Fall 2018Poetry

“men at the market” and “Where We Wanted” – Jacqueline Alnes

Where We Wanted

When we lived in a country we dreamt
a home, a snake flickered

across our kitchen floor. We knelt,
as if praying to danger. The baby flared

into bobbing hood, split tongue hissing
a fear we tried not to understand.

Then, all we knew of bodies was backlit
by an x-ray screen: radiant skeletal

mass and hard tissue diagrammed
into belonging. Too young to muster

venom, the snake weaved toward us
like a boxer, fanned defense raised.

My brother prepared to strike,
pan in hand, but Berta cried sihir hitam,
 
warning of a curse if we killed. Silencing
the slick form with a plastic bucket,

she slid the snake onto hot concrete
and left it to suffocate. My brother and I

held vigil for a creature guilty of crossing
some unspoken threshold, asphyxiating

from far enough away not to brush
against our prey’s skin, not to feel

the unraveling: tender meat spilling away
from a yet unbroken ladder of bone.

 

men at the market

named my brother pak
though he only reached my hip

said boy is nomor one
boy is bagus sekali

called him mas
as if describing him as gold
might cast his skin’s frail pale
the metal of a man

men at the market

pinched both our bare
white arms

tugged strands of our twin
blond shocks

but sucked their cheeks
against teeth
before calling me
gadis cantik and betina

as if I didn’t yet know, at nine,
that the translation of woman
in any language is not silver
but cow or bag or slut or doll

my brother was a man
at the market

and I, a word
that might be sold

something to hold
by the shank

cold nape of hen
weeping blood
slow


Author Bio: Jacqueline Alnes is a PhD student at Oklahoma State University. Her essays and poems have been published in The New York TimesNimrod International Journal, Tin House, and elsewhere.

The author: Mike Robbins