Two Poems by Sasha Pimentel


Tuesday Night In Montparnasse
…These nights / I harbor a secret pity for the moon,
— Dorianne Laux

A man outside a café is putting his gloves on slowly, tugging
the leather over his wrist, and he is, perhaps, waiting for me
to put my knife and fork down, to come out from behind
my FACTS ABOUT THE MOON and slurried plate, because we have

been alone this dinner, watching that couple toast teaspoons.
We have watched them from our swampy corners, sugar
speckling her lips while she stirs her coffee, the oil-haired man
stirring too. Tonight, he will hold her cleanly in the dark

bowl of his pelvis. She will rest herself there, clutching his kinks,
whispering darling. Strangers, eating alone together estranged in
old cities are complicit in the nuances of other strangers’ loves—
we want to come together tugging our guardedness on

like wool scarves, our tongues coated with the unsayable,
and this German man daring me one reflective iris from under
the brim of his cap is watching me watch the screening
of his hairless pulse. Flurries collect between us. I do not know

if I understand enough to leave the warm place too, to leave
where I have robed my heart in whisky, to step to the other side

of the glass just long enough to ask him for a cigarette, and then
a light, or just to gesture to the lovers, as if to ask, can you believe
it? Tonight, the glass divides me from that woman sitting
with gold lettering on her forehead, her black hair heavy on

the outsider’s chest, and when he closes his buttons, her face
falls through his fingers. My mouth ripples leather. Dorianne
says she harbors a secret pity, and though I know
she means the moon, I want to believe it’s me she’s thinking

of, growing further from myself, because now he is stepping
away and my reflection is shrinking, the moon of his wrist
eclipsed in window’s winter—and I bow my head down
to read: alone in space without, and Forget us… After all

we’ve done. I tug my pork through the gravy, work
my knife down soaking flesh. She croons, you can’t help it
either, you know love when you see it, and under
the silver, my plate sings, the hot ceramic cracking.




The day I left my house
for another home, the sky
was pink. I could hear
the first train or the last
in the distance. As if it was
any other morning, I’d made
my bed in the den where
I’d been sleeping to feel
in my body, too, alone—
my husband snoring behind
our old bedroom, and I
stepped around his breath
the way as a girl I used
to step from my room along
my father’s expirations,
heel to toe, each arc of each
of my feet muscling to
the next catch and release
of his nose and diaphragm,
my body sliding out only
at each extended blow
and whimper. My father
slumbered so loudly I could
never hear my mother’s
sleep, and even at night,
with his forearm strung
over the flattened bridge
of his nose and his forehead,
all joists trembled to him
from behind the plaster,
my father’s tempo leading
me slowly down the hall
to his office, where, circled
in the blue glow of his small
T.V., I watched old scenes:
Annette Funicello folding
an orange sweater, singing
“I’ll never change him,” or
Doris Day on the party line,
the screen split to their two
pillows, and at the left, Doris:
her cheeks more gauzy
than the gown ruffling
her pink wrists, the phone
bigger than her round, flushed
face. I liked to lay on
my stomach as I watched
them, the women with hair
brushed and brushed, even
in bed, the delicate gates
of their lips as each resisted—
and the way too the men in
those films grabbed the women
who were insulting them,
until words turned in
-to struggle, then transformed
to desire—and I could
feel the carpet against
my shirt, my father still
snoring past the dark under
-seam of the door, my hands
in my thick hair, guessing
how a man might grip
my ears—and the films always
seemed to end at kiss, even
if there was a wedding after,
or if husband and wife
were later seen smoothing
the sheets of their separate,
twin mattresses—: it wasn’t
the home which mattered,
nor the chamber, but the kiss,
that moment I imagined was all
a woman wanted, couldn’t
live without, his body surfing
her body under, until hers
turned to the dark and foamy
water beneath his larger,
insistent wave, until there
was nothing left of her
but what rolled into him,
the current of his body
crushing, and overwhelming,
the gulf of his pull deaf
-ening as an oncoming train.

Sasha Pimentel was born in Manila and raised in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. She has authored a collection of poems, Insides She Swallowed, winner of the 2011 American Book Award. She was selected as a finalist for the 2015 Rome Prize in Literature by Philip Levine, Mark Strand and Charles Wright (American Academy of Arts and Letters). Her work has been published in such journals as The American Poetry Review, New England Review, Crazyhorse, and Crab Orchard Review. Pimentel is an assistant professor in a bilingual (Spanish-English) MFA program at the University of Texas at El Paso, and is a proud graduate of California State University, Fresno.

Photo credit: Renaud Camus via / CC BY

Photo credit: Luz Adriana Villa A. via / CC BY