Chrissy Malvasi

Valerie Daval

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in my home that’s not really home,
the myrtle branch buds purple
I close one eye then the other
to see the difference
I feel my mother close and at the same time far
or some mixture of both
that’s not like the middle
more like whipping between
two extremes
wild sail
in the rough winds

after the surgery, life-and-death
(and mixture of both) surgery,
I watched her eyes finally open
and the room filled with fullness, with her
she reached to me
in the gestureless, wordless way
(the body didn’t matter here),
and like conjoining streams, spirit and spirit,
like we were seeing each other for the first time,
infant and mother,
we were both infant and mother

the lilies in her backyard still grew
without her tending to them
I’m home, her forecast good,
but we move in the old grooves,
lonely rhythms of survival,
staying above the surface
is it okay that as she recovers,
one step in front of the other, I want to go back
into that pure moment
where we really saw each other,
where we birthed something that could save us?

her pink feet soft like cotton
the right lifts to take us a gentle bit farther

I watched her with Samantha’s baby,
and she said, “Oo! Oo!” each time

he took a step like he would
fall, crack a rib, fling the planet off orbit,

and I wondered: How did I learn to walk?
I can be proud of myself

just for having learned to walk, just for
placing this probably wrong, probably dangerous

word after this word after this


The beach transitions sea to land,
which means she and I walking on the shore

all of those years strengthened our sea legs
into land legs, and our strong land legs

mean we are women who emerged
from turbulence, which means trouble turned

to sea foam when momentum demanded it
because who is the sea foam

to trouble us?

her pink feet soft like cotton
the right lifts to take us a gentle bit farther

Family trip: She and I on a tour bus to Niagara. There’re many ways to frame a
memory: We never traveled and even on the tour she was afraid. Or: She was
afraid to travel, but saw my impulse and went with me, placed safe structure
around my
wanderings. If I could keep only a few, I would keep these photos:
Dinner at the
restaurant like a space ship over the falls and the panorama of the
zigzag lightning
storm. (If I had to, I would cut out and keep the zigzag.) Or: She
and I moving
among the silly wax celebrities (Marilyn’s sideways smile). We, fleshy
and loud with
laughs, glorying in the otherworldliness of being real. Queens of
regular existence.
Or: our feet in the sand like the sand at home (clear pebble). If I
had to, I would
collect the pieces of the photos where her arm reached for me, and
I would fold
them into crowns or shells or baskets we could keep our crowns in.

Someone once told me that I see the shell and its underside at the same time,
but that means when a person smiles (unassuming u-shape), I feel the smile
upside down (sad n). I see the sky and the color of grieving.
What does a smile look like from the perspective of the sea (a shell’s edge),
of a bird (useful bent twig), or of the chin (who considers the lips soft
and not very reliable)? It was a bad idea to fall in love in the old city.
I finally found the passageways (n’s carved out of a block of stone), but everything flipped,
and I stood before walls with u’s on top. They smiled like bows as the arrows pulled back.

It was my fault and not my fault. I grew up in a world of no men, and you were never
enough for a father who was never enough for   which means we both took shape
in the shapelessness of absence. It was our fault and not our fault.

I always wanted a big family
Samantha was 1 of 4 siblings: 2 girls and 2 boys,
which seemed like a big family to me
(2 rooms of 1 bunk bed each) 2 parents, too
I tried to become the 5th child, odd number
(So we could make a basketball team, I’d explain, if anyone asked
With me plus our parents, I’d say, we’d be 7: 1 for each day of the week,
and we could each have a shirt for a different color of the rainbow)
Or, I could replace Samantha and be 1 of their 6
A doubles match with 2 line judges (our parents)
We could make a hexagon—stop-sign shape—if anyone bothered us
Or a mess with no pattern at all, just the pleasure of being lost in the mix
6, and I’d never be alone in the living room
Or, if we kept Samantha and I made 5, we the siblings could stand in a circle like the points of a star
Our father would feel like an umbrella higher than the sky,
and our mother would not look to just me for everything
(maybe for only 1/5 of something), and I wouldn’t be so afraid of losing her
because there’d be others
We’d go camping and sit around a fire
and when our parents went to their tent and the fire slowly flickered out
we’d stand in our circle and look up at the stars,
who were like us, surrounded

