Ally Malinenko writes stories and poem and occasionally gets them published. She is that author of poetry collection The Wanting Bone (Six Gallery Press), the children's novel Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb (Antenna Books). Her first YA novel This Is Sarah is due out in June of 2014 by BookFish Books. Ally lives in Brooklyn with her husband and a 15 year old cat that will probably outlive her. She blogs at allymalinenko.com and says dumb things at @allymalinenko
That Philly Sound
You were talking about music.
And I’m watching you like a stranger would watch you.
Not like a wife,
in this bar where we are no longer strangers.
You keep talking about the Philly sound.
You want to play guitar. You tell the man in front of you.
He’s been playing the guitar in the bar.
He used to be a street musician.
Not to make money but to learn the songs.
He tells us that whenever a new wave of tourists would go by,
you could start the same song over again. It was just a long practice session.
This makes you and I smile. I like this guy. So do you.
It’s usually a good night when he’s in the joint. Calmer, maybe.
Whenever he is here, you guys talk about music.
There is a lot of nodding.
Yeah, man. Yeah, man.
You say, “and The Stylists, too.”
He laughs. “Yeah, man, definitely”
A lot of that.
I like watching you like this. It reminds me of
you before I knew you. Before we knew each other.
Before I knew that you knew so much about music.
When you were just this boy that I liked to watch.
And you said things that made me laugh.
You are doing that again right now.
After all these years.
You told me no matter what, you always think of me as a poet.
I smiled and put the bottle to my lips.
You too, baby. You too.
Even when you aren’t in front of the machine.
Even when you are just talking about the Philly Sound.
There are all these worlds in people. Worlds we know nothing about.
Don’t forget that part too. After the loss and the ugly and the anger and rage
and the men on the street that yell horrors at the women who go by and the taking and the death and rot and the stink and the impending storm that might keep the snow falling for the next seven years.
There is also this. Always this.
The Way We Live
I ask you if you miss the bookshelves
we moved into the bedroom
after we bought the new couch,
which you are laying on now and reading.
You say no and turn back to the Ezra Pound bio.
I’m learning chess notation,
replaying a game from 1990
won by a 12 year and 5 month old chess master.
But the article says he made some stupid mistakes.
That is luck, I guess. I wonder what else he could have been
doing that night at 12 years and 5 months.
Waste is a funny word.
The noise through the wall has stopped.
The football game was boring.
The heater clangs and wakes a cat.
There are books on Paris on the wine stained coffee table.
There are empty beer cans.
There are full wine glasses.
This is how we live, for now.
I don’t know what next year will be like,
but this is the winter, we lived like this,
hovelled away, scraping out peace in slivers
under our nails. We are searching for something.
Something like a definition.
A book. A chess piece. A nap on the worn green couch. A language.
You turn down the classical station
because you hate Vivaldi.
I haven’t been to work in days, nursing a sore throat
made worse because I wouldn’t stop drinking.
This won’t last.
Things are either going to get much much better
or much much worse. You told me that in bar yesterday.
We are on the coin’s edge, wobbling before it falls.
But for now this is the way we live.
There is a harsh wind coming up from the estuary
It whistles past the window and I’m glad I’m here.
With my glasses off, you are just a blur on the couch.
I squint at the clock and wish it was earlier.
This night isn’t going to last
much like this way of living isn’t going to last.
Eventually it will change.
You will find something, or else, I will.
just this once,
I wish it would.
Something is wrong, he says.
Something is wrong.
He goes to take off his seatbelt.
Stop, I tell him my hand on his. Everything is fine.
It’s just dark out.
The plane starts to shake.
Something is wrong, he says
and I see in his eyes that he believes it.
This is me, I think watching him. This is what I do.
This is what I usually say.
This is me and this time, I am him.
Later on the ground, waiting for the car,
I don’t know what happened, he said.
There was just so much water
and it took so long to land.
He is embarrassed.
It’s okay, I tell him.
Softer than I said it on the plane,
when I nearly shouted it.
As if shouting it would make it true.
I don’t know what happened, he says again,
his fingers going through his long hair.
I watch him shift his weight and look down the road.
I don’t know, he says again, not even to me.
But I do.
I know exactly what happened.
It was this life ending,
without fanfare. Without celebration.