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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The space between your cow prints
beneath your fur
that I was surprised
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
The way it melts
with fire and labor
The way the sun is shining and
The way eggs crack
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.
they mean majestic
Your fur coat,
the way it sticks out
bristles on top and
like cotton swabs
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
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
of vulnerable touch.
The way, most times,
He does and
I melt into a state of (puppy-)Love.
of your body
with tail that never quite returned to
I’m left with back legs concaving inward
I’m grasping, my way, to your angled muscles
I’m left with space
where strength once grew and
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
paws and tail-tip
of your distance from
Six feet of leash always made you deliciously “woof” with glee.
Six feet space between Mommy and me.
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
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
Curly hair, guaranteed.
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
That’s her baby.
The world has seen gestation–
an uncountable amount of times
it’s the first.
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
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.
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.
ELENI 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.