II:II and I decided
to forgive you. II:II because it’s the moment to pause,
hold breath. And I decided because a decision gives me the choice
a wish doesn’t. But forgiveness, even after it’s chosen, takes time, takes a revolution
of the hands of many clocks. II:II because it’s the moment before. Four ticks before the diagonal
that completes the unit. See the symmetrical dancers lined up, about to. Each I the narrow rectangle
that you see when a door is open. IIII: A row of dominoes. At the service today, Maundy Thursday,

when it was my turn, I sat, placed my feet in the water. A man labored forward with his cane,
shakily took the time to kneel in front of me. He held one of my feet, then the other,
washed them like they were his newborn babies. And I decided to feel kindness again.
Forgive myself, too.

the blades of grass make the hill
a many-pointed crown

from womb
to open air, the voice

for the first time
like a tiny bird escapes

the empty tree branch
becomes not empty

birds lined up like jewels
(the coronation of a new day)

after the surgery, my mother’s first steps


There are many kinds
of crossings over

night to day, solitude to a pairing
the duck waddles

from here to there, to a someone over there,
and the elegy turns into pastoral love, just like that

the link between soul and soul
(is the eyes, look at her) the girl broken,

the girl rising

the blades of grass make the hill
a many-pointed crown

I draw a diagonal up from the square’s corner to begin the dimension of a cube
(a container for the contents of my pocket), then I erase the cube’s lines
until it’s a square (that I can keep flat in my pocket), then, cube again.
Empty my pockets or fill them? I can’t continue going back and forth
about you like this. Today, Easter Eve, my tennis instructor warned me
about the surface—concrete painted green—how fast the ball would come.
I tried to finish the point by jerking my arms harder, forgetting
how momentum works. That the whole body must twist and follow through,
weight forward. I want to cross over, too, and rest where time moves over real fields,
slowing as it wanders through the carefree maze of grass blades.
Butterfly half out of her chrysalis, let what’s over be over.


I say, I wander in the forest with only a lantern
He says, I forge through with my eyes
I say, one day, I will return to the lake

where I drifted in the gentle waves
I say, I will return to the lake and remember only
how the sweet water turned sour
He says, the sweet water is the sweet water still
I say, I let the waves just take me
He says, remember how I held you in a box
so you could not move right or left
into the swords you did not see

I say,
He says, I know
I say, I didn’t mean for
He says, I am a box around you
I say, I didn’t mean for
I say, I was wrong about
He says, cubed in
I say, I was wrong I am wrong I am
He says, I call you cubed in, who called you alone?
I say, I wander in the forest with only a lantern
He says, I forge through with my eyes

Alone one night on the wrong street at the wrong time.
In double-wrong moments, each cell cries: I am target. Target. I am
And then a man, maybe out of his mind, who could have said, done, anything,
said, Oh, look, a girl with her brothers.
I wonder what invisible geometries have saved me. What forms
by my side whispered me forward through formless lands.
What tunnels appeared as I stepped, a quick maze
created to turn me around the corner. What architecture,
map-grid I move within, the kind scaffolding
of the days. What passageways, arrow-shaped,
keep funneling me back home.



Chrissy Malvasi

Chrissy Malvasi earned her MFA in Creative Writing from New York University, where she currently teaches. She has received writing residencies and fellowships from Poets & Writers, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Vermont Studio Center, and the BAU Institute in Italy, among others. She is the editor of Challenges for the Delusional, an anthology of writing exercises and the poems they inspired. A graduate of the William Esper Studio for Acting, she is also an actor and musician who performs across New York City.

Valerie Daval

Valerie Daval is an artist who lives and works in Pasadena, California. Born in Normandie, France, she studied art and architecture at the École supérieure des beaux-arts du Mans. Her work spans drawing, painting, stage design, and performance, including live drawing of contemporary dance performances. Deeply inspired by nature and mythology, her paintings revolve around landscapes and the idea of family in a broad sense.