Three poems (#3) – Ally Malinenko



Thumbs Up

We’re here for the same reason everyone is here,
I suppose,
a morbid curiosity
a sense of cultural nationalism
maybe a way to see the moment
that has led to 15 years of never ending war,

All the same it is Memorial Day
and we are here at the 9/11 memorial
with my inlaws,
standing over those two footprints
now pools that keep descending in a way
that reminds me too much of a doorway
to hell

But the sun is shining
and everyone else is talking and laughing
lining up at the gift shop kiosk
which they call a book store
even though it doesn’t sell books,
in the same way they call the big gift shop
up the street
the Preview Site
because they’re trying
to have tact.

All the same we are here,
and so is everyone else it seems
walking around taking pictures.
I try not to think about which square
of concrete had broken bodies on them,
people that jumped instead of burned
because I’m pretty sure that is not
the sort of thing the folks
at the Preview Site are pedaling.

Aside from the footprints
and the flags
and the museum
which we will not go in
because I have my limits
there is a Survivors Tree.
A Callery pear tree that was burned
and damaged that day but lived
and was replanted as a testament
to the endurance of the American People
or so the plaque says
and I watch the girl
in the pink short shorts
and tank top,
the one who moments before
flashed the peace sign,
kissing one of the sailors from Fleet Week
on the cheek,
approach the tree,
give a double thumbs up
her tongue wagging out of her mouth
as her picture is snapped by her friend
before she flits off to another
corner of our great country
thinking only about survivors
and endurance and how
to be American
is to pull yourself out of misery
willfully ignorant
to reveal in life’s greatness
to know that for now
everything she wants
will be given to her
without cost
because she is young and white
because her hands are as bloodless
as her heart.


Knuckle Deep

All I ever seem
to write about
is cancer
and fear
as if this is all
I have and all I am
one steady silo
of emotion
squeezed dry
by drugs
and sore
antiseptic tubes
and the hard
back of the throat
smell of rubber burning
but the truth is I’m also
always hungry
so I want to write
about peanut butter too
about the beauty
and symmetry
and the perfect
sound of the knife
scissoring over the lid
of the jar
that little zip
that says
Eat me now
and the finger that
I press
knuckle deep
into the
yellow brown
pull it out
and lick it clean.



It’s strange the way things work out,
the way the universe
doubles down sometimes
like it actually gives a shit about us

because in my thirty-seventh summer
when I got cancer
we went to more movies than we had in years.

It was like we remembered that there were other
things we should be doing.
Another life we should be living.

Hard Day’s Night
and Star Wars were both playing
at the Film Forum so we said
why not
lining up outside with the nerds
in their Chewbacca t-shirts.

I never saw them on the big screen before.

And then later Boyhood
even though I cried
when we got out
on the street corner right by
Washington Square Park

and you hugged me
people streaming around us
the way a rock
can split a river
trying to understand
as I stuttered to explain
how one life
can just

I can’t even get the last word out
but by the time we get to the bar
I am calm again, still in my skin
my throat relaxing around this thing I will never swallow.
the way the snake settles down when it hits the deer’s antlers.

The bartender lines up the free shots he’s giving us
and you eye me warily
because I’m not supposed to be drinking so much anymore.
I just had surgery and we don’t know if it worked.

But I smile, give a quick nod
because the movie was good
and the vodka is cold
and today was filled with the kind of simplicity
I would have
begged for
if the universe
told me,
this is it,
your last day ever.
What do you want
before all that nothingness.



About Ally Malinenko

I live in Brooklyn which is good except when it’s not which is horrid. I’ve been writing for awhile, and have some stuff published and some stuff not. I don’t like when people refer to pets as their children and I can’t resist a handful of cheez-its when offered. I have a burning desire to go to Antarctica, specifically to the South Pole so I can see where Robert Falcon Scott died. I like to read books. I like to write stories and poems. I even wrote some novels. You can read them. View all posts by Ally Malinenko

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