Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

Umbilical Scar

Before the water—
           who can break
a flood? the bathroom floor
           just wet enough
to slip on, your mother
           contracted for hours
while finishing her popcorn,
           credits roll to black—
you were already fighting
           to break out. Quick
you came or left, all verb
           and exodus. The scar
your leaving left fills up
           with lint and saw dust,
fits my thumb, a cord, my tongue,
           a noose, a bass string.
She’d bought a fancy apple
           peeler when you left her
craving sin or sweet, insatiable—
           apple-full-mothed Eve
you were, nothing
           but fruit inside.
Above, a wound left
           open—the first scar
left by our mothers.




smell this, you say, has it gone bad?
turned acid, give it time and it will always
lose sweet origin and thicken
with rot, unlike me, you say, I was born
rotten, something spoiled inside,
but milk, the stench of it
sticks in the nostrils like a child’s
fat fingers, and this time, you didn't
fit our son's bottle lid on right,
so white poured all over
your thigh, pooled in your flip-flops,
and you tore the car door open, gagging
because more of it had lingered
inside, soured, spread
across the seats and floor, fogged
the windows rancid, I can't stand
that smell,
you say, as though
a revelation, something about it, raised
on long expired milk, my love,
convinced you to deserve
its rot, that all along, it
has been yours, so now,
you won't get near the stuff,
now, you trust nothing
in your parents’ fridge, and when
our son broke out a rash so red
his cheeks looked bloodied, you knew
he must have swallowed
too much curdle, know too
that it was theirs, that he
was not born rotten.


Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach emigrated from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine as a Jewish refugee when she was six years old. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon and is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Julia is the author of The Many Names for Mother, winner of the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry prize, forthcoming from Kent State University Press in the fall of 2019, as well as the chapbook The Bear Who Ate the Stars (Split Lip Press, 2014). Her newest poems appear in POETRY, Nashville Review, TriQuarterly, and Waxwing, and her work has been selected for Best New Poets, the Williams Carlos Williams University Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and New South’s Poetry Prize. Julia is the Editor-in-Chief of Construction Magazine and when not busy chasing her son around the playgrounds of Philadelphia, she writes a blog about motherhood: otherwomendonttellyou.wordpress.com. juliakolchinskydasbach.com