Monica Wendel


In Lithuania

my roommate made art

about hating Jews—

I escaped to a field

where I watched boys play soccer,

some universal sport

even in dream.

But things were dangerous.

I rode the elevator back up to the apartment

pushed her against the wall

shouting about soldiers

looking for people like me.

She looked surprised

that ideas could have consequences.

I didn’t destroy her art.

I woke up instead

and turned off the air conditioner

and took the dog out.

Grey clouds marbled over red brick buildings,

over the old factory we live in.

You were still sleeping.

In darkness, at night, your paintings

become the flags ships use

to signal each other

across wide empty spaces—

this one for civic pride,

this one for genocide.

English Kills

I’ve been singing

in a dead language

about the sun.

The children know

it can come back to life;

just ask the Israelis

who made up words

they couldn’t find in the Torah—

T-shirt, rainbow.

But rainbow must have been there.

Maybe I’m remembering this wrong.

In my dream, I was on a farm,

presenting a PowerPoint.

One slide was a picture of a mother

kneeling by her child,

the other was a backyard

abutting the Newton Creek,

and then the computer

stopped working. In real life

the creek branches

into English Kills and Maspeth Creek.

Don’t be alarmed:

Kills was only Dutch for something.

Was it stream. Was it water.

They’re all dead now,

those first discoverers.

My mother is scared

of the tunnels the Gazans

are building

but I am scared of any prison

no matter how large

and must always take the side

against the guards.

Call it my stubborn calling.

She told me once

that language is a river,

not a fish tank.

You can never capture

all the words.

Bushwick, Brooklyn

Admit it: you lose more keys

than all the travelers in the hostel combined.

And a summer storm is riding from the sidewalk

when the downstairs neighbor says,

“Did you know, there are apartments

above the coffee shop?” You say, yes,

because, look, this whole street

is buildings with three floors,

what did she think was there?

And she, coke hungover, says, “But where

is the door? How do they get upstairs?”

then huffs off. At least the front door

is open now. In your dream last night

you were in a red-lit basement

flooding with water. Sometimes the delivery

dealer rings your doorbell by accident.

The coffee shop has a lost-key app

on an iPad by the register.

Go there. They’ll let you in, next time.

They always do.

Monica Wendel is the author of the collection No Apocalypse (Georgetown Review Press, 2013) and the chapbooks Call it a Window (Midwest Writing Center, 2012) and Pioneer (Thrush Press, 2014). She would be best friends with the pioneer Ántonia from Willa Cather’s My Ántonia. In 2013, she was the writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac Project of Orlando, Florida. She holds a B.A. from SUNY Geneseo and a M.F.A. from NYU.