“Études à l’étranger,” “a study of Hungarian locative cases,” and “or else/where”

Études à l'étranger

Cannot dream but if possibility were

possible, you’ll find that men exist

elsewhere, too,

but that’s in the preterite.

Impossible to do anything

except for what is happening now.

Now I am with only women,

a fact I am forced to reveal, and not a single throbbing phallus

that prods me out-out-out into the mirrored night

and carves in between my legs with his hands

like pottery in his apartment up the stairs of which

I do not remember being carried or taken or dragged

willingly, based on how and when it happened, which is again

in the time I made up and

anyway, it’s in the past.

Here, I drink cheap wine with women until my face turns yellow

—like my youth,

if I ever tried to talk about it—

and the nights ends when I vomit spinach ravioli all over

Caitlin’s new IKEA rug.

When a man speaks to me of possibility,

he is aware that anything can happen only

through him, as he is the vessel and I am

just a yellow girl.

You see, the plan is, if I stick my face

in these books long enough, one day

possibility will come dripping

at my doorstep, and I’ll be the one directing

where he goes,

what he does with his hands.

One day,

I will slip in and out of men

what I choose and what I do not

choose to reveal.

a study of Hungarian locative cases

Lack of movement within the interior both aggravates

and calms me. Calms as it is

unrelated to my inability to receive penetration

but rather a cultural,

linguistic arrestation—

people are adessive by definition.

See also: a person’s home, a place of business.

You enter me as you would a clinician’s office;

the possibility of an unexpected future

thinly present,

largely ignored.

Consider the particular declension

of your departure.

When you speak of it, do you refer to it as

an emergence?

an escape?

or do you simply say

I moved away from her,

taking leave in the ablative,

imparting no knowledge to the listener

of the time&space parameters

regarding our togetherness?

In this case, entrance and exit are not spatial,

nor temporal. In this case it is no threshold but

proximity itself; it is no slamming door but the decision itself.

How light the thought, to no longer be where one never once was.

or else/where

I push through passport control elsewhere, to see the third man in the city I know I will not marry.

If my grandmother were here, she would tell me wash my face after I cry. She would bring out the soft cotton pads, the rosewater. She would ask, In other countries, do you keep the ugly face?

You and I have just sat down at the brasserie, and already the Sancerre blossoms dirty white on the tablecloth. A shark fin shard threatens the already-dead, sunken in your bouillabaisse.

“Mademoiselle is upset because the main course is late.” Shells of coquilles Saint Jacques slide over the wilted wine flowers. Waiters have covered the sadnesses of clientele past, it is clear. I consider bougainvilleas of Merlot, plants of wines I do not drink. The gentle pink cry of a rosé as its petals force a reveal.

Of this city, only one season remains—but who’s counting time? Across the table, an almost imperceptible flick of the wrist, a scrape of false sunlight. I do not notice that, but watch your eyes always; they are heavy, not quick like the rest of you.

My grandmother says, If what you love cannot love you, do not destroy all else. Now all that’s left is Paris in the winter, and do you know what it means to have nothing? In the midst of my extraordinary progress, her question holds no relevance. I leave it to others to wonder, to let in. To open screaming like the water roses.

About the Author

Inci Atrek

Inci Atrek is a writer living in London by way of California, Ireland, Singapore, and France. Her writing has appeared in The Wellesley Review, North Central Review, Columbia Journal, Slate Magazine, and The San Jose Mercury News, among others. She has performed her poetry at The New Shit Show in San Francisco, SpokenWord at the Au Chat Noir in Paris, and That's What She Said in London, an event shortlisted for the Best Spoken Word Night in the UK (Saboteur Awards, 2017). Her poetry has received an Honorable Mention from the Academy of American Poets, and won the Lydia Pinkham Memorial Foundation's Sylvia Plath Poetry Contest.