Categories
Poetry

I Am

I Am

By: Irina Talty

I am two worlds torn in half.

One is Bulgaria,

in the small city of Druzhba. 

Long, lazy summers

sticking with sweat, 

breath tastes like fresh 

banichka; warm and flaky.

My floury lips 

take another bite. 

Grainy sand under my feet

seaweed catches between my toes

the musty language of the sea

sliding over the sand. 

In the distance; a seagull, the roar 

of a jet ski. Laughing, shrieking

wind slapping my cheeks, 

knuckles pink, red, white

melting into a painful sunset. 

Dinners, humming with the lullaby of 

clinking plates and silverware

scooping food and pouring wine

glass after glass of the sweet fruit

wrapped under the canopy of vines. 

Bodies close, leaning in, 

gossip, fights, laughter. 

I race upstairs to chatter with cousins

with an unfamiliar language; yet

we can understand the familiar song 

of each other’s voices. 

Bulgaria, the smell of pearly soap,

cigarette smoke, and sweet grass.

But I am also here. 

America. 

Apple orchards and Halloween

fast food drives and greasy fingers

solo cups and first kisses

sloshing, wet, giggles. 

Hamburgers, hot dogs, 

little league games. 

Sitting in the heat, the fresh 

scent of cut grass. 

Driving with the windows down,

hand catching wind,

wind mussing hair. 

Coffee shops, subways, 

family, loud, bustling

banter while chowing on 

buttery angel cake, slippery spaghetti.

Smacking lips, smooching cheeks

telling me how tall I’ve grown

and asking me who my boyfriend is.

Road trips, cheap coffee,

lips on skin, lips on lips

feeling free, going faster,

first loves, first jobs, graduate. 

America, my first home. 

The feel of wet snowflakes, 

crunchy leaves, soft cherry blossoms.

Sitting in an American shop.

Tattoo ink bleeding into my skin

carving lines to create a sunflower

reminiscent of the golden fields

lining the country roads of

Bulgaria. My second home

forever with me,

etched onto my ribs,

etched into my heart.


Irina Talty is an Emory University grad who is currently teaching first grade in Atlanta, GA. She hopes to go to graduate school for creative writing after she has served her two years in Teach for America. She loves cooking, hiking, and her pet rats.

Categories
Fiction

Mahmet

Mahmet

By: Elissa Russell

I couldn’t recognize your accent as foreign any more than I could my own. Each muddy ‘R,’ each forced vowel we produced hung in the air unacknowledged, suspended like mobiles in the damp atmosphere.

It was your eyes that first betrayed you—those flame-gold eyes, the color of honey exactly, fixed always toward the East.

We met at a neighborhood party over hard punch and galettes and too many glasses of Muscadet. Rain swelled the clouds overhead as the fluid language swirled around us. I was dizzy, drunk, still ticking on Central Standard Time. The Atlantic-soaked air had long ago swept my pride and my verb conjugations out to sea.

You commiserated with each awkward ​bisou​, heard each garbled syllable, pulled me aside:

“Yolaine and I met twenty years ago,” you told me in her language: smooth, yet biting. “​Elle est ma marie​,” you emphasized, the bitter ‘R’ accentuating the phrase’s harshest word. You paused, downed the contents of your glass in one sharp gulp. The closer you drew in, the faster my heart beat. “I hate this rain, this place. I want to learn English. I must. It’s so… beautiful.” Flickering amber eyes, now locked on my blue ones. “Let me walk you home. It’s dark.” You squeezed my bare knee, hard, and stood. The walk home was neither dark nor far, but you knew that. You’d been here now for eleven years, after all.

Upon reaching the yellow house with the blue door, you braced my shoulders and brought your nose within an inch from my own. “Sweet dreams,” you exhaled at me in English, your breath forming a sea-salt cocktail with the night as I dumbly watched you stumble back up the path.

I fished out an ornate house key, which seemed to belong more to the Victorian era than in my Jansport. I winced as it turned loudly in the heavy door, fearing to wake the members of this house, this family that was not mine.

From the peephole, I glimpsed your brown peacoat. You disappeared past the stone wall, back toward your home, where your wife was washing our dinner plates.


Elissa Russell holds an English degree from the University of Texas at Austin. After graduating, she worked as an English teacher in Calais, France. A theatre educator and administrator, she now lives in Colorado, where she continues to explore her passion for writing.

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