NYCWP Voices: Poems by Eleni M.R.

Once monthly, the New York City Writing Project celebrates the teacher-as-writer by publishing works of poetry and prose written by its teachers. If you are interested in submitting your work to NYCWP Voices, please read the submissions guidelines and submit your work by email to voices@nycwritingproject.org.


 

Space

The space between your cow prints

beneath your fur

that I was surprised

to discover.

 

Only when sickness took over–

without proper Seasons’ consent — y

our fur shed.

The tail that adorns your body is,

to quote the young Italian Vet,

“a rat tail only a mother could love.”

 

The space of your eye

color

The way it melts

like butter

with fire and labor

transforming

into caramel.

The way the sun is shining and

warm

The way eggs crack

open to

life

or

nourishment

Your eyes.

 

The width of your paws.

The weight of them in my palm.

The instinctual tether between us

the voluntary bond.

“Like bear paws” people always say.

I smile

understanding

they mean majestic

wild

You.

 

Your fur coat,

the way it sticks out

bristles on top and

bunched together

like cotton swabs

beneath.

 

The way the wetness of

the melting snow

never reaches the pattern-colored-shapes on your belly

no longer exposed

no longer sickly.

Medicine helped or maybe love

Both.

 

The roundness of your belly

how purely beautiful it is

how the opportunity of my loving it offered me the idea of loving mine.

How I ask my boyfriend to rub my stomach

when I’m getting cramps

and eat ice cream or

when I ask to ask for

warmth

of vulnerable touch.

The way, most times,

He does and

I melt into a state of (puppy-)Love.

 

Thank you

always always

thank you.

 

And now

how

this

landscape

of your body

morphs

with tail that never quite returned to

full-bloom,

I’m left   with back legs concaving inward

I’m grasping, my way, to your angled muscles

protruding bones

space.

 

I’m left with space

where strength once grew and

adventure abounded.

I’m ____   filled____       with all the spaces I want for you:

Open s p a c e

Space to hold your   bowels while you sleep

Space to ask for walks through Owl’s Head Park.

Space to exist within the

musky

wet

dry

warm

panting

breath and

fur and

paws and tail-tip

of your distance from

me.

 

Six feet of leash always made you deliciously “woof” with glee.

Six feet space between Mommy and me.

Space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six feet.


 

THUNDER thighs

 

And as she walked away,

heading toward the home she lived in, alongside her family–

years prior, during her college days–

the wind lifted her still long, black hair

and I couldn’t not see the photographs–

protected by worn plastic,

adhesive so strong,

to remove the photo would mean to destroy the photo–

in her red short-shorts.

She called them her “hot shorts.”

 

The shorts she saved for me,

for “one day.”

That never quite came.

My waist was always rounder than her flat stomach.

But her short shorts exposed her version of a “too-round belly” — her thighs.

Thighs, she always said were thick

and so she unloved them for that.

 

I was taught and directed to cover- up parts of my mother.

The thighs I always stood in front of in

photos of her and I at Lake George or

beside the pool during our vacation in the Poconos.

Thighs that allowed her to stride down the street,

stroller with me and brother in tow.

Thighs that let her climb the stairs to her then parents’, then her’s, now brother’s home.

Thighs that dimple and

thighs that my childhood friend’s brother called “thunder.”

 

It crushed her, each consonant and vowel.

wounded by a boy’s words,

or a man’s or parent’s, magazine’s, or society’s.

Cut by words that I sincerely found to be complimentary.

“Thunder thighs” sounded bold and brave

and strong

and daring.

Thunder   thighs-

like lightning flashes,

a comic book super hero’s great power,

like a mother.

 

Like my mother.

I found beauty in her unloved parts.


 

P.S. [I.S.] 104 & buttered rolls

Within her

grows

her

his,

baby.

 

Curly hair, guaranteed.

If he

or she

is lucky (in her mom’s opinion),

warm brown   tan skin,

like her husband’s family.

 

“That little chili shaped pepper”

she writes in a text,

that’s my baby.

 

That’s     her    baby.

The girl that used to split buttered rolls and

cross the street from middle school

with   me.

That’s her baby.

 

 

The world has seen gestation–

nine months–

an uncountable amount of times

 

But somehow

Now

it’s the first.

 

Attraversare,

a mother born.


 

If God exists

As I pour holy water on my dog’s head

I know it’s a long shot.

If God exists,

He or She or It has seen me not go to church.

 

My life instead is of rain water and

trees and reflection and   pondering.

It’s filled with watching my dog’s legs tremble and

feeling so goddamn helpless.

 

 

I want the cavalry

I want deus ex machina

I want a saint to lay hands upon my dog’s legs

the happy-ending

the dream

 

I want more of being tired when she wakes me at 4 a.m.

to be let into

my bedroom or

at 3 a.m.

because she didn’t want to go to out when it was last offered to her.

 

God,

I’m willing to take the frustrating part

I’m wanting to have more years

to be a little annoyed

To have the beauty in her eyes pierce through the morning grogginess

The gait in her step–

no matter what,

demanding more road yet to be traveled.


NoPhotoELENI M.R. holds a M.S.Ed. in Adolescence Education, with a concentration in English from The City University of New York at Staten Island. She is also currently earning her MA in English Literature from the same institution. In 2016, she was named one of the NYCWP’s Writers-in-Residence. She writes poetry and creative nonfiction. She is a New York City high school English teacher and mentoring teacher. Eleni continues her commitment to teaching NYC teenagers nonfiction environmental texts and writing. She was a presenter at the 2016 “Sharp Eyes IX: Local, Regional, Global: The Many Faces of Nature Writing” Conference.

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