Illustration © Eric N. Peterson

We Still are not Breathing
From a line by Alexis Smithers

And, we expect the temple of our
tragedy to disclose a first-hand
account of what is going on, that
little voice inside our head that says
murder, unfair and break down the ice.
Get through enough to talk back and say
all you imagine before the voice tells
you to stop all you wanted to do and be
and have and what has not happened
yet. It was as if we are at a café enjoying
brandy in a short glass and the clouds
build up in front of where we are sitting
And we consider loss in this
scene right before things all went down and happened.
It was what we thought of first before we
did not know any better, an attic of grief
and a piano that passers-by used to play
in the courtyard in front of the café,
and please, yes, I would like a basket of bread,
and some cold butter shaped into a square
rose. Love is not a currency, neither is it an assignment.
People are supposed to be born, knowing
how to love, no one learns how to kiss of course
they might practice on a mirror or with other
children, opening and laughing together
playing at being adults. Break the ice, as if you are
stopping a social stiffness. How can you not know
how to break through and touch me? Isn’t love
like drinking water for thirst or words that
resemble gold. I am down for the count here.
Give me the bread and nod as the brandy sits
in its glass, in your hands, as they are holding it gently
like something that looks to be defeated, or nearly so.

Millicent Borges Accardi, a Portuguese-American writer, is the author of four poetry books, most recently Only More So (Salmon Poetry). Her awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Fulbright, CantoMundo, Creative Capacity, the California Arts Council, The Corporation of Yaddo, Fundação Luso-Americana, and Barbara Deming Foundation. She’s led poetry workshops at Keystone College, Nimrod Writers Conference, The Muse in Norfolk, Virginia, and University of Texas, Austin. Her non-fiction can be found in The Writers Chronicle, Poets Quarterly, and the Portuguese American Journal. Recent readings at Brown University, Rutgers, UMass Dartmouth, Rhode Island College and the Carr Reading Series at the University of Illinois.

Eric N. Peterson is from Atlanta, Ga. He’s been drawing cartoons all his life. He leans towards the absurd, imaginative, and the surreal, as that’s where all the flavor is.