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.
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.
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"