Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach


Tied to plastic-cup rims
we pressed to our ears. How far

apart we could stand then and still hear
each other’s secrets? Remember playing

cat’s cradle? How the single strand
became many, moving weightless

from my fingers to yours, each shape
a spider web, a snowflake, a fallen

house? Remember how I couldn’t sew
or knit or braid, but you knew how to stitch

all things together and return buttons
to their rightful place? You told me to hold

a piece of thread between my teeth.
Keep it in your mouth, you said, working

the needle around my wrist. This will keep
your memories from being stolen. Remember?

How far apart we could stand then, connected
only by thread, the fear of not remembering?


Skin can hide neither. I got you, our son says,
squeezing our dog’s ear like the worm
he severed bare-fingered or the hatchling’s neck

he hasn’t yet. She takes it, the pressure
of his grip, the delight at holding her so
completely. I kicked the door of his nursery

shut one night, our cat screamed
human, screamed abandon, Egypt
when they took her first-born sons.

The cat’s tail caught between the hinges—
wall, wood, rust—skinned fur clinging
to white paint like a souvenir.

Its tip, all bone, like a newborn’s,
an emaciated finger. No scar, just scared
of what comes next, our son’s wailing, louder

than the animals’. Shaking, the dog—claws
studding her shredded ear—is a split
of black silk, is the tattered wing

of crow or raven, is deaf augury. And we
won’t know their healing, their missing
flesh, frayed cartilage, bleeding

on the hardwood at my bare feet.

Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach emigrated from Ukraine as a Jewish refugee when she was six years old. She is the author of three poetry collections: The Many Names for Mother, winner the Wick Poetry Prize (Kent State University Press, 2019); Don’t Touch the Bones (Lost Horse Press, 2020), winner of the 2019 Idaho Poetry Prize, and 40 WEEKS (YesYes Books, 2021). Her poems appear in POETRY, American Poetry Review, and The Nation, among others. Julia is the editor of Construction Magazine. She holds an MFA from the University of Oregon and is completing her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in Philly with her two kids, two cats, one dog, and one husband.