Letters from the War

my mother learned
          to read in the bomb 
shelter under the compost 
          the Penguin 
                    books with orange and blue 
covers ended up 
          in my room wet 
with mold the stitches frayed 
          from their naked spines 
when I was 
          ten the earth
dark  I was 
          happy she
in college on my bed 
          I opened
her swollen letters 
          a  trail 
          of ants spilled 
from the folds
          some scrambled up 
my fingers to re-form 
          their frantic 
columns others fell 
          to the floor 
                    to scurry like
shiny bicycles in 
          a circus
                    the blue
paper crumpled  
                    I brushed 
          the masses from 
                    my hands 
they bit
          back then 
each other 
          the letter 
                    seized in a 
                    I pulled it 
apart the black 
                    page stiffened 
the words 
          spat out 
          more fell off 
                    and more
to come 

amanda.nowakowskiAmanda Nowakowski grew up in  East Tennessee, then studied at the University of Tennessee and Leningrad State University before earning her doctorate in  Russian Literature at UCLA. Her poetry has been published in The International Poetry Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Poetry/LA, The Mochila Review, Red Rock Review, The White Pelican Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, The Jacaranda Review,  The Coe Review, War, Literature, and the Arts (forthcoming), and Amethyst Arsenic (forthcoming). She lives in Woodland Hills, California and teaches English at Viewpoint High School in Calabasas, California.


Amanda Nowakowski