Two Poems

Tatyana Mishel


Would they have slapped my hands
and told me how the past is not worth
its weight in dirt?  It is gold

if you lock it in a notebook
with a date and a match.
Would they tell me about the deaths

of their stolen husbands and children,
that grief was a luxury? Grief!
And What Ifs were for the wealthy--

not the swimming-in-gold rich,
but swimming-in-freedom wealthy,
so much freedom that these mothers would laugh

and cry, and  hold me by my shoulders
until I could praise my past
with the brightness of this moment.


One night kindness brought me in for dinner,
fed my bony outline. I couldn't eat, I tried
to pray my way to hunger--but I'm only a beginner.

If hearts had hecklers, mine would call me sinner.
I can't endure the fights: I run, I hide and god I've lied--
but one night, a strange kindness bought me dinner

asked nothing of me, just to share a meal. It was winter.
I nodded, hid my teeth behind a toughened smile, inside
I prayed for something witty: nothing--dumb beginner!

Not one line from Shakespeare, Donne, even Pindar
could I rescue from my memory--such mush!, too mired 
down by kindness. So I panicked, left my dinner,

left my date with two deserts and me, again, the winner
of the only girl to chase down midnight tides.
I prayed the moon away, tonight, a fingernail beginner,

so quiet: I heard the truth undress more lies, a whimper
longing, climbing up my heels. It was cold and I was all lied
out.  So I found kindness, gave my hands to him, not dinner--
we prayed for staying power, a patron saint for all beginners. .

Tatyana Mishel

Tatyana is a writer, editor, teacher and consultant. She has been published in Cranky Literary Journal, 4th Street, The Crimson Crane, and has a sonnet in a forthcoming anthology of breakup poems, Kiss and Part. Tatyana received her MFA from Antioch University.  A former editor of ELLE magazine, she writes book reviews for the Seattle Post Intelligencer.