by Libby Langsner
hair dewy from spit,
“te arata frumos” puh puh
you are beautiful puh puh
“tu esti foarte matur”
you are so mature puh puh
“te esti placut”
you are lovely puh puh
spit - the licking of an envelope,
the dampening of a stray hair with wet fingertips,
the removal of a stain at the dining table,
when exchanged can be used to
signal goodbye when you love someone.
puh puh - I protect you from change and its ailments puh puh –
may you never revert to that which is worse puh puh –
I have approved of you now do not cross me puh puh –
I am worried you will come back to me in a different state puh puh -
I love you right now keep it this way puh puh
My father excuses me from the dinner table to meet a woman,
a nomad he tells me, at least abandoned buildings are spacious
I notice as she opens the door to a wretched building across the street,
her skin gray like the striated marks on the cement building,
“putem sa intram?”
“Is it ok for us to come in?”
Her hand slightly opens, a bird unhinging its beak,
while my father presses zeche lei ($3.3 US Dollars) into her hand,
and speaks through his teeth
about his father never gave him such a bill in his life
and how love is often transactional
she slips into what we cannot see and he
goes running, straight into black nothingness, lifting the falling wallpaper
off the walls like teeth being pulled, their veins hang
And sway in the air. The building is characteristically decrepit and European,
the window sills surrounding the courtyard seem to have sunken
From holding something heavy, something that no longer exists,
but weight tends to linger. I see my father turn
into someone I have never seen before, un copil, a child, leaping
over broken stained glass lamps that seem to have been weeping
for years, and damask patterns holding residual secrets in the velvet
separating them, and scraps of letters so saturated with spit
that when I try to pick out words they slip.
All the family heirlooms and all the photographs
of people we do not name look over me with pity and disgust
and some type of memory that once resembled nostalgia,
but now they are glad it is dead.
I ask them how they got here
just for them to tell me, they went back to where they came from puh puh
go find you father they say, only a soft halo
of his movement in the dark,
“aici!” here, desperately looking for life
or light, a gap where a window used to be,
my mother never mentions the sun when she talks about her country.
Peering off the edge onto a courtyard “cu flor” he tells me, with flowers,
in his eyes, sauntering around decaying leaves while he calls to me,
his grin still visible after all the dust had risen in a place
where saliva has not been wet for many years.
The old woman is more slouched over than we left her,
as if to kiss the floor to let me know she remembers
what happened to this earth, with a look in her eyes, the same one my mother gives me
for asking too many questions
at the dinner table. I know then that I cannot know
my father calls me over,
his missing tooth letting the light into his mouth,
the phrase rises with the sun and sinks
into the t, only to open
Into a bow, arrow pulled back,
ready to carve out the twilight.
Obo(sit), even the word ends
In a brief exhale.
The same sound of as the thud of an apricot
Falling to the ground bunica’s backyard.
Not like the one’s at home we have to cut in half,
No, I greedily eat these apricots whole, and spit out their pits
Back onto the ground covered in chicken feathers
Without even realizing one has struck back,
Ripped me open,
Letting the nectar mix with my blood
And is soaking the fertile spring soil.
Libby Langsner (she/hers): lover of the moon and all her phases. still trying to figure out how to be a poet and what that *really* means. obsessed with art and generational trauma and delineating all linear things. too much of New Yorker to keep a steady boyfriend and proud of it.