Center Patio

written by Michał Nowak

It was much before my brother
sealed her in accidentally,
painting two glass doors
permanently shut
that the creature started to take
smoke breaks.

We watch her pace,
in an exhibit, our faces
on the squares, flat as
growling stomachs,
that receives one visiting hour
of sunlight a day.

The creature used words we understood
about a natural habitat we could not:
flinging cow patties, rattlesnakes,
skinny-dipping,
yawping in tall, dead grass,
divorce,

in the eastern foothills, which was far
for a time. Our hunger turning us
rabid, we pound the glass, watching
her in repose,
a cigarette raised, a temporary middle
finger burning slow,

indifferent, like all things
under surveillance. Just a few
more minutes of not being
a mother, a saint
working doubles, but part
lioness,

part silverback. With
the enjoyable hour
already gone and recognizing
another
part of herself, she places
a softening hand on the glass.

Michał Nowak was born in San Francisco and studied creative writing at the University of San Francisco. His writing has been featured in Forth MagazineBroke-Ass StuartTimber Journal, The Clackamas Literary Review, and the forthcoming Portland Review. He currently lives in Portland, where he is a contributing editor and designer of bilingual literary magazine, Frontera, based in Madrid and Portland.

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