Elizabeth Bohnhorst lives in Los Angeles (U.S.A.) where she writes and teaches. Her poetry
can be found in numerous journals, including Cutthroat, Zone 3, The Pinch, Colorado Review,
Word Riot, Camroc Press Review, The Front Porch Review, and many others.
The dog we took in for a night
returns, scampers across town
from the abandoned house where
we found her, left food, water.
Daily we drive her back, but
by morning she's cowering at
our doorstep, bones too thin
to bend for sitting, sleeping.
What does she want? Not
nourishment: peanut butter,
chicken scraps—barely sniffed.
Not love: she fears all human
edges. Voices too deep mean run,
voices too high mean run...
Perhaps she just wants
to be seen, wants someone
to know she had lived
And hadn't grown old, she saw
her future and politely turned,
trotted down wet alleys, crossed
busy highways to arrive
at our doorstep and refuse
all we think we want.
I only once came back.
There was a queue of dead palm trees—
their trunks like arms pushing
through sand, nubs where once were hands.
Someone had painted one tree blue.
There was the day of hail pinging
the waves. The morning of things that had
to be done. Every day the clouds traversed
the sky, bumbling past one another like
vagrants in the night. Cheese sandwiches.
Crust flung to the gulls.
And so much shimmering water to distract.
The sun hurrying, the mind
fastest of all
to this a reckoning:
There could be no surging forth.
And the trees were not afraid.
Now, you remember the minute graces—
her, waist deep, palming figure eights
on the lake's surface, infinities
in the sky's reflection.
Funny you could not love fully
until she was gone. Could not even touch
her face until it slackened, cooled.
You think differently now and
too late. After your first blood stained
the sheets, she led you to her bed that
for years had been half empty.
What you wanted? Never
to soften, never to be heard
crying behind a bathroom door, to be
a white-knuckled fist of a girl.
Now, of that moment in bed,
you recall the moonlight polishing
one wall of the room, her body
a shadow pressed to its light,
breasts and belly rising and falling
like soft waves unfurling. Her breathing
is really what you miss—
the belief that it would go on
forever, like when you, a girl, stood
at the shore, unable to tell water
The Secret Language of Eyebrows
Recently, returned with a small Macy's bag
my mother accosts me in the kitchen, removing
her wig. She spills the bag's contents—
eyebrow pencils: blonde, brunette, black.
"I just didn't know where to begin?" she laughs.
Eyebrows are important. I have known this
since middle school, sneaking
mom's tweezers, delighted by the pain
of sculpting an arch. Once, during college
my mother mailed me an article:
"The Secret Language of Eyebrows."
On the deck that afternoon,
I hover around her with the pencils,
her bald head giving the sun back
to the sky. "See," I say, returning the images
she'd sent years ago, "an arch too high
makes you look angry but ones too curved
make you seem sad." But she hears
nothing, mesmerized by a hummingbird
braced at a fuchsia. "How can they stay so long
in one place?" she asks, as if she were a child.
My mother's face is poised, still
as a hummingbird, brow muscles curved
as if pleading. In the language of eyebrows
there is no word for this bending
up toward heaven. She asks
again: "Just stay so long like that, in thin air,
Back to Front.