i. A Self-Portrait as the Garotinha
Some time ago, a girl was told she was “pigeon-toed.” Her mother said the words like the droppings were in her mouth.
“Walk straight, garota,” her mother said during the summers in Brazil.
The sun through the windows shone on each tile and on her hair—heavy warmth.
She practiced walking down lines of grout, head bowed, hands behind her back, eyes nearly closed.
Her grandfather would sit in the rocking chair, and she would sit on his lap, toes in the air, telling him English words and wrong definitions.
He’d watch the dimples appear on her cheeks when he dared to repeat.
And we cannot forget that, still, the rain fell: slick tile, moist feet.
ii. Quantos kilos
My grandfather remembered my body as it had been. He barely remembered yesterday or two hours ago.
“How many kilos do you weigh?” he asked in Portuguese, he asked in curiosity, he asked in his freshness despite now years long living in this house in Texas.
This was his polite way to imply I put on weight. I had.
Each time he asked, I converted and gave an answer. I also approached: my arm flexed and mouth smiled.
“Hold this,” I invited, his hand to my bicep.
“Oh, you’re strong,” he said to the muscle of his one granddaughter. His nod. A joy he did not expect.
On the first Mother’s Day after his passing, I arrived to the house that had been emptier for five months. I brought something she had intended to have but delayed buying.
In each hand I held ten-pound dumbbells. I set them down for a hug.
Then I reviewed with my mother possibilities of movement.
A grid of paper held a list and repetition ranges I wrote down; while I titled each movement, she added her own translation of the exercise. A mix of Portuguese and layman’s terms. A pattern of demonstrations.
Ambition winds my forward, and I include this: grief sits in the crack that fills first. Crevice deep, the foot still solid over it.
Vanessa Couto Johnson is the author of Pungent dins concentric, her first full-length poetry book (Tolsun Books, 2018), and three poetry chapbooks, most recently speech rinse (Slope Editions’ 2016 Chapbook Contest winner). Dialogist, Foundry, Softblow, Thrush, and other journals and anthologies have published her poems, and a nonfiction piece appears in The Account. A Brazilian born in Texas (dual citizen), she has taught at Texas State University since 2014.
The sky is the sky until it kisses the ground—I was used to thinking of it at arm’s length, the imperceptible blue—but you can stand on your porch and wave your arm through it, if you must.
If the urge strikes you, as it will.
Emma McGlashen (she/her or they/them) is a Brooklyn poet, publicist, and freelance reviewer. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in L’Ephemere Review, Miniskirt Mag, BOMBUS Press, and elsewhere. They can be found on twitter or instagram at @Emma_McGlashen.
We need to bring Osip Mandlestam back from the dead
A room with a table and a chair
and a window.
The window looks out on a wall
Lights haphazardly go off.
Sleep carries hundreds of us away
like a passenger bus
whose doors open with
a hydraulic sigh.
I am drifting far above the cliffs
My father, a non migratory bird,
tells me to settle down.
A room with a chair and a table
and a door.
The door opens onto a mustard green yard.
The last drops of a lawn sprinkler
are dots in the air,
a sunlit ellipsis.
No poet we know
will ever fill in what’s missing.
After years of working in advertising, Richard Bloom became a substitute teacher in the New York City Public Schools. He has taught children as young as five how to write poetry. His poems have appeared in Seneca Review, New York Quarterly, Barnwood International, Eunoia Review, and is forthcoming in ONEART Poetry Journal. He lives in the city with his wife Catia and their trusty dog Geoffrey.