Two Poems

Ewe Translations

The snake, lying in the road
is unable to move for his bloat.
Even the skin over its nose
has been stretched taut
over the ribs of the sheep,
whose skin is taut over the ewe
in her belly. In Hebrew, ewe
means Rachel, as in little lamb,
virginal wool, growing inside
in curls, like moss. I feel this sometimes.
Not the bloat of the snake,
but the dark pressure of being
the thing inside. The snake, eventually,
must be drugged and dragged
out of the road. The effort of this
leaves him unsettled, and after all
that bearing down and swallowing,
he regurgitates the sheep,
almost still whole.  Here, a hoof,
a shank, the small lamb’s lost bleat.


I can smell my grandmother’s apartment,
talcum powder and yams,
though I haven’t seen it in a decade.
I am a woman inside a woman and I know
this silhouette houses another.

Fan blades make their revolutions.
Turning clock hands find a new face
in each hour. I burned my hand
and it is red and white and purring.
The other hand has no idea.

All the Russian dolls I’ve ever seen
are handmade, hand painted.
Dresses of infinitesimal flowers
come in every size.  The wood thin
and buoyant, like boat bottoms.

As a child, I would empty the mother doll
and close her up again, matching top half
to bottom by the paint strokes, proceeded
with all of them until they were lined up
as they are in souvenir shop windows.

There is a picture on the mantle
of my mother and her grandmother.
She keeps it there to hear her guests’
comment on the striking similarity:
they all ask if the girl in the photo is me.

Together, the dolls are a shaker,
a dried calabash, the crust, mantle
and core. Each is a ring in the open face
of a tree stump, both window
and everything it contains.

The biggest doll does not look
like she could house eight others,
but she does. Even all inside
one another, the wood
is surprisingly light.

The smallest doll, of course,
does not open. She is part mistake,
seamless. She is not hollow,
cannot be pried apart. Without her,
the woman cracks open indefinitely.

RACHEL MALIS earned her MFA from ASU in 2010. Rachel has been published in Oberon Poetry, Modoc Forum, Willows Wept Review, Damselfly Press and the New Mexico Poetry Review. She currently lives in Washington, DC where she is working on a novel.