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Two Poems from Marissa Schwalm


Younger Sister #1, 15, First Tampon

The bathroom at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon is packed,
the floors sweat, sand sticks in-between toes. The sun
streams in from the windows and doors. I move my lips
to the small crack in the brown door, you okay? I put the
directions in the bottom of my bag; it has pictures.

I hear her shuffle around, dropping things.
At fifteen she’s awkward, tall and curvy
still growing into her hands.
Put your leg up on the toilet, if that helps.
I can feel her panic radiate through. I try to ignore the
faces staring.

You want me to stick that where? she asks quietly, her voice
rattling. Will it hurt?

I answer without thinking: No. Then I remember
thighs tight, my stomach clenched, trying to force the future.
Yes, a little.

The door opens with a creak, her face panicked and pale.
I don’t understand, it won’t go in. I’ll just sit out, it’s okay.
I push myself into the small, dim stall with her. Bring her
through the process, step by step, thinking deeply on it
for the first time in years. Her face lights up, Oh, I stick
the tampon halfway up me first?

My brother jumps out of his seat at our return, angry
we took so long.

He storms off, and she pauses in his wake.
I place my hand at the small of her back,
push her forward.

Letter From My Trip Home

I travel these roads, up the hills
find that there are new churches
and the children have come out
from the wet cold to play soccer
and celebrate the arrival of spring.
Daffodils have poked their heads up
in bursts of bunched color
down the street of my family home.
But now, at night, it still feels
like winter.

You are a state below
and I am cold without you here.
Here, this place that you left
to be with me there—our geography
a mess I'm too tired to confront and so
I let my whens and wheres
mix and blur.

I have not written you a poem
in longer than I care to admit,
the poetry of my hands used up
to wash our dishes and clean the home
we’ve thrown together with odd assortments
of relatives belongings and furniture.

Love, my sister’s legs cannot seem to stop
growing and now she looks me in the eye.
My parents have redone the kitchen
and I cannot find a glass anywhere.
For the first time, I know my need for you
and I am not afraid of it.

This place where we have grown up
has grown while we’ve been away.

Marissa Schwalm is an English, Composition, and Creative Writing Teacher for a High School in Massachusetts. She also has had the joy and challenge to have previously taught Middle School. Marissa received her MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA. She has published one chapbook, The Corresponding Divergent, as well as been previously published in an Anthology, and various journals. She currently is learning the ways of New England, with her two dogs and cat.