“Meanwhile” & “Now That I Am in Reykjavik & Can Think” by Alina Pleskova

Illustration of person facing away from a window and a plant on blue background. Green thought bubble filled with red smiling cartoon crabs.


I’ll never know the name for what I wanted
when I slid downhill in the snow & made no motion to brake or divert,
pitched into a tree, staggered upright, waved okayness
Easy to say something about knowing one’s limits, & I do:
manageable hazards with explicit outcomes.
Easier to say I wasn't paying attention than explain trying to relocate
the brute immersion I’ve chased my whole remembered life—
buzzy jolt, ear-ringing after impact.
What happened in the pit at shows & now mostly
in acts I describe from a distance. If only because there’s no word
for wincing in gratitude. Or freezing up, mid-tightrope walk
between ardor & escapism.

There’s power in specificity: the more exact our phrasing,
the more precisely we experience the world. The better
we can make out what’s missing. I mistook blank space for boundlessness.
The looks we exchanged for perception. Flushed, mid-fuck faces in the mirror
for a sort of glory. Blunt force for being altered. Standard-issue potentiality
for something headier. So many of the words are for meanwhile, Jack Gilbert wrote,
& meanwhile’s a way of being placated. As in adjacent to. When it happens,
the white light I wager my body for passes as transcendence,
if only for an instant.

Now That I Am in Reykjavik & Can Think

After the ring road followed wide & serpentine for hours,
& now in a lava field, watching Joe & Ryan pick crowberries

for jam, chattering in the secret dialect a couple takes on
after a certain number of years, I think of you 

or rather, The Ethical Slut, 2nd edition, Chapter 7: "Abundance", 
wherein the authors lay out their argument

against a starvation economy approach to love,
how it's not this finite resource, so shake off your cultural programming

& the desire to possess— instead, get better at scheduling, 
an art I can't execute with finesse & that's partly why

I'm here without you or any of the others,
though one of your curls held fast this whole way,

lifted off & landed here in the cushioned moss, which grows so slowly 
with an idea of order I totally admire but cannot fathom
Here as home as anywhere, I’m a Laelaps in runny nylons 
roaming from mouth to mouth, secrets left intact

in the babble before I return to mortal with wholesome hemline,
then the harbor to gape dumb at the midnight sunset

& wonder if one can bore into another with such precision
that the hunger is perfect & all you sense, even in summer, 
these long stretches with no darkness as a comfort to settle you,
so every big idea dilutes into a buoyant postcard signed Yours 

as in sending love from this smoky cove flush 
with episodic arguments in favor of constant motion,

each gorgeous detail the only of its kind
& the mind's dazed shutter relentless to capture

this sublimity, this proof we should be tender,
given our undoing drifts in just the same

As muscle memory is made stubborn, 
so it can reprogram: like the trick where
I pinch longing mid-shudder, save it for another
time, get the shower good & scalding, 

head out divine & untethered 
into the endless day

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Alina Pleskova is a poet, editor, and Russian immigrant turned proud Philadelphian. Her work has been featured in American Poetry Review, Thrush, Entropy, Cosmonauts Avenue, Peach Mag, the Poetry Project, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, What Urge Will Save Us, was published by Spooky Girlfriend Press in 2017. With Jackee Sadicario, she co-edits bedfellows magazine and is a 2020 Leeway Foundation Art & Change awardee. More at: alinapleskova.com

Jeannie Colleene is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, artist, and 1/2 of the noise duo, HXXS. Born in Bakersfield, CA. Raised in Portland, OR. Currently living in Kansas City, MO. She has screamed her way across the US many times over for close to 10 years.  She spends her time making music, making art, and playing shows. Most importantly, she is the mother of one Siamese cat. Find her on Instagram at @jcolleene & @wearehxxs.