Stacey Balkun

In a Café in California


my father shuffled in, bad leg first
while I held the door, held
his sandwich, dessert, everything

but the hibiscus tea
he insisted on carrying then
dropped, halfway to the nearest

empty table, the red spread
everywhere, staining the tops
of his socks and I told the barista

Spill! and she handed me
a single napkin, each time, over
and over I struggled as dazed

as a new mother, the ice always sliding
away, my hands cold and stained
a beautiful spring pink and my father

embarrassed as a child, a moment ago
so eager to show off what he learned
in school         (physical therapy)

how to count   (one foot in front
of the other)

or add              (up with the good
down with the bad)

I’m sorry
he said

I was doing so good




The domestic mermaid fosters her crush


on Jude, the delivery boy, who brings her
extra miso soup

who has memorized her order of rainbow rolls
and yellowtail,

seaweed salad

in such large bowls
that he swears he smells it

on her skin when she hands him
an extra tip, takes the paper bag

of food while leaning awkward
into the doorway so her tail

is hidden.

When it rains, she wants
to towel him off, tousle his hair

as if he’s a lover or son
who just pulled himself out
of a pool on skinny forearms,

sun and water droplets shining
on his taut skin.

When she’s with him,
the domestic mermaid glows

like tiny cups of pickled ginger,
sliced thinly pink
as a thousand cathedral windows

lifted from
its plastic cup,
held to the light.







Stacey Balkun is the author of two chapbooks, Jackalope-Girl Learns to Speak (dancing girl 2016) & Lost City Museum (ELJ Publications 2016). She received her MFA from Fresno State and her work has appeared or will appear in Gargoyle, Muzzle, THRUSH, Bodega, and others. A 2015 Hambidge Fellow, Stacey served as Artist-in-Residence at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2013. She is a contributing writer for The California Journal of Women Writers at The California Journal of Women Writers

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