Whirlwind @ Lesbos by Risa Denenberg

Whirlwind @ Lesbos

We met in Istanbul
where your face was a veil
and you beckoned a reckless gesture.

Cover your eyes, you hissed
when I dared look through
your robe at your breast buds.

You were twelve when we first kissed
wadded your gum under the desk
whistled at me, spit into the wind
earnestly began chewing my hair.

We ran away to Naples
during the long war while flames
licked our feet and charred our skin.

Hurry, you barked over your shoulder
I was already losing sight.

I wailed all night in Jerusalem
when you turned me hard
against the stone wall
pressing against my back
as your reached up inside me
grabbed my womb with your fist.

In winter, we rented a small cottage
in Copenhagen where winds blew
snow over our bed
we embraced and couldn’t let go
you were cold and needed comfort.

We undressed each other
maidens in the fifth century
and were discovered naked
entwined asleep
your ringlets black and soft
on the silken pillow.

But then I missed the cab to the airport
slept right through the alarm
one morning in Cairo
and you were gone.

I was beheaded
with your name on my lips.

The baggage was clearly marked
but reached Paris by error.

I’m in New York
awaiting your email.

by Risa Denenberg, from “Whirlwind @ Lesbos” (Headmistress Press 2016)

Editor’s note: The uneasy narrative of this poem is emphasized by the lack of commas and thoughtful enjambment.


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