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Two poems by Raisa Tolchinsky

in your carpeted office you lay my life down

and say open up to that small room in my sternum.
and because you believe in angels & describe
even the brutal wicks of their tongues, i open the door.
i always find another—behind one is a thousand dollars,
behind another a baby goat.
                   don’t name the goat, you say. but the sun is out and the hinges sound like chimes,
and some angels have eyebrows like Frida. others are bright stars burning down the blue
atmospheric edge.
                i trust you because you are specific, and so i open all the doors.
hidden candy bars under the solid brass lamp. then weeks of coffins.
how my favorite smell is the storm in my stomach.
                                                                                                                open, open.

there, my mother’s footsteps.
                then, only wind. only magnolia adorned with open mouths, wider each day.
you say: hello hawk, hello full bloom,
                                                                              welcome.
do you see how the hawk carries some dead thing in its mouth?
is there a peephole? is the sky the dead thing or the most alive?
when most say “love” they mean illusion—
april, interrupt me, please.
me, too. i am here, looking at the death behind you.
let me simper in tight circles, in wide loops, for a while.
the hawk watches—but it’s love, i say, forgive me.
i once spoke to a praying mantis hidden in the frame.

i would have died long ago

from saying these prayers.
that is why i whisper, though

i don’t understand what 
i speak. baruch atah

adonai. something about
a king, a beloved. i believe

in ghosts, in ouija boards.
why not, god. i believe

in small yellow birds,
sprinklers at dusk, honey

on the lips. i am prostrate
on the ground

which i believe in,
the tomatoes blushing 

in october, though the frost
already came. how did they survive?

i eat them, like apples.

Raisa Tolchinsky is a winner of the George Bennett Fellowship and the Henfield Prize for Fiction. Raisa earned her MFA from the University of Virginia and is a graduate of Bowdoin College and the University of Bologna. She has previously lived and worked in Chicago, New York, Italy, and Iceland, and is trained as an amateur boxer.

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