Three Poems | The New Engagement

Three Poems

By Hannah Salzer
Rubbish Blooms story art

Elegy for Beppi in the Diner

for Eva & Liz

i

Beppi, whose name I learned last week.
Beppi, who I knew only as Bertha, namesake of my brother’s Bernard.
Beppi, who was kept secret.
Beppi, of whom I was given pieces.
Beppi, who lived on West 72nd.
Beppi, who belonged to the First Unitarian church.
Beppi, who was an artist.
Beppi, who was sad.
Beppi, who in summers entertained friends in her apartment.
Beppi, whose son wandered Central Park.
Beppi, who was born somewhere in the Netherlands.
Beppi, who left, I’m not sure why, perhaps the war.
Beppi, who was Sephardic, whose exodus can be traced to the Spanish Inquisition.
Beppi, who gave my father olive skin.
Beppi, who probably assimilated.
Beppi, who left a brother in Philadelphia, living five unspoken blocks from my father’s office.
Beppi, whose brother is four feet ten, I met him once, & I think he’s still alive.
Beppi, whose brother has a son, grown & missing in Florida, estranged because he’s gay.
Beppi, I was ten, kneeling on the rug in my brother’s room, my father large in the doorway,
Beppi, we were building a plastic house with our Playmobil toys,
Beppi, I asked & learned you were my grandmother.

 

ii

It’s summer, 2016, & your son is crying in a diner booth in Michigan,

my mother sits beside him, nervous, & me across, we’re just off the highway

by the hotel. My mother has seen him cry twice, once when his step-

 

mother died & once when his father died. He’s crying now

because we’re here for a family wedding, on her side into which he’s grown

& I refuse to go. I’m twenty-two & depressed, moving to the city.

 

His face is hot, red, contorted, ugly

yellow snot dangling from his nose like a yolk from a cracked egg,

like a lost child. What did I deny you? he asks through sobs,

 

to remind me of earlier that year, home for Thanksgiving, that broke-ass

“holiday,” lying on the couch, sick with food poisoning, a hot sweat, sharp pain

& my father, pressing a cool compress to my forehead, tenderly.

                       

One day, let’s say it was spring, you felt a warm breeze lift your feet

the smell of freshly lain asphalt & dewy exhaust, a whir of incoming traffic

& then silence, you died. When my father was sixteen.

 

In the only photo I’ve seen of you, you sit on Tibbi’s lap in a diner booth,

upholstered vinyl, a jukebox, you’re both grinning, finally here,

he’s come from Hungary, by way of the Holocaust & Honduras.

 

You’re wearing a black tee & blue jeans, your dark hair is cropped short 

in a pixie cut & a red kerchief tied round your neck.

When I had my hair cut off, my father said I looked like you,

 

especially from the side. Beppi, did you know?

In our family, the silent side of artist is queer. In our family,

the silent side of sad is queer. In our family, my father is silent.

 

 To Laura Aguilar

 

O athlete,

O alkaline,

 

who in the desert shrub

wilts and blooms

& once played

earth and host for

a tricky chameleon?

 

Who drinks

from the belly of a rock,

pores wide open,

like runner’s quick mesh

& who pulses with

& against

groundedness

 

on her pitcher’s mound.

Bathed in lithic kisses,

desert wash, brown

& swollen,

 

who turns her back,

to come back again,

otherwise.

 

O callous,

O yielding stone,

 

a body besides a body

are two rocks hugging

so as not to erode.

 

 

Riis, 2019

 

The thronging sea
tipped with foam
& the splashes of lovers,
shirtless & gendery,
beach believers,
who don’t look behind
or aside, but only up-down,
tight trunks in as many
colors as the spiked
kool-aid littering the
sand, alit with
city-suckled DJs. A
sidelong glance & I
notice, it’s them again,
who I saw the day
before at the co-op
& before that at thbar,
how we always say hi
like old friends, though
we’ve never really met,
I know their name, but
they don’t know mine,
they’re gay-famous &
forty & I wonder
if they want me.
I tip my sunglasses up
& blush as we exchange
hand-waves.

 

Hannah Salzer is a poet and art writer based in Brooklyn, NY, whose writing gets into queerness & family dynamics, sports, fruit, transmasculinity, rocks, want, bathrooms & trash.

Read more from Digital Issue No. 17

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