Back to Issue Twenty-Five.

months later i find out it is an open marriage

BY ROBIN ESTRIN
2018 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

Amidst the languid chatter of pint glasses,
a man materializes. He reeks of Boston
and bourbon, a disciple of Lowell, no doubt.

He says Ukrainian-Jewish women are beautiful,
that once, a woman fled Ukraine by boat & she had
a small waist & her father’s watch & a daughter

who is now his pregnant wife. He says
I look just like her, reminds me
Ukrainian-Jewish women are beautiful.

When God said let there be light, God judged
that light was good & so it was & so it goes:
the man names me anything & all my ugly

dissipates. It is in this light that I think
of you, your dreams of America beating
in me, in the heart of Texas, Godforsaken.

The rib-bearer knows only repetition.
The man telling me over & over how good
I have been. I am beautiful, Bubbe,

did you hear? I am cavernous! Burger King &
Hotel Van Zandt. Sedona, Arizona & New York,
New York. I don’t pray, but I don’t have to.

I inspire mirrors. I sweep cockroaches from
the kitchen to the living room. I chop liver
& skip town. Easterly woman, you left home

for a simulacrum of God. A hurricane
rages quietly against the window where
I am. From your rib I was pulled. 

 

 

bubbe

BY ROBIN ESTRIN
2018 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry


It takes six months after her death
for us to clear out the apartment.
The Florida air is heavy with moisture,
and my dad sits in the living room,
thumbing through yellow photographs,
his father’s Air Force cap resting
loosely on his balding head.

I step into her room, touch her things,
put on her pearls, her lipstick—rancid.
Next to her bed, I open a drawer brimming
with black lingerie, the tags still on.
Standing in front of the mirror,
I put on a garter for the first time,
look for her in my hips.

A year later, cleaning my own room,
I find a birthday card from Bubbe,
two years passed.
On the cover is an old woman
sitting by the phone, smiling.
If age is a number, mine is unlisted,
it says, and scribbled inside,
Maybe that’s why I never hear from you.
A deep breath, a dry throat, and finally—
the sweet release of rain through humid air. 

 

 

heel

BY ROBIN ESTRIN
2018 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry
Previously appeared in Catamaran Literary Reader

I have always admired the bloodhound
for his agility, the way he tears across
the stubble field in pursuit of his master’s kill.
I have loved his finesse, how he holds
the dead weight in his slack-jaw like a lover
inert from a night of drinking. There is loyalty
in the way he passes her off to his man,
who stands by like a chill pimp.
And what self-control he has, the gundog,
with his contentment to salivate,
to come, to sit, to stay. He does not bite to kill.
Perhaps this is his nature; perhaps this is
an exemplary dog. You see where I am going:
There is a dog that comes for me in low light,
begging for scraps. When he takes me
in his mouth, I roll over; I come; I play dead.
Shock is not a survivable state, God no—
ask anything that has lived in the mouth of the dog:
the rabbit, the pheasant, the fox.
O meat and potatoes! this game of fetch,
this I do for you what you can never do for me
it is no good. Here is the image I offer,
the showing & the telling: I, too, was taught
to love without teeth, to hold the kill
in my mouth and hum my ugly song.
Perhaps this makes me pathetic.
Perhaps this makes me a very good dog. 

 

 

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Robin Estrin lives in Santa Cruz, California, where she teaches creative writing. Her poetry has appeared in the Chicago Quarterly Review, Catamaran Literary Reader, Potluck Magazine, and Miramar Poetry Journal, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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