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Valerie Wetlaufer

Issue Two: May 23, 2019

I had to block out the light

Cover the windows hide reflections

light bouncing off snow blue all over

a bit of pale pink inside feeling of flesh

and so cold return to the womb room and rest

eyelids no match for this brightness

but close my eyes and imagine the maps and trees

we traveled a long way on foot

to reach this place scent of leather and sweat

hair tangled, skin torn

hide in the cave of sleep

brain awash in medicine pray


My life now: a white room

I wake early, rearrange a few small objects

on the white desk. Roll over in the white sheets.

My bruises stark against the pale backdrop.

Do I feel confined?

Clean slate, blank canvas upon which to draw

my body. There is a slight sheen to the walls.

I push against them, expecting some give,

as though I were inside something organic.

I place and replace images on the walls.

Black marks on a white page,

Page of my bed, my body curved punctuation

desire the weather in this room to which I have

sentenced myself.


The layout of my family’s first apartment

corner bedroom cold

wind ripping through thin walls

the peeling lilied wallpaper. The bathroom

in the basement, where we were afraid to go.

Downstairs dog bones, spiders,

and the ghost of memories—

the morning twilight of childhood, when our underwear

was removed, soiled, hidden in the corner,

under the stairs.

The neighbor’s room above the garage.

When my bike skidded out on the gravel at the end

of the driveway, and I broke my leg,

You stood above me,

drying your hands on a kitchen towel,

asking me where it hurt,

telling me to show you. The words

wouldn’t work. You picked me up.

Your hand on my bottom. You tried to

find my mother. You brought me in your

garage. The smell of oil, sawdust, something

I couldn’t yet identify.


Valerie Wetlaufer is the author of Mysterious Acts by My People, winner of the Lambda Literary Award, and Call Me by My Other Name. Valerie works at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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