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Red Paint

kathryn bratt-pfotenhauer / two poems


after Melody S. Gee

I write you letters on the wall of my small

apartment, where Soviet propaganda posters hang

above the sofa like men on meat hooks: I miss you, I wish

you were here. The language lacks the tongue’s fluidity,

is held up by its own quickening. English, like everything else,

fails me. I mouth the words: азарт,грозный,смекалка.

Translation in the wrong mouth turns anything

into a cipher. This is not a poem about longing so much it is

a poem about how we will raise our children. What

tongue will they honor? After all, there are so few words

in the world to describe happiness. I’ll try: in the small hours,

the scent of lavender from the stuffed elephant I curl around in sleep.

Snow on the road, and in every winter a swallowing.

Eggs bubbling in oil, bread toasting in fat.

You’re at the stove. We drink cheap wine

from paper cups. You wipe droplets from my mouth.

CW: violence: domestic, sexual

The Old Raptures [The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun]

When it rains when the sun is shining, they say the Devil is beating his wife. I've decided that if this is love, I'm not sure I want it: dependent on a rain cloud, on conditions. A man who believes himself to be a great man is as dangerous as a

dragon, or simply a man. The man who holds the door with one hand and uses the other to pull a woman's hair back so her throat is exposed. My father, when he'd smack my behind in passing, called it love taps until I was a teenager. I bit into the meaty part of my lover’s

hand when he hit me the first time in bed. He hit me again. And later, magnolia blossoms landed on my face like kisses from where he shook the tree outside. Love made me walk funny. I didn’t question brutality. The moon reflected off a puddle around my feet. I kept staring

into its shining face below, as if I could reach out and touch it. When I put my fingertip to the water, the reflection flinched.


Kathryn Bratt-Pfotenhauer is the author of the collection Bad Animal (Riot in Your Throat, 2023) and the chapbook Small Geometries (Ethel, 2023.) The recipient of a Pushcart Prize, their work has been published or is forthcoming in The Missouri Review, The Adroit Journal, Crazyhorse, Poet Lore, Beloit Poetry Journal, and others. They attend Syracuse University’s MFA program and serve as Director of Development & Publicity at BOA Editions.


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