A Poem (And A Photograph)



My five-year-old brother hands me my mail,
Happy Birthday, he says while smiling
content to be eating pretzels and peanut butter
before dinner. I flip through the stack
of unopened bank statements.
Nicolas has decided that uncooked pasta
is worth trying. He offers me some.
No, thank you. I’m not hungry, I say.
He reaches for the sugar bowl, the teapot,
the clock: they are companions, belong together.

He thinks of home. Mama? Papa? he asks.
I explain they are near, at The Mermaid Inn.
I distract him by changing a light bulb.
We agree the kitchen is too bright.

And, later, when asked by our father
the child says, yes, in fact he would
like to thank god for something:


Sherisse Alvarez

A Poem (And A Photograph) From My Traveling Daughter



I kiss the wrinkles on your forehead

Hold your big hands as I cross the bridge at dusk

The skin of the sky is pink like your face when illuminated only

By lamplight

I wish. I wish. I wish

You back

Nothing happened in the cathedral

Nothing happened on the square

Except that I crossed over you and your bones

Grandfather before and grandfather then

You leave only one widow and she sits by the window in the airplane with a book

I don’t want to remember you as ashes in river water

But there you are, everywhere I look

–Sherisse Alvarez

A Poem (and a Photograph)

Sultanim Mazar, a photograph by Lisa Ross


by Sherisse Alvarez

The curtain of night parts to reveal
the women that have gathered to pray.

Their cupped hands, the oil lamps burning.

Sand makes music for their saints.
Holy site, desert that understands
the meaning of impermanence.

Where tombs are made of stone, branch, cloth,
language. The simplest and most dangerous
of desires. They pray with their knees

in earth, sand blurring the face
of a colonizer in the landscape.

They are here to honor the dead. To bathe
in rivers, to mend their shrines, to chant.

With needle and thread, they make
an offering, they mark their wish.

Sherisse Alvarez is currently an MFA candidate in the Creative Nonfiction program at Hunter College. Her work has appeared in Palimpsest: Yale Literary and Arts Magazine; Daylight Magazine; Becoming: Young Ideas on Gender, Identity, and Sexuality; Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology, and other publications. Her one-act plays have been produced at the Clark Studio Theater at Lincoln Center and the Blue Heron Theater in New York City. Sherisse has been a resident at the National Book Foundation and the Fine Arts Work Center. She can be reached at sherisse@sherissealvarez.com

Image: Unrevealed, site 3 (landscape) © 2010 by Lisa Ross. Lisa Ross is an artist based in New York. This image is from a body of work titled UNREVEALED made in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, PRC over a 7 year period.
The work explores the landscape and its spiritual architecture of Sufi Saints, their tombs and the markers which surround them. You can view her work at lisaross.info

A Poem (and a Painting)

Two Women at a Window. Bartolome Esteban Murillo. c. 1670. Oil on Canvas
Two Women at a Window. Bartolome Esteban Murillo. c. 1670. Oil on Canvas. National Gallery of Art

Domestic Sensibility

If love is the language of poets
Rumi, Kabir, Sappho
then to believe in the body is
to hold an instrument and know
that it wants to be played.

And that you own nothing.

The girl you are tempted to follow
into the desert
the quietude of night
and all its suffering
the things that lessen that suffering
and give it name.

The gifts she brought
the books and bread and
her body still speaking French and somehow
less American.

It was to lay with her that you wanted
to postpone the nuisance of unpacking
for someone else to take care of
the clocks and the rehanging of the moon.

To be just two women after all the work
of being women and transplanted;
for her to sleep beside you
while you read with the bedside light on.

Performing the familiar ritual of turning pages
as if death could be erased this way
as if blood could be spared.

To cling to breath in the temporary absence
of speech, the open wound of her body so near
you mistake it for your own.

—Sherisse Alvarez

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