Paulina Lopez

Pre-K Teacher



Knots I Haven't Untied

(Imitation poem, after Jesse Manley's "The Elements of Solid Relationships")

House Inventory

Mom is garlic:

bitter, compartmentalized, 

best in small doses.


Francisco is paprika:

deceptively attractive,

more concerned with color than with flavor.


Dad is butter:

the kind that sits in a tub

and won't move until you scoop him out.


Natalia is mint:

fresh, revitalizing,

the scent of her makes you feel clean and whole and good.


Me, I'm basil:

I mix well with others

but not all at once.


(Persona 1)

If You Ask Me and  I Say 'I Do.'

We'll both want a wedding in the summer.

You'll say 'So there can be fireflies' 

and I'll say 'Under the Milky Way'

but we'll both mean 'The great outdoors is free.'


We won't mind so much

being the only married couple in college

because it makes us Different

and Different looks good

on application essays.


It will take longer than we thought 

for us to get used to sharing one hundred square feet

of dirty laundry that never gets done

and dishes that pile up like cars on icy Minnesota roads. 


I won't exactly drop out in March,

I'll just postpone -

because I can wait longer for a music major

than the landlord can wait for our rent.


In April, the measuring tape will run out of notches

before we can find the distance between us

sitting side by side on a sofa

watching something on Hulu

because that will be easier than fighting 

about whose turn it was to vacuum.


By June, our muscles will have memorized 

the following choreography for an agreeable night:

You'll kiss me on the forehead

before turning out the light and

it will be an hour before I stop counting the

glow-in-the-dark stars we taped to the ceiling. 

I'll fall asleep wondering why

we keep using strips of masking tape

to put together the pieces of broken porcelain

scattered over our hardwood floor. 


 (Persona 2)


People say that dead grandmothers spend most of their time

disapproving of how often their posterity masturbates

or keep spiral-bound notebooks filled with accurate records

of each lie they say and which shade of white,

but all I've done is stand here in the kitchen 

watching you watch water boil.

You do it quietly and intensely,

like a puma whose paws touch the ground without making a sound

as she follows her dinner through the dark.

You wait and you wear your silence like a fur coat, heavy and hot and 

sure of itself. Maybe you're listening to the heartsong of each pocket of air

as it bursts open on the surface of the water. Or maybe

you're reading secrets written on the ribbons of rising steam.

I hope you don't mind me watching you,

waiting here a bit longer in case your silence bubbles over into song

and I know what you're looking for at the bottom of the pot. 



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