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Poetry Winter 2020    fiction    all issues

Cover of Poetry Winter 20


French silk sample book

Paula Reed Nancarrow
Morning Coffee
& other poems

Jill Burkey
& other poems

Oak Morse
Boys Born out of Blues
& other poems

Beatrix Bondor
Engine Ode
& other poems

Monique Jonath
a mi sheberach
& other poems

Lisa Rachel Apple
& other poems

Gillian Freebody
The Human Condition
& other poems

Kirsten Hippe-Rychlik
and we are echoes
& other poems

Devon Bohm
& other poems

Jeddie Sophronius
I Rest My Mother Tongue
& other poems

John Delaney
Poem as Map
& other poems

Elizabeth Bayou-Grace
Fire in Paradise
& other poems

In Utero
& other poems

Michelle Lerner
Ode to Exhaustion
& other poems

William French
I Have Never Been
& other poems

Josiah Patterson Wheatley
Coeur de Fleurs
& other poems

Karo Ska
womb song
& other poems

Robyn Joy
& other poems

Han Raschka
Love Language
& other poems

Rebbekah Vega-Romero
The Memory in My Pinky
& other poems

Gilaine Fiezmont
Europe, too, Came from Somewhere Else
& other poems

Scott Ruescher
At the Childhood Home of Ozzy Osbourne
& other poems

Emily R. Daniel
Visitation Dreams
& other poems

Lindsay Gioffre
Toxicodendron Radicans [Sonnet 1]
& other poems

Writer's Site

Rebbekah Vega-Romero

The Memory in My Pinky

Fingers have memories.

I never knew that

till I saw my father’s crispy husks

at the hospital that first day after the fire.

The elegant nails & agile tips:




The sinew between them

pulled taut

like the strings of his beloved

guitar, wound sharp beyond

the proper pitch—

Though these strings were so sharp

they pulled the frets out of order

and bent the very neck of the vessel.

My first thought was not

of the harm those fingers had inflicted—

No, it was not how mi papá had used them for

ill & perhaps earned their loss.

I saw at once:

There is no harm he could have caused to

earn that grief.

My first thought was

of the music those fingers

held in their memory.

Was that music now ashes,

lost to the dust

like the skin & fat & bone

that had stored them?

But this is not a poem about my father.

This is a poem about my fingers.

How my fingers always know

when I am touching the right chord

     —     they tingle & grow warm.

How my fingers do know

when I’m singing the note right

     —     they freeze & they tremble.

How did my fingers know

your hand, the first time we touched?

Why do they ache, down to their

connecting joints

when you are out of reach?

Even my pinky remembers how

good you feel

in my hands.

I cannot unknow

los recuerdos de mis manos.

To unlearn your touch, I fear,

would require a fire that twisted

my instrument into something

mythically unrecognizable.

And even then, would my fingers take

after mi padre in their stubborn knowledge,

just as they do in their length & skill & grace?

You see, my father is making music again.

It’s not the same—

no, it may never be lo mismo,

pero it is something

Promethean to witness.

And so I reach for you again,

and my fingers sigh their relief

into yours,

and your fingers respond in kind.

The Coffee Table

When I was four years old

I shattered my parents’ glass coffee table.

Decades later, I still dream about it:

The initial crunch & ensuing waterfall tinkle of the glass,

the reflecting light over my head on the ceiling,

how surprising the flaming lick of pain

was in the soft pink flesh of my feet,

the viscous heat of my blood

coating the cold foreign pieces of glass.

When she told me the truth with a condescending sigh,

I was kneeling on your bed

in a pool of pink & purple light from

the early spring sun pouring through your window,

refracting through the glass print of our kiss.

Every hair on my body stood up

and fell back down. I forget

how I ended the conversation. I know

I grabbed the half-full tequila bottle & drank the whole thing while I called

you eight times then finally texted:

Pick up, you coward.

The coffee table dreams, though:

they always start with me in the middle of the

sea of glass & blood & empty frame.

I forget exactly how such a small person

made such a big mess.

If I asked my mother, she would probably say I was dancing on it

or claim my sister did it

or question whether we had even had

a glass table to break in the first place.

Memory is fiendish that way:

I remember specific lines from this play

but not what I was holding in my hand

when I asked if you had lied to me

when I asked if you had fucked her


And you said “yes” & “I’m sorry.”

At that point, I know I was standing on the other side of the bed,

looking at the love light,

and whatever was in my hand


and broke the window

and rattled the pink kiss pane.

It was the clinking sound of glass on glass,

the way our melting kissing selves seemed to

mock me with their joy,

that made me scramble, tiger-like,

over the bed to pull down that fragile gift.

It was the empty “sorry”s that drove my hand

or it was the memory of the night before,

how you laid your head on my breast

and whispered that you loved coming home to me,

or it was the ghost of the pain in my feet

from childhood, that raised that portrait

and systematically shattered every

glass surface in your room—

each pane of the window / the tv /the antique mirror you almost gave to

one of your sisters, till I insisted on giving it to you for Christmas—

until I was left barefoot & somehow

not bleeding

holding the one thing that would not seem to fracture

no matter how I battered it:

The portrait of our kiss.

When it finally broke on the now-empty

window frame & landed in the alley below,

I didn’t notice the pink sliver

left behind on the sill.

My parents never replaced that

glass coffee table.

