Ally Malinenko

Dog Eared

I dog ear the books.
As a collector of bookmarks
this drives my husband nuts.
The library books are one thing, he says
making allowances
but not ours.
Yet I find I’m always grabbing
the poetry books off the shelf and forgetting
a bookmark and beside
these slender volumes
can barely hold their own words
let alone a whole bookmark.

So I dog ear the corners
of the pages.
Sometimes nothing for whole chapters.
Sometimes one every other poem
after a quick read between subway transfers
the corners flapping
like flags marking depots
across the dry cold waste of undiscovered land.

I wonder if later
when I’m dead and gone
he’ll find them
in the books we shared
the corners still creased
like a star winking at him
all the way from the past,

a message over time

a little salute and a hello
from the darkest corner of space.


The Taken

Do you have kids?
the resident doctor asks.
I look at his nametag but he turns too quickly for me to catch it.

No, my husband answers for me.

The resident frowns. Okay, he says.
Do you want to have kids?

No, I say, casually. No.
I say it again trying to sound resolute.

Oh good, he says with a big sigh of relief
and a wide loose smile.
That will make my job way easier.
Cause that’s off the table once we start treatment
and now we don’t have to worry about saving eggs.
He mimics wiping sweat from his brow and

moves onto the next question.

In my head I picture a chicken roost.

And right there
everything comes together.
Needle sharp.
I see the split in the road.
And it is permanent.

There is a hard cold difference
between setting down something precious
and having it pulled from your hands
still wet with afterbirth.

The difference between
Don’t Want and Can’t Have.

And just like that
I have changed camps.


Ally Malinenko is the author of the poetry collections The Wanting Bone, How to Be An American (Six Gallery Press) and Better Luck Next Year (Low Ghost) as well as the novel This Is Sarah (Bookfish Books). She spends too much time on twitter talking about David Bowie and Doctor Who.