Ally Malinenko, 7/12

Compass Reading


I think I saw him coming

before his car scrapped up against

my side,

snapping the sideview mirror

off like the way you pluck a stem

off a grape.


But maybe I didn’t.

Maybe I just thought

I saw him coming,

bearing down on us in that van,

on the bridge back to Brooklyn.


Maybe what I really saw,

was the wrong turn

the hesitation I had always been

warned against.


Maybe I saw the scars I’ve yet to get

not today, obviously

but tomorrow maybe

or maybe it was a van full of nightmares

bracing for the impact.


Maybe I saw you in the drivers seat,

taking part of my life away.


All the same, I said I saw him coming

but I don’t think I did.

I don’t think anyone ever sees these things coming.

I had misread the compass,

and what was up suddenly became down

like it did when I flipped that car,

when I was just a kid,

and the metal roof, touched the steering wheel

and we, all four of us,

should have been headless.

Dead at 17.

Christ, I could nearly taste it.


You asked me if I was okay,

and I was,

but now, like then,

I couldn’t stop shaking,

just a little quiver in the fingers

but enough to remind me,

that inside is nothing but tissue,

blood, vessels


pounding down a tunnel,

bearing their way through me,

like a strait

between this world and the world

of blood on the asphalt.





I can barely hear the piano

the tinny plink plink of notes

wafting out of the radio.


Notes dropping the way

people drop, plink, plink,

into the plastic seats on the bus,


their faces swollen as if slapped,

by the winds near the estuary,

their hands brittle, clinging to the

pole, going where?


Going home?

Is this what we have all been waiting for?

Our hands folded, our heads down,

our lives comprised of packed lunches

of cheese and mustard sandwiches,

of bottles that have been

or will be

or should be



This is the quiet between the death spaces.

This is the quiet between the birth pangs.


There is music on this bus

that huffs and chugs it’s

tired way down 86th street

in the new rain

that washes the silt and mud

and beer cans down the city street


and I wonder

what song is it,


on such a moonless, starless night,

on a stark unholy, un-kissed night,

what song is it

that will save our lives?


The Something


In the museum is your favorite painting,

the Three Musicians. Right there, when you

turn the corner. I can see it.


The harlequin,

the pierrot

and the monk.


You like the colors, you tell me, the way the

blues and brown beat against each other.


I should be on my way there, right now,

to see it


You have already left.

My bag heavy with great books written by great men.


I have packed my journal, so that I can sit

in front of that painting, a great painting painted by a great man.

The reds and browns beating against each other

attracted and repealed over and over

so that I can sit and write.




The museum, was something

to do today. To fill the hours.

But on the way I realized that the museum

was one more thing to do, one more something

I didn’t want to do.

One more something I didn’t want to see.


So instead I am home, having turned back at the train station.

The cats curl their tails

in little question marks when I open the door.


Later I will write and read and possibly

lay my head on your pillow

in the bedroom,

I will wait in the silence for a moment.

The murmur of the neighbors,

the car honks at the window,

the questioning purr of the cat.

It will be the moment before the something.

Before I get up and put in the laundry,


great comfort in these little things

done by us little people.



Ally Malinenko writes short stories and poems and even one novel and occasionally gets things published. Her second book of poems entitled Crashing to Earth is forthcoming from Tainted Coffee Press. She blogs over at

Promote. Poetry.
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