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a poem by Cristina Umpfenbach-Smyth


Ten years, his gestures still unfamiliar,
the way he holds his cup,
his laugh, needs, wants.
He gives me flowers,
red carnations. I like yellow roses.
At night he reaches for me,
his arm around my waist,
draws me close.
He falls into a deep contented sleep.

I huddle on the fire escape.
Oppressive heat, uptown summer night
sticks to my skin.
A pockmarked moon melts into a water tower.
Across the narrow alley a television strobes blue.
Sirens repeat themselves.
Stink rides on heavy air.
Music drifts, seeps into me, makes me rock,
I want a cigarette, a drink, a fuck.

A woman screams below.
I feel the sound. Stomach rises into my throat.
The scar across my face burns hot.
Familiar pain rises.
I crawl back,
close the window, draw the drapes.
The fan labors against stagnant air.
I slide into bed,
into safety, still unfamiliar.

© by Cristina Umpfenbach-Smyth
Gutter Eloquence Magazine ~ Issue #22 ~ July 2012