Olena Jennings


The coffee line in front of me
as I wait for milk to reach
the right temperature.
It will be cold where I’m
going, snowflakes like sequins
pressed to the scarf.

In the coffee line
I see his gold tooth
glisten with his happiness.
It is then that I want to
steal it, show him the transparent
look of sadness.

Leaving behind the coffee line
I unravel everything.
He is thinking about paella
and language. I am planning
my escape, but no matter
how much I undo
there is always more to bind me.

Another coffee line
in breaks from the library,
studying Apollinaire.
I wish I still had those pages,
responsible for my unraveling.
Put the pieces together.
I am no longer trudging through snow,
foaming milk.


He gave me a basket for the coffee beans,
bite into them and feel the grit in your mouth.
He kissed me and I could taste
his reflection in the mirror.
It was like water, my tongue against glass.

He gave me a bottle for my sadness.
In it I could collect my tears.
He told me that I needed to empty
the bottle, wash them down the drain,
leaving only salt.

He gave me a matchbox for my goldfish,
my first experience with love,
lie limp in cardboard,
I would transfer that feeling of warmth
of other living things.

He gave me a coat for my body.
It would hold the pieces together,
my arms in the sleeves, the buttons
up to my chin, and my hands pressed into
the pockets until I open myself to snow.

Olena Jennings is the author of poetry chapbooks Songs from an Apartment and Memory Project. Her translation from Ukrainian of Iryna Shuvalova’s poetry collection, Pray to the Empty Wells, in collaboration with the author, was released in 2019 by Lost Horse Press. She is the founder and curator of the Poets of Queens reading series.