CLOSER TO ROME
You taught me how to slay a chicken
you would buy on the cheap from a
supermarket in the Roman port city of Ostia.
These weren’t divided villas for the Roman
Condo experiment in the 1st Century.
We lived there in a shared breath with other
immigrants waiting to be admitted.
We waited. Collecting each other’s tears
into the pages of unread books. To forget
the one who was left behind, waiting
for his own death sentence at trial.
More life to steal.
In elementary school, you could not stop
reading literature of high Romanticism.
In the dark blue of night. By a corded lamp
inside a mahogany wardrobe that took
up much of the hallway outside your
parent’s bedroom; one of three rooms in
post-war Soviet communal dormitory.
With back leaning on a faded wall,
I trace you reading & listening to your
mother’s footsteps approach;
putting an end to near-morning dreaming,
in your own goose-feather bed.
Under unforgiving stairs. Leading
out to another cold winter. Taking
me away, to my own footsteps,
in the snow, not yet fallen.
Stella Hayes grew up in an agricultural town outside of Kiev, Ukraine and Los Angeles. She earned a creative writing degree at University of Southern California. Her work has appeared in Prelude, The Hunger, The Indianapolis Review, and Spillway, among others. Her poetry collection, One Strange Country, is forthcoming from What Books Press in 2020.