Right Side, Wrong Side

Photo: © Olga Breydo. All Rights Reserved.

Everyone asks why I didn’t leave,
knowing what I knew, his unspoken threats
beginning with ta gueule, which, it turns out,

doesn’t mean your throat, but the way
a person says, when they hate you,
“shut the fuck up,” along with a look

counting the ways I’d have to fold myself
into myself to end the day alive, his chin
in the air, sideways scythe of a smile, and there’s

his throat laid bare, but I can’t do it, twist
my hands around my own wrists instead,
refrain of Noir Désir in my head, a song I still

don’t completely understand, each mouthful
of French a little bit gone, enough that I
can’t tell you why the singer says I have

to get used to spring without swallows but I know,
each time the song comes on in an American café,
supposedly far away enough from him to be

safe, I look at my hands, I wring my hands, think
I hear the singer say the prince gaslights everything
so Sleeping Beauty can’t negotiate, dreams

of leaving, her eyelids frozen shut, forget she ever said
anything, okay? because the dove’s wings are full
of lead, he sings, and we’re all going to drown

in a puddle (you can drown in so little, you know)
but we won’t understand what we’ve done
until our throats explode, or does the singer mean

your mouth, your face, shut up, but this next part
I know by heart, it isn’t turn yourself upside down
just to say the right thing, no, it means you will never

know, was I on the right side? wrong side? the refrain
he’s singing now over my head in the safe café,
à l’envers, à l’endroit, à l’envers, à l’endroit.

Lee Ann Dalton is a poet, fiction writer, and LGBTQIA+ youth advocate. She holds an MFA from Vermont College and her poetry has appeared in journals such as Mezzo Cammin, New Ohio Review, and Faultline. She is on the Board of Directors of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire, and she teaches at The Word Barn in Exeter, NH. She lives in southern NH with her husband and daughter.

Appears In

Issue 8

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