"Orphan," "The Landing," "The Food's Delicious, You're Not Welcome," "The Contrition Between US" excerpted from at the foot of the mountain by Tak Erzinger.
When your mother decides to leave,
do you tell the world?
What if everyone thinks it’s your fault?
You could pretend it didn’t happen,
never talk about it and over-compensate with many things, become an awesome painter
share your artwork full of hidden meaning.
Maybe people will forget to ask.
It will push you to develop in ways you never imagined, maybe ways she would’ve been proud of, if she’d been around.
Like how you can really dance, the way she could always dance, the way you followed her steps to the beats of all the albums she bought you,
holding hands, she’d swing you around and around, pulling you close and pushing you back,
keeping you spinning,
you’d hear, I’ll always be there for you.
It’s not what she said though.
She was only singing.
When they tell you, you’ve
had a nervous breakdown
you become like an astronaut
you find yourself drifting,
pleading for someone to provide you
with the right equipment.
In the right space
you can deploy like the Eagle
confronting the “magnificent desolation” resolutely.
To be able to sink your feet into the
lunatic surface will be a revelation
tip-toeing through craters formed
long before you were born.
If you run low on fuel
at least you will have finally seen
what those wounds look like
up close and personal and like
the dark side of the moon
allow the parts unseen to be
tucked back into the envelope
of your universe.
every exploration takes time
The Food’s Delicious, You’re Not Welcome
Once adults become a certain age
it’s a matter of time before they reminisce
to talk of the past
and say it was better
Ethnic food piled high
they’ll question Why, dear friend,
aren’t you afraid?
and lick their lips in satisfaction
It requires a stranger, light-skinned
without a funny surname
to offer up dishes, exotic recipes
on familiar ground
This individual, welcomed like a pet
loves the taste of cheeseburgers
heats up the grill
to fire up their lies
The irony of being accepted
the memory of a childhood
chewing her up and spitting her out
just a little taste
garlic sautéed softens
too much spice can ruin the meal
adulting in measured cups
does not guarantee the right flavour
The common denominator loves the food
but does that mean its balanced?
I’ve learnt to share those dishes while I continue
to get burned in places unseen and am
left with scorched pans, unable to replace them.
The Contrition Between Us
We are like two cats circling,
insecure, heated, fearful.
Each one vying for his place,
seeds that have scattered haphazardly
breaking cracks in the cement,
vulnerable and strong at the same time.
It’s like we’ve forgotten what brought
us to this place: the promises,
like a wide and clear spring sky, its
passing clouds, whispers tucked under
our pillows. The scent of love lingers,
over empty plates and glasses, still warm
from the summer’s evening sun
easing the tension, making us forget
a moment about the family we will never
TAK Erzinger is an American/Swiss poet and artist with a Colombian background. Her poetry has been featured in Bien Acompañada from Cornell University, The Muse from McMaster University, River and South Review, Wilkes University and more. Her debut chapbook entitled, “Found: Between the Trees” was published by Grey Border Books, Canada 2019. Her then, unpublished poetry manuscript “At the Foot of the Mountain” was short-listed by the Eyelands Book Awards 2019 and Willow Run Book Awards 2020. It has now been published by Floricanto Press out of California, 2021. Her first audio drama Stella’s Constellation has been produced by Alt.Stories and Fake Realities Podcasts, out of the UK.
She lives in a Swiss valley with her husband and cats.
Four poems of
Karen Valencia is a first generation Mexican American poet born and raised on Chicago’s Southwest side. A Northwestern graduate, Karen has appeared in Huizache, The Magazine for Latino Literature (2014) and most recently in the Literary Issue of Southside Weekly (2019). Karen is also a fashion stylist, model, DJ and co-creator of DESMADRE, a Latinx fashion styling collective. To see more of her work you can visit her website (karenvalencia.com) and to check out her other projects, follow her on Instagram (@karennoid).
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