Isabella

Isabella Lopez (she/her) is an English major at Temple University. Much of her writing is inspired by her experiences as a queer woman, dealing with mental illness, and rediscovering religion. When she is not oversharing online, Isabella is probably binging teen soap operas, playing with her dog, or preparing for her 2030 senate campaign.   

As the gates open

God grabs a trumpet and plays taps,

and together we mourn the years

I wasted, wondering

if I would ever get to go inside.

The air here is

so crisp, so clean.

I relish in the feeling of finally

breathing easy.

After Sappho

This is an “after” poem in response to Sappho’s “He is more than a hero”.

Woman with wax tablets and stylus (so-called “Sappho”)

 

The man sits beside you,
a protective playful arm
draped over what can only be
mine when the stage lights turn off;
both our hero and the villain.

I sit still on the opposite couch,
holding a pillow embroidered God is Good!
only moving to accept each plate of cake or fruit
your mother offers from the kitchen,
praying the sugar on top is not salt.

Onto the stage she comes- again-
with the unnecessary second tray
of sweet plantains, hoping to catch us
holding hands or sacrificing babies-
whatever it is people like us do.

Then stage right, Prince Charming stands up.
His part played so perfectly, even I am fooled,
when his lips pucker out to meet yours
for the grand finale,
and my throat tries to swallow my tongue.

The curtain closes on the image of
your mother, smiling from the kitchen.

If he stays, death isn’t far from me.
If he goes, death isn’t far from you.

 

The first time I realized I could marry a woman

I was sitting at a kitchen table in a small Connecticut home. There were two small dogs nestled into each other on the floor and there was a baby girl, just five months old, cooing in my sister’s lap. The ground outside was frozen over with snow and inside two women stood at the stove making breakfast: coffee, bacon, eggs, toast, while Amy Winehouse was spinning in circles on a record player in the living room, where the Christmas tree was glowing next to the couch we sat at the night before, learning about how sperm donors worked, how they hand picked just the right one so she would look like both of them. And she did, a tiny pale girl with her mom’s red hair and her mama’s blue eyes. It was the picture of family, of a picket fence home ripped from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens, lived in and loved in not even two whole years after love briefly won. It was the radiance of hope and happy, permeating through the air like the smell of fresh paint, and I saw us dancing there in the kitchen, in the home we built from the ground, drinking coffee on Sunday before church or before going grocery shopping or dropping off orange slices to little league practice. We were singing along to something sweet, or maybe just listening to the news. And the news, it was nicer than it ever is today. And we were making breakfast for our kids who laugh like me, but have your dimples. Of course, you would have to make it because I can’t cook, but that’s beside the point.

2/24/19

In the coffee shop you walk in fast like you own the damn place and pull up a chair before my stomach gets the chance to settle from the shock of seeing you. These days you seem to turn up everywhere, in everything. But here you are for real, finally in front of me. You have the nerve to be sheepish. It’s not like you to be shy. I realize I’m only wearing mascara. Not even the good kind. I avoid looking at you. We talk small. Your hand finds its way around mine, fits like it used to. Then I’m looking at you. Then you’re blurry. Then you’re wiping the wet from my cheeks and tilt your wrist up towards my nose. New cologne, You smile. I like it, I say. I grab your hand again and touch each finger, so I can remember how they feel the next time you let go. Your nails, so long. I know, I haven’t been biting them, You boast. It almost bothers me, I wish you still got nervous like I do. About us, about anything. Can we go to the car? I ask and you hesitate but we go anyway. The door closes and I settle into you. Such familiar comfort, contorting myself around the center console to cry against your chest like they do in movies, but  much less graceful. Then it’s your turn and I listen to the sound of you finally letting your guard down, all too late. I stroke circles on your back imagining I’m carving out some black hole where I could fall endlessly into you, away from you. Someone says I’m sorry. Someone says it’s okay, I’m sorry too. Someone says I love you. I breathe in slowly, trying to learn the smell, the new you. The new you-without-me. The new Us. Out the window the sky begins folding into the earth, and the sun melts against her like a bruise spreading: pink, purple, blue. Night closes in quick as a wink. Someone’s calling your cell phone. There’s a drizzle beginning to dot the windows. I have to go, You say. I stall, but you don’t kiss me before I leave.

 

for you.

