2 Poems by Monica Wendel

English Kills

I’ve been singing in a dead language
about the sun. The children know
it can come back to life; just ask the Israelis

who made up words they couldn’t find
in the Torah—t-shirt, rainbow.

But rainbow must have been there.
Maybe I’m remembering this wrong.
In my dream I was on a farm

presenting a PowerPoint.
One slide was a picture of a mother

kneeling by her child, the other a backyard
abutting the Newton Creek. In real life one of
its branches is called English Kills.

Don’t be alarmed:
Kills was only Dutch for something.

Was it stream. Was it water.
They’re all dead now, those first discoverers.
My mother is scared of the tunnels

the Gazans are building but I am scared
of any prison, no matter how large,

and must always take the side against the guards—
my stubborn calling. She told me once
that language is a river, not a fish tank.

You can never capture all the words.



In Lithuania
my roommate made art
about hating Jews—

I escaped to a field
where I watched boys play soccer.

Things were dangerous.
I rode the elevator back up to the apartment
pushed her against the wall
shouting about soldiers
looking for people like me.

She looked surprised
that ideas could have consequences.

I didn’t destroy her art.
I woke up instead
and turned off the air conditioner
and took the dog out.
Gray clouds marbled over red brick buildings,
over the old factory we live in.

You were still sleeping.
In darkness, at night, your paintings
become the flags ships use
to signal each other
across wide empty spaces—
this one for civic pride,
this one for genocide.

Monica Wendel is the author of three chapbooks, most recently English Kills, which won the Coal Hill Review Prize and was published by Autumn House Press in 2016. She is also the author of a full length collection, No Apocalypse (Georgetown Review Press, 2016). Her work has appeared in the Bellevue Literary ReviewRattlePloughshares, and other journals. She lives in Brooklyn. Both featured poems were published in the journal Gandy Dancer and in Wendel’s chapbook English Kills (Autumn House, 2016). 


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