Maybe they realized a small apartment

with toddlers is no place for

mid-century modern decor.

You said you wanted to order another

glass print of our love,

but I don’t think you will.

I think you will hold on to that sliver

and dream about that kiss

and the waterfall of glass

for decades to come.

Like Riding a Bike

Obviously this metaphor requires balance,

a light touch,

it is so symbolic as to be laughable:

He bought me a bike.

Here, love: here is your freedom.

But also, here, love: here is the proof:

Here is my love, solid & dependable,

with a frame I patched up with

my own two strong hands.

(Riding a bike after fifteen years is

not at all like riding a bike.

My body does not remember,

not fully,

how to balance

how to launch forward

when to pedal

when to coast

when to switch gears

how to smoothly brake to a clean stop

without kicking at the curb.)

I do love the push, the climb

the exertion of defying

gravity to sail up a hill,

keeping eyes ever vigilant for

cars or worse their doors,

but as I coast along the ridge

as it begins to descend again

doubt comes in,

crawling up my hips & into my belly

coating my palms on the handlebars

with a dew of fear that makes

clicking the gear higher stakes:

will this be the moment I am

unable to slow down

to halt when I should,

is this the time I cross the uncrossable line

and will I be rewarded with the press

of gravel & metal & pain & blood?

Is that punishment what I am

seeking when I send him that text:

thinking about going for a ride


I know enough to know

sometimes (often) smart women make

bad decisions, like the better you

are at being there for your friends

the worse you are at showing up

for yourself, like being able to interpret

Chopin, or quote Shakespeare,

or cure the plague,

preoccupies so much of your facilities

there is simply not a burner left

on which to keep the kettle

of your heart warm.

So I snap on my helmet

which can’t protect my most fragile organ

(as a wise but problematic professor

tells each incoming theatre class,

“You cannot put a condom

on your heart,”

by which she means,

“Don’t fuck your classmates

and bring the mess to class,”

but which many students take as

a personal invitation to a quest

to fuck as many as possible,

and by now, surely, she knows this?)

and I meet him on the road.

On two wheels

we can’t look at one another

as we speak the wind

steals key words, growing the mystery

and making a mockery

of our fickle friend the truth.

When we pause to change directions,

breathless, it is impossible not to blossom

in the warmth of the shared sun

between us.

When I ride ahead, I almost feel

safe, with him at my six

and the open lane before me.

I am relearning

how to ride, singing in the evening breeze

that tugs the strings of my mask loose

flashing my smile for the grieving world to see.

I am rewriting my definition of love

but haven’t yet landed on one

where we’ll both be free,

a love that encompasses my dignity

and forgiveness,

a love that can rise from the ashes:

is it too much to ask of such a light word?

Too soon the ride is ended

before it has really begun

and we are each left to chart a new course




Is such an ephemeral word

For such a violent act.

Once when my baby sister was pregnant

She had to get her phone replaced twice in one month:

Her baby daddy


The phone

And its replacement.

At my lowest moments, for some reason

I think of this word


And want to cry at its terrible allure:


                                                               Why fly

                                                                     Why fly so high

                                                                         Why fly so high in the sky

(We used to wail these words as a warm up

in Voice & Speech, remember?)

And I think of the people who chose


On that bright September morning

And I think of the people watching them,

Not on the news

But on the other side of the office.

For surely there were souls who,

Instead of running down those endless stairs

Or leaping into the abyss of blue

Stayed put, stayed still

As the building crumbled & closed in

And took them down too.

I feel seared to the floor, too:

I can’t seem to lift a foot to run

To flee from the crumbling carcass of our love

And I can’t seem to trust

And make the leap to fly.

Instead I stand staring dumbly

Growing more numb by the millisecond

Till I am no longer connected to the flesh that

Longs for you.

It feels like my love has


From my body.

They call the eyes the windows of the soul:

Maybe now that these windows have been opened

To the truth long enough,

My heart sidled over to them

While I slept so many nights alone

And silently, without warning

Leapt free.

Never Can Say No

A Villanelle

I know I never can say no to you

And worse, I think that’s what you want to hear

Each time you smile & say you love me, true.

The truth is that you obfuscate my view

And when you dimple at me & hold me near:

I know I never can say no to you.

And I wonder: do you have a clue?

It touches some wet wound inside, my dear

Each time you smile and say you love me, true.

When you leave, it cleaves my world in two

And in your absence, I see my heart quite clear:

Return, I never can say no to you.

My bones ache, you turn my vision blue

With the churn & yearn of primal fear:

No more to see you smile, your love’s untrue.

Each time we meet again like déjà vu

We touch, we kiss, we cross the next frontier.

I know I never can say no to you:

No, not when you say you love me, true.

Rebbekah Vega-Romero is an NYC native, a proud member of Actor’s Equity, and a triracial Latina bruja. A YoungArts award-winning writer, Rebbekah graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor’s in English Literature and Theatre Arts. Rebbekah has a wide-ranging career as an actress, from her “luminous” portrayal of Maria in “West Side Story” at the 5th Avenue Theatre, to her upcoming short film, “The Question,” which she also wrote and produced. Her poetry has been featured in The Quaranzine Zine. Rebbekah hopes her work will inspire other mixed-race girls to realize that “there’s a place for us.” Visit her virtually at

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