Dana Alsamsam is the author of a chapbook, (in)habit (tenderness, yea press, 2018), and her poems are published or forthcoming in Bone Bouquet, Gigantic Sequins, Poetry East, Tinderbox Poetry, Cosmonauts Avenue, Fugue, The Boiler Journal, Salamander, BOOTH and others. She is a Lambda Writer’s Retreat Fellow in the 2018 Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices. A Chicago native, Dana is currently an MFA candidate and a teacher at Emerson College.
Your mom was the kind of person
who forgot the leftovers on the stove—
she didn’t even flinch opening the door,
my hands twist-tangled in your long, girl
hair, your striped, Target t-shirt crumpled
beside us on the floor—a small monument
to matching bodies, to holding pinkies
in school halls, to me: queer homecoming queen
royalty. You wore slacks, a terrified grin
and slouching ruffle socks as we walked
in a fluorescent gymnasium—hypervisible—a sea
of eyeballs shaping us. That day after school,
your mom sang along to the Fun Home songs
we liked, our worlds steeped in the freedom
of Bechdel. I galloped the thirty seconds
to my house, told my mom The Plan—cut
my hair short, take the Girl with Beautiful
Long Red Hair and slice her into tiny bits
to scatter, fit better with another girl.
My mom is not like yours.
My mom said, “do you want to look
like a dyke?” and laughed like jingle bells
rolling around on the oakwood floors,
tripping me, making my ears ring.
~Originally appeared in Rag Queen Periodical
The Tornado Never Hits Us
The harsh wind throws a yellow sandbox toy
away from my hand in a maze of thrashing,
possessed, until it swan dives to the grass.
A wailing sounds from afar, slicing through the eerie
shafts of blue-gray sky. I sit, seven, in a green turtle box,
watch as bits of sand create a vortex around me
then throw themselves, aimless. I hear my name
and turn with wide, awed eyes to see my mother
standing atop the oak-wood deck stairs like the captain
of a sailing ship, gesturing calmly as her blonde
stick straight hair flicks over her shoulders like sand.
She already knows the vast expanse of Midwest,
how the alarms wail but the tornadoes miss us,
skim right around us, disinterested in this particular
destruction. She knows already to be calm.
I just wish my mother would join me
down here in the grass so we could watch the sky
usher it in, feel the electricity settling on our skin.
I haven’t met danger enough to know fear.
Rain. I run to my mother, skitter up the stairs to her silhouette,
definite lines against the pale light. Her eyes are the color
of the storm and as powerful, her beckoning inside, sweetie
more alive than the wailing of the world.
~Originally appeared in Crook & Folly
In this suburban house, the ceilings cough
into their twenty-foot vaulted elbows.
There are tears in caverns of dry wall.
No one hears the leaking faucet.
When father is gone on business,
the silver spoons undulate
in spacious oak drawers, unbloomed
shining tulips wanting mouths to kiss.
Mother lays in bed with malaise,
surrounded by the hot house flowers
of abundance. I watch her count pearls
and wipe already clean countertops.
Out the window, under the poplar tree,
my baby teeth are buried, but even
if I scour the ground, I cannot recall
what is before anger, before waiting.
The shovels screech and scowl at dirt,
rooted molars are stuck in decay
as I am stuck in a house whose doors
ever suffocate, ever darken.
~Originally appeared in Daphne Mag