SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

The Hygienist by Judith Terzi

Mimma asks open-ended questions

I answer like a jaded ventriloquist.

She loves classical music, nails every

 

piped-in piece. Mimma's italiana but

doesn't speak Italian fluently. Today,

she's stuck on the word for "until." I

 

recite Speroni's Italian 100A dialogues

in my head. Hard not to move lips

pronouncing Italian. Hard not to move

 

hands, either, mine squeezed tight in my

lap should Mimma jab a gum. I only

remember "next to" from when Carolyn

 

asks Pietro in Roma where the Trattoria

Firenze is. "Go straight ahead, turn left,

it's next to the post office," he answers.

 

È vicino all' ufficio postale. Mimma keeps

asking questions, she asks about Gris-Gris.

How does she remember his name? Gris-Gris,

 

talisman, gris--gray in French, his body

cockatiel gray, his head soft yellow

as a child's first bib, cheeks two velvety

 

circles of flame. Mimma loves cats, cats

purr all over her bulletin board. I want
to tell her my rapport with muchacho is

 

strictly platonic––he won't let me touch

him. I picture Mimma on her sofa with

an entourage of fur. My bird and I, we

 

speak of the acacia, the wind, the kangaroo.

We listen to the gurgle of agua trilling over

slate in the fountain. Mimma's still scraping

 

though she says my mouth is cleaner than

most. Not time for a rinse yet and that foul-

tasting toothpaste. I want to tell her my

 

fingers crave feathers, nibble, fuzz. I've

always wondered how Mimma maneuvers

that miniature mirror inside my mouth. I

 

finally rinse before the brushing, rushing

to tell her I'm just an organic seed, a chip

of cuttlebone for this accidental child. My

 

only child. Cats are Mimma's children.

The bird mirror is bigger than hers. His image

is his star. La sua stella who tracks his every

 

fox trot, mambo. His tango nuevo. I still haven't

looked up the word for "until." One day it will

hop into my head without my even begging.


Judith Terzi's poems appear in journals and anthologies including Caesura, Columbia Journal, Good Works Review (FutureCycle), Myrrh, Mothwing, Smoke: Erotic Poems (Tupelo), Raintown Review, Unsplendid, and Wide Awake: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond (Pacific Coast Poetry Series). Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Web and Net and included in Keynotes, a study guide for the artist-in-residence program for State Theater New Jersey. Casbah and If You Spot Your Brother Floating By are recent chapbooks from Kattywompus Press.

There Will Be No Thunderstorms Tomorrow by Maggie Blake Bailey

Antidote by Catherine Staples