Sacrifice

 

After we make love and you are asleep,

I try to hear your breath without touch, spilling

 

out of a closed mouth, or maybe see it

in the stomach’s slow lift or the throat’s

 

steady pulse or in your pupils,

their shifting under lowered lids.

 

But when the room is too dark, your exhales 

too quiet, I fear your body

 

has grown hollow, life has fled,

and the sheets shroud both of us.

 

I press the dip between your collarbone

and neck, that suprasternal notch

 

where skin is thinnest, where I can almost

feel your heart and lungs, follow

 

their measured rising. I wonder if I am

like Madri to her Pandu: a wife

 

tempting a cursed husband with her naked shape

and feeding Ishvara, Yahweh, or the sky

 

his breath? I hear the call of wives and mothers

of all mothers who had faith: A wife who dies

 

with her husband shall remain in heaven

as many years as there are hairs on his back.

 

These offerors of anumarana, jauhar, sati sing:

Dress in your wedding gown and turn your body

 

to his body. Throw it on a blazing pyre

so you can rise with him. I imagine holding

 

your statued hand in mine, reciting vows

we made once, and we ascend together, ghosts

 

on our unlived journey. Again, I hear them

calling: Join us there. Silence your soft whistling breath.

 

 

Expected Gestures

 

From house to house we drag

our tired, unlived-in things:

the half-filled photo albums

where our childhoods twin,

Midwest with Eastern European,

your flattened fields of corn

where thunderstorms roamed wildly

down from a gunpowder sky

over pale plains, and my black

earth-born wheat, growing far above

where I could reach; and then

there are those unforgotten relics

full of brittle petals, guiltless poems,

and lingering smells of lovers we lost

or regret or naively thought

we loved. From room to room

 

we carry each other, our bodies:

these weary, changeless things.

You watch the same woman

unveil her same nakedness:

her aging, growing curves;

her hipbone, less prominent now,

still casting a kind of dark, sharpness

over thigh and dip of stomach,

over those places you’ve overlooked.  

                                                         Here –

can we still find the curtainless

windows where we will make love

so late only streetlamps keep witness;

the goose bumps around my ankles

and your chin, their suggestion

of saccharine, grain-like stubble,

finding its way to the surface; and

the steeping stairs, where we will stumble

after too much wine or too little sleep?

Here, can a freshly scratched

outline of a shoulder blade remind us

of beauty: the sliver of daytime

sent to highlight bones or

the living room walls where

our future children will paint?

 

Or are we, in leaving one place

for another, creating more duffels

to lug from house to swollen house,

ignoring our unremembered,

                                                      but God-like things.

Two Poems + Audio


Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

About The Writer

​​Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach came to the United States as a Jewish refugee in 1993, from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon and is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a recipient of Lilith Magazine’s 2013 Charlotte A. Newberger Poetry Prize, and her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Spoon River Poetry Review, Guernica, JMWW, Cirque, The Doctor T.J Eckleburg Review, as well as various other journals. Julia is the Poetry Editor for Construction Magazine.

Listen to "Sacrifice"

Listen to "Expected Gestures"