By Vanessa Batyko



I call her offspring to be funny
or to hide the fact that the smell of her belly
cuts something inside me off the vine, drops
my heart like a letter I never
meant to send but did
in a dream. I call her honey,
lick her paws to suck
the sticky off, the sap I brewed
and poured on her coat
so she might need me longer. I call her
to my lap like a pewed sinner desperate,
but she hides the answers to my questions
like a despot, draws The Moon
and slips it beneath my cat-shaped
mug. I call her sweetheart, baby, be my
Valentine, yawn and give me fish breath
if that’s your way of opening up.
I call her daughter
when she mirrors back my teen years,
slams the door, slams
everything so the world
can’t forget to hear her voice anymore.
I call my mother and ask about her day
for all the days I took for granted, all the ways
I turned away on the way home
from high school
when she pressed for my love
in all the logical places.
To love like this is to live in illogical places,
to fall asleep under the bed and hope the dust
will solve my sniffles. To love like this is to chuck
my very blood out the window,
run outside with a bucket,
and feed to my baby what falls.



Each rise and fall is a missed opportunity, each light flicker
a joke I don’t quite understand. Under time’s belly roll, I find
street couch cushions and pennies to toss in the trash.
My mom yells at me for throwing away money
because her wedding vows were written on blank checks,
which is why I hide from blank faces and checkpoints.
In high school I was called to pick her up from El Coyote.
She was sitting in her car, 8 margaritas deep, and when I got there
she pretended it was serendipity. She threw up into the shallow
of her hands on Highland. The next day she asked what happened.
I had a dream that I ran down Franklin with an elderly couple,
screaming, “We won!” right after I had a dream that
my car got stolen and I married the wrong person on purpose.
I like to watch myself laugh yesterday, but as my ears bloat
with missed calls from Henry the debt collector, the laughs peter out,
saying, “Who needs this rotten town anyhow?” My cat dodges my hand
because it smells too much like pussy and my pussy dodges my hand
because it promised it would from now on. You think I’m a hoot,
which makes my chest cave, which makes it all go dark, which
makes it hard to find me, which is another thing I picked up from
my mom. That and making promises I don’t intend to keep. I won’t
tell you that I go to the movies for an excuse to turn everyone off. I won’t
tell you what movie I saw because I won’t have seen much of it anyhow.
If you love me, you’ll let me stare up at the ceiling until it moves.
If you love me, you’ll move the ceiling for me.

Vanessa Batyko is a poet from Los Angeles. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern California, where she received the 2018 Beau J. Boudreaux Poetry Award and the Jimmy Gauntt Memorial Award. She currently takes care of cats and sells clothes for a living. Her work has most recently been published in Gravel, adjacent pineapple, and Semantics Magazine.

© 2019