Katerina Stoykova

To the Foreign Woman Who Called Her Daughter „Скотина“ for Untying her Shoes in the Post Office; Beaumont Branch, Lexington, KY, 4/18/2013

Somebody always listens.
Somebody always understands, sees, feels
what you say.

I wouldn’t want to be her,
your little girl with pink sneakers
staring numbly into the floor.

I wouldn’t want to be you –
a beacon of bile, arms crossed over
the chest that helped you emigrate.
Life appears to not be
what he promised. The beauty
you traded in for comfort –
half vanished, the comfort itself –
now taken for granted.

Nor your meek American husband, resigned
to this upgrade to loneliness 1.1, your
strange meals, barbed glances, loaded
silences; submitted to living in fear
of having a different opinion.

Neither the elderly female relative
with her back
to all of us, pretending
to be engrossed in the merchandise
of padded envelopes and comical postcards.

The girl walks up to her
and looks at cats with large eyes,
dancing ground hogs, thank you notes
for the fact that nobody here
speaks foreign languages.

Little girl, before it gets better,
I’m sorry to say, it will get worse.
If I could, I’d tell her „Опомнитесь,“
but she scares me too.

For what is worth, one day she will
want to erase what she just said and instead
kneel down to help and continue to teach you
for she’ll know nothing matters more
than her only daughter
being able to walk well.

Until then, it’s okay to cry for the losses
and accept the love. „Любимая“
is what your mother should
have said to you. I’d tell her that I know.

I know, I’d tell her.
I’m so sorry.
I know.



It’s a Great Day to Burn, the Man Said.

He meant: It’s nice outside,
not too much wind, the dew
has lifted, and you can
light a match to your old
poems ripped from journals
because you don’t want anyone
to read them in case you decide
to die and actually go through with it.

(That last bit I added in my head),
but he suspected as much.
This is why he locked his gun
and hid the key. The bullets lived
in a ceramic bowl in the bedroom.
One might confuse them with hard candy.
The revolver used to lay
by his head. He said he needed it
to feel safe, since he worked with inmates,
but I think he liked knowing that
at any moment he can kill someone.
(I made up that last part.) He wants
to keep me alive. I am the one slipping
in and out of the sweet urge to die.
(Yes, sweet. I meant that.)

Wanna come burn with me? The man asked
his little dog and she followed him
to the back yard.



Katerina Stoykova is the author of several award-winning poetry books and the Senior Editor of Accents Publishing, where she has selected, edited, and published close to 80 poetry collections. She hosts the literary radio show Accents on WRFL 88.1FM. Katerina acted in the lead roles in the independent feature films Proud Citizen and Fort Maria, both directed by Thom Southerland. She splits her time between the coast of the Black Sea and the rolling hills of Kentucky. Katerina writes, lives and think in two languages.