Ally Malinenko’s work has appeard in HeART, Mad Poet’s Review, and more, she also has published a children’s book titled Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb. Her collection, The Wanting Bone, is published by Six Gallery Press and is a collection of poems that get at the raw and tender meat of living and dying, from a father going through chemo to witnessing missing fingers, from finding a voice in tragedy to losing that voice in tragedy, it is all here. I have marked too many pages to share, I am happy to share a sample of Malinenko’s incredible work below:
In His Image
I’m holding out for a real bible class.
Something with stomping and hollering,
fat hands coming together
like the venom they got on the bathwater banks of the south.
The juice that makes you all itchy under the knees.
I’m waiting on Jesus
to pry his sore body off that swampy cross
yell hallelujah, give us a little meaty saving to clamp down on.
Show us he’s still working to keep the lonely coming back.
Do a little soft shoe right there on the altar,
a little Sammy Davis Jr. style miracle.
until the proof is a pearly white smile from the maker himself,
I’m fine right here, guarding and stockpiling
my list of grievances and possible suggestions for the next go-round.
Like, a little less sorrow would be nice.
Regardless of what those stiff white-collared
missionaries say, we all go un-forgiven.
You can see it, floating in the milky cataract of their blue eyes.
They are just collecting anguish and guilt
like loose change in a beggar’s tin cup.
I know spirits, slippery devils. I hear the quick
whisper of my name under the subway cars.
I’ve seen ghosts and a handful of goblins.
I’m waiting on the big man himself.
I want to check for flesh under those silk robes
pad him down, like a criminal.
Rub my hand against his cheek,
tug at the bristly stubbly skin,
and feel the proof that we are blood.
I want to kiss him full on the mouth
tell him we are even now.
For any of us that have struggles with Faith or questioned it, this is a poem that speaks to such feelings. I love the stanza about missionaries “collecting anguish and guilt/like loose change in a beggar’s tin cup,” being raised Catholic I can relate to such an idea. We all want proof of a higher being in existence and I love Malinenko’s take on it, including the “bristly stubbly skin” which I had never pictured until her poem. It’s a great poem about the questioning of faith and relationship with Christianity.
9 Months After You Died
Leaning against the window
my thick heart pumping blue.
I press my skin to the glass
and wish I had apricot
tea from Thailand.
Watching the leaves fall
I close my eyes thinking
of gypsy women
long braided Thai tassels
all that sun kissed skin.
A country with a different season.
I think of the clock pressing forward.
Here, I think of turning to talk to the dead.
I have a thick tongue begging for ancient
tea dropped and steeped in wisdom and
respect for ghosts
tapping the other side of the windowpane.
I love how personal this poem is, I wonder what happened in Thailand with the loved one who has gone on and our poet. The ghosts of memories flooding up to the poet’s memory is shared beautifully here and I can picture her leaning her forehead against a cool windowpane. It makes me long for more of the story behind the poem.
Oh my early morning walks
I watch the cracked sidewalk blocks
slide away from me
thinking that they might just come apart completely
if I keep walking eventually they will turn into
the Brooklyn Bridge’s pine slats
arching over those waves like a woman’s spine
and I’ll be able to peak through the planks,
on my hands and knees
and catch my breath
as the massive tugboats appear, like iron Triton
and then slide by.
I think of those people that wave goodbye
and gently slip from here
smacking down hard against water
so fluid that all their molecules break apart and
become their own tiny canal
the sidewalk could just turn from concrete right into saltwater
soaking through the stitching of my boots.
So much of me has always been liquid anyway
and there are already tiny cracks in my delicate skull.
Fissures like tributaries to the set of choices I didn’t make.
I think it would be like going home
water-logged and bloated.
It seems as though it’s taking forever to get
where I am trying to go
and my wandering has become aimless
over the years.
But I keep finding these rivers, black oil water
cold and ceaseless
wearing things down, carving slices
into the granite of this land
into the trunks of my legs
and through the center of my palms
until I have come undone
and all that is left is my shipwrecked heart
still pumping water.
This poem speaks to me because I love solitary long walks and let my mind wander just as Malinenko’s does. She has a beautiful way of capturing her thoughts, feelings, and the scene before her—I love the Brooklyn Bridge being compared to the arch of a woman’s spine—sensual and eloquent all at once. The feeling of water carving through her and leaving behind just her “shipwrecked heart/still pumping water” reveals the depth of her emotions and makes me want to reach out to her. It’s a beautiful poem that tugs at my heart.
If you enjoyed this review as much as I enjoyed the collection, please purchase a copy of Ally Malinenko’s The Wanting Bone it is available for $9.00 at Amazon at:
To learn more about Ally Malinenko, please visit her website at:
Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon…