Rebecca Bornstein


I’ve busted ass to make it
most of my life, floated checks
and ate late fees on all the utilities,

in lean years spent hope, felt lucky
to find a few quarters I’d forgotten
or spotted in the street on a walk.

In the mornings, dry cereal.
In the winter, the dark.

But I always paid rent, the 5th
a cliff I was terrified of falling over.
I knew how thin the margin between

having a key to slip into a lock
or not was, worried always
about it growing thinner.

And of course, the clear winner:
the landlords, who happily

pocketed my check each month
and still came up thirsty, avoiding
my calls when the roof leaked,

refusing to snake the bathroom drain
one miserable winter
“on account of all your hair.”

Fuck being fair to them.
I’ve hardly owned anything, shoved it all

in my old hatchback, hurrying to move it
from one coast to another, hemorrhaging
every dollar I’ve earned to someone richer than me

for every apartment, tetrising boxes
in the back of the car unsuccessfully, always leaving
something precious on the curb.


listen: my belly was an oyster, endlessly polishing its pearl / the gears near my guts slowly turning / tiny elves inside beginning to build / they didn’t know that it was useless / my heart / a balloon left un-knotted / red rubber lump/ limp puddle on the floor / calendar with a bomb built into it / the days all ticking X’s / I didn’t eat / took nothing inside except ginger ale / no whiskey / I had stupidly stopped drinking / those nights / his arms hesitated / to touch my stomach / but did, anyway, and I’d rest / my head against his chest and hear / his heartbeat echoing / in the spiral of my ear / my heartbeat pumping down into—

Rebecca Bornstein is a poet and worker living in Portland, Oregon. She holds an MFA from North Carolina State University, and has held jobs as a barista, parking garage company receptionist, production cook, professional goat-sitter, and creative writing instructor. Her writing has appeared in the Raleigh Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, The Journal, The Baltimore Review, and elsewhere. Visit her website at