In between mugs of chamomile tea and watching her two boys play soccer, Alina Borger
writes and teaches in Iowa City, IA. Her work has appeared in Hermeneutic Chaos, Stirring,
The Mom Egg Review, Wherewithal, Kindred, The Examined Life, and Brain, Child Magazine.
Her poem "Vacation" was also featured in a public installation in Iowa City in 2014.
The museum of natural history is free, including
the Giant Sloth and the simulated Devonian
aquarium. Both imaginary now, assembled from
fossil evidence and so remotely in the past that
futurity has them in its grip,
like a Wellsian time machine.
Suspended over visitors in mammal hall,
the Right Whale skeleton trails carefully wired
flippers under an enormous belly, suggesting
Jonah or a full-grown woman who'd nip
easily inside half a ribcage, above it all and not
fearing the ghosts of whaling
past, stenciled at eye level.
Taxidermied specimens linger in artificial habitats:
a wolf perpetually scenting prey, pandas reaching
for bamboo shoots, musk oxen in back-to-back
formation, huddled against painted enemies whose
giant growls and snaps grow
audible with the press of button.
The lions stand alone, no paintings, no plastic
grasses. Their eyes restored to clarity, the black
rims meet at the corner, the sleep crumbs not
completely eliminated. Even dead until dusty
and fragile, their muzzles hide sharp threats—
The queen stares silently,
the visitor shivers.
For Christmas Eve at Mom's house, we drive miles,
arrive tired. Siblings minutes away make excuses,
arrive late, demand we stay up past bedtimes, complain
about the schedule. My sister's husband works afternoon
shift; he'll eat mostacholi with his own family tomorrow.
We, too, leave on that blessed morning. My parents sit
where I once operated the yellow and pink elevator of my
Barbie Dream House. Dad's cane leans against the wall beside
mom's oxygen tank. Father Art will come over, remove table
leaves, and warm day-old sweet potatoes in the microwave.
Without leftovers, the three would still assemble around
the shrunken dining room table—bewildered, snacking on
peanuts and gumdrops—staring at the pillar of candle burning
by night until it goes up in a cloud of smoke come morning.
Sukhasana, Arms Raised
having sanded and stained the wood floor
of her new house to a dark gleam,
breastfed two boys into toddlerhood,
and survived the infidelities of marriage,
she practices yoga. Recognizing his-and-hers
betrayals comes at the cost of Grasshopper
Pose and headstands, rendering the heart
openers improbable, the simple pose enough
her arms flung high, every finger tense, flexed.
It is not release, not yet, but the practice for it,
the expectation and willingness of grief—
maybe hope—her body given, her body given.
A Valentine, Late in Time
You made pizza for me, the old Dubuque Street house
wrapped around us, its familiar creaks and its various apartments
filled with litanies of friends, years, and other budding romances.
Leaning over the table, you placed thin slices of broccoli
as if each mattered, your competent hands moving here, there.
I made no helping gestures. I watched your nuances.
How tall you were, how careful. Behind me stood cabinets
and drawers loose with winter, doors off just millimeters,
wooden slides unswollen. We could easily put something new in.
Back to Front.