Issue > Poetry
Janlori Goldman

Janlori Goldman

Janlori Goldman's poetry collection, Bread from a Stranger's Oven, is published by White Pine Press (2017). Gerald Stern chose her poem "At the Cubbyhole Bar" for the 2012 Raynes Prize. She teaches at Columbia and NYU, works at the Center for Justice, and volunteers as a writing mentor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Goldman received an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.

Anna And Pincus In The Black Sea, 1913

In my winter room, I sit next to the lemon tree,
    reading about Akhmatova,
         her love of the Black Sea—

the citrus is drenched in blooms
    forced to flower during these short days,
        making dozens of promises it can't keep.

Anna in thin dress swims in the ocean for hours,
    her friends on the jetty in corsets and rubber boots—
        Anna emerges, salt-stiff, an ancient shell.  

A few branches will snap soon under the fruit's burden
      and though I could relieve the weight with a twist at the
           nub of attachment, there's ripeness to consider.

My grandfather Pincus swam the Black Sea too,
      boasted of his muscle and distances, of reaching a far shore
          with stamina enough to make it back— would you believe

he chased Anna into the sea, a furtive rendezvous beyond sight
      of friends on the shore. The timing aligns— can't you just
          see them, flirting, a brief respite from the ripening terror—

during the revolution Pincus and his new bride Miriam snuck out
     of Russia. Anna remained, named those deserters traitors,
          memorized poems before setting them on the stove's flame.

On the failing side of fragrant, flowers fill the room
      with a lovesick scent. When a tree is young,
          profuse fruit toughens its limbs, prepares it

to bear stress in seasons ahead. But how can you
      know when it is about to be too much, how to decide      
             which promises to nip early so the rest can survive?


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