. I pictured myself grabbing your wrists, restraining you,
holding you to my chest, and feeling your love for me shake your slim frame
into silent sobs. But this isn’t what I imagined. I don’t know how to interpret
your expressionless face, your dry eyes. Don’t know how to weigh this
stoicism against my own betrayal, or what it means to pray for violence .

Carla Criscuolo was born and raised in New York City and now makes her home on Long Island. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary magazines including Main Street Rag, South Jersey Underground,Foliate Oak, Amarillo Bay, and Boston Literary Magazine

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