Heather Altfeld teaches English and Honors classes at California State University, Chico. Her recent and forthcoming publications include poetry in Narrative Magazine, Pleiades, Poetry Northwest, ZYZZYVA, Sow’s Ear Review, Greensboro Review, Squaw Valley Review, Jewish Currents, Laurel Review, The New Guard, and Zone 3. She has completed her first book of poems and is currently working on a second book of poetry and a book of stories for children.
At first, when I was born,
I couldn't move. I lay in the incubator
and beside me was a backpack, a gun,
a loaf of bread, a container of milk,
a stick of butter, and a pane of glass.
I turned the backpack inside out,
looking for wings and an almanac.
I chiseled a window from the sliver of glass
and sat watching many days
for a rain to come
and lighten my sky.
Side Road, Oltenia
We lay still as snow
beneath feather quilts
in the camping van,
listening to the low moan of fog
in the night-somewhere in this darkness
they once walked, pearls of hail
crunching beneath their feet. My mother
doesn't speak of them-only a few escaped,
and those who didn't had stories
she couldn't bear to tell. Midnights found them
in the farmhouse just beyond this field,
licking tuica from their lips
in the tallowed light, scent of plum,
tremulo of the violin, the singing-
there would have been singing-
The door to the van slid open and the politzi
burst the quiet of our small home.
Dark hem of moustache across
the thin stream of his lip, currant eyes
in a satin of compote, he barked the orders
five dollar, Americani-two oranges, leave.
Beneath where our car ticked the first burst of heat,
beneath the fingers of trees slick with ice,
below the black gloss of his boots clipping off into the fog,
through the slick ruts of mud, I felt them there-the
little family all in a row, prone and frozen
like straight stalks of hard winter wheat-
stones of my stones buried
beneath these cold stars,
their clean bones glittering.