I thought I had known him through you.
In your selfish, selfless forgiveness.
In your dirty hands, diligent,
digging a hole in the cool shade of your cruel world
to bury me in.
In the mystery I thought I was unfolding.
In your anger.
Your eyes, the freckled floodgates-
How they could never open, never let go of the pressure.
Like you might deflate and fly and fall without it.
But there was grace, and hope too.
The softest timbre of your voice, saved just for me.
When you spoke the words sounded like verse:
patient, honest, clever. I thought I heard him there, in our plans.
You did too.
Your guilt burned its way through every kiss.  
Our spit, a cocktail of resentment; I still taste it.
But.
We were love as we knew it. We were the best
we could do.  
It was unfair, but we did it. And I’d still do it,
for you.

But
I was wrong.
Christmas Eve. Our first goodbye.
I knew him then- only then. For the first time.
In the pain of a divine, self inflicted punishment,
I felt him. his little finger reaching down
to rest on my chest, listening to the catch of my breath,
while the pressure wavers,
as if even he is unsure, like me, if I deserve it-
but still pressing, nonetheless.

long distance

She is the hot breath crackling

too close to the phone’s mic,

a phantom kiss on the ear.

I feel the sum of our love best right

here when she tells me about what

I’ve missed since I’ve been away.

She dances around the betrayal,

how she wishes I would’ve just

stayed so the wound of our lonely

could’ve been stitched by ten minutes

in a car and not two hours, fifty-two

dollars on the train. When I hear her

fall away into sleep I close my eyes

and pretend she is the pillow I lie on.

In the morning I wake to the sweet

whistle of her snore and I hang up,

make coffee and wish I could’ve

slept in, dreamt some more.

treatment

the pick placed right

above the eye

hammered into brain just one

two

three

four

five

six

seven

eight

nine times

twist and slice

twist and slice

 

or lightning pulled

right from the sky strikes

the brain, the heartbeat

speeds up

then slows

and the monitor shows the wave

almost straight

the cook and the bird

At thanksgiving dinner

I imagine myself both

the cook and the bird

carve carefully, make

the dead thing look delicious

and digestible

little mortician in a chefs hat

 

Belly up, the tongue wields the knife

cutting words from the net of air at the last

second, swallowing them again

until what’s left can finally fall

from the mouth In bite-sized chunks

so their ears may only hear

the delicious and digestible

 

All the while the knife moves from

wing to breast and thigh to leg

until the final bit of flesh has fallen from bone

and the head rolls off the table

leaving the giblets to lie between the ribs

like skinny fingers holding slime

 

The ear turns upwards on the floor

hears them say grace, give thanks

God bless this family- even me, for now-

and the food

so intricately prepared

amen

dig in

amen

 

A Brief Look at the Perceived Privilege of Queer Women

Trigger Warning: brief mentions of fetishization, sexual assault, violence

Picture this: you are sitting in a creative writing class at a liberal arts school, analyzing Carl Phillips’ poem “Radiance Versus Ordinary Light.” After everyone offers their first thoughts, the professor notes that the poem may be influenced by the poet’s queerness. You all reanalyze. Someone says it makes sense Phillips is so hurt, gay men have it so much worse than gay women. Record scratch. What?! Now the analysis has shifted to queerness and privilege. This is uncomfortable for everyone: the queer kids who have to do the educating and the straight kids who don’t want to be educated.

So I thought we should talk about privilege.

Like Noah

The Creation of Adam (Detail) by Michelangelo

Blood is thicker than water yet
flows twice as easy as I
cut my own cord and free fall
hoping someone will catch me
When you do our fingertips brush
only slightly but it’s enough:
the creation of family

We travel back to our junkyards and we try to salvage anything at all
–My broken door with its jammed lock
The mirror you swear grew arms; wouldn’t stop throwing punches
Two lonely beds and the blankets that never got the job done–
And from the fragments, we build like Noah did and
the house becomes a home underneath
all her cracks and peeled paint

The kitchen empty as our wallets (but our bellies never so full)
Our shoes never kicked off at the door (even now, always ready to run)
No clocks tick on our walls (still making up for lost time)
We never get around to mowing the lawn (this is a place of growth)
The stairs too easy to fall down with socks on (one step at a time)
Dog fur coats the rugs and the couches and our clothes (fur coats are in style)
Our feet freeze on the bathroom tile in the early morning (finally thawed, able to feel).