Poetry by Anna Scotti

Read More: A brief interview with Anna Scotti

DC, 1978

“The past is a foreign country –” Leslie Poles Hartley

The past is another country; you can barely recall
your brief stay, stacking chipped red bricks
and boards for shelves in a shared room at the end of the hall

Painting sagging walls eggshell white in rooms so full of light
the rusted screens couldn’t hold it all,
while down the block dogs barked warnings at the coming night

And there you are, leaning far out the window to call down
to a boy who smoked and loved to fight
and drive fast, a boy the girls said really got around

He never made it out.  He lives only in that lost place
a cramped apartment in your hometown
And in his mother’s candles, in her bewildered face

The past is a country of fruit-bright sky and bursting dawns
where you tip-toed home, carelessly laced
sandals slung over one finger, across dew-wet lawns

To find your sister awake,  breathless, questioning but shy
your parents safe in their dull bed, radio on,
the front door bolted shut but every window flung  wide –

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So This is The Afterlife

You wait in your armchair or on the darkened stair
or in the glazed glare of pots that line
the patio, patient in a way you never were in life,
seeming to need only to know and to be known, folding
the newspaper, nodding until I draw too near. Then
it’s all shadows and cats, as if I’d imagined you, imagined
the rustling, imagined this needling need to explain
the missed call, the forgotten card, the words that will
not be unspoken. It surprises us both, I think,
that I’m no longer young, and you – well.  Better
not to say it.  But I know you aren’t there, and are
there. What we say or don’t say can’t change that.

I’m finding it easier to explain things
to you, than before you strode into that thick
blackness beyond the sky.

[…]


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Gaia

Girl, you disappoint me.  I really thought you’d fight back, but you’re a mattress.  A lay-down.  A tired old whore.  Grouchy, yeah, we get it:  hurricane, tsunami, heat wave, snowstorm.  Temper, temper, girlie.  All your shouting won’t change a thing.  Fracking, that’s us giving you earthquakes.  You’ve got gill nets tangled around your bottom half like soiled garters, forests of scorched trunks like the bitten nails on some spread-legged slut’s ringless fingers. Your veil is a venomous mist, your crown a cloud of poisoned smoke.  I bet you thought this generation would rattle your bones, your bridegroom come at last, you poor old mother.  Nope. We are here to use you.  We are the frat boys to your virgin.  The factory farmer to your sweet uddered cow. We are the kind of kids that  throw out the batter but lick the bowl clean, then break the bowl.  And if we could, bitch, we’d leave you to clean up the mess.


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Rescue

Hard to say what she endured, though the broken tooth, the tonsure pink and fresh as a girl’s summer dress, give clues enough.  Her slinking away at sudden laughter, that blinking gratitude for small favors – a caress, a dish of water –  hint at sorrows best forgotten, here in our bright yard, sunlight gleaming off the newly sunk fence.  No one knows her name.  Working a comb through the dog’s coarse coat, lingering at each stark rib, we imagine a history as likely as any;  the elderly owner, a callous child, a broken gate, the accident in the night. We’re better not supposing why that left eye is blind, what made the hard knot in her plumed tail.  No one knows her name, my daughter says again, moving close to me.  She already fears what women fear; dark  corners, slyness, invisibililty, melting. The thirst  of the pitcher for the water, the hunger of the table for the bread.


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Anna Scotti is a poet and writer who teaches at a French international school in Los Angeles. Her poetry appears occasionally in The New Yorker and elsewhere. Her short stories can be found in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.  In 2018, Anna was a finalist for the Louise Bogan Prize offered by Trio House Books, and the Pablo Neruda Prize offered by Nimrod International.  Anna is  proud to have her work included in the Syracuse Cultural Workers 2019 Women Artists datebook.   See more of Anna’s work at www.annakscotti.com.

Read More: A brief interview with Anna Scotti