Natalya Sukhonos is bilingual in Russian and English and also speaks Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Natalya has a PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. She teaches Spanish at Ramaz School. Her poems are published by the American Journal of Poetry, the Saint Ann's Review, Driftwood Press, Literary Mama, Middle Gray Magazine, The Really System and other journals. Natalya was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2015 and the Best New Poets Anthology of 2015. Her chapbook 'Parachute' was published in 2016 by Kelsay Books of Aldrich Press.
Theater of Bones
Mama, why do we need bones?
What if we didn’t? Would we roll through the dark
like tiny skin animals, and never get to dance?
What about that skeleton?
He is entirely made of bones.
I like my glowing yellow ring. Keep it flashing.
It’ll ward off the skeletons. They only come in your sleep
when you can’t hear their limping rattle,
see their mouths open and close
like the dolls of a Christmas clock.
I’m not scared, mama. But they are watching me
with their crimson eyes, drumming on my bed
with their knuckles and kneecaps.
Once their music reaches me, I’ll be like Grandma.
Or worse: turn into one of them
and make scary theater for other little girls.
So I won’t ever go to sleep. I need to lie
in the little house papa made with the blanket.
I don’t want to take off my mermaid dress.
Am I the prettiest mermaid?
I have to put on another skirt to sleep
in case the skeletons are coming.
That way they won’t know it’s me.
They’ll come for another little girl.
I’m afraid of the dark they bring
under their tongues and eyelids.
Does the dark have elbows? Does it have
bones? Can it sleep?
My Body Is a Map of Someone Else’s Life
Rivers, mountains, and continents
threaded silver with my name.
A globe that quivers with my breath,
opens into the night and all of its stars,
listens to itself turning on an axis
like a ball of light.
A compass pulsing with my breath,
it spells out: to be human,
you must first be a fish, then a frog,
fingers curling inward at an awkward angle,
their webbing fragile and alien
like Dutch lace from another time.
A pattern that wants to be held. To feed
from me at all hours with little
animal paws and a pinching mouth,
then fall into the voiceless dark
until hunger pierces it like a thread of light.
Its contours change daily in my fingers
until one day, it wriggles free
and protests: “I’m a Mama too, now.
I can put on my own dress,
feed myself princess-mama food.”
But at night my daughter --
once a trace of the future living inside me --
still climbs into my bed,
reaches for my arm as if reaching
for the dream I’m having,
tries to slip into my slumber unawares,
to slip back into my body,
to find that quiet all maps possess
before the start of the journey.