“Underwater,” “Locked” and “Don’t Tell the Women”

In Issue 42 by Stella Hayes

“Underwater,” “Locked” and “Don’t Tell the Women”


The naval admiral’s shallow body

Is smaller than I imagined


In the nucleus of a nuclear submarine

Elusive to then Soviet fish spawning

On the sides of a metal ship

Adrift on driftwood


Hardly belonging to any sovereign

I am answering a question that keeps

Nagging at me

Would I save him

From a sniper,

Rifle pointed

At the center of a


If I am forced

Unnaturally to consider the matter

Relying only on reflex


If I am forced

The admiral’s eyes mirror my transparency

As he wonders what I would do

If I am to choose


Redrawn or imagined

Why does it matter anyway?

If placed in the unnatural


I could become predator or savior

If I am emptied

Of the people I am

Forced always to commit to love

Locked (Via Auxerre France)

The cabin for four passengers trembles

As its weight bores into the track

A frozen-in window looks back

A pigeon in serenade settles

In between mason stones the walled

Courtyard fills up

With what sounds like a scream

Workers in the apartment across

The way with Eastern European accents

Plainly observed from a tall

Over-sized window built by Baron

Haussmann Napoleon III’s city planner-célèbre

Begin to hammer & tighten

Screws they arrive like clockwork

Beginning & ending the day

Fulfilling a plan we are

Also visitors fulfilling a plan

Of our own as this courtyard

Records the sounds of restlessness

Coming & going a civilization

Lost & regained

In one snap of la minuterie

An automatic on & off switch

Lighting the way up

As vertigo unbalances underfoot

Ascending two steps at a time

Swept up in a summer draft

The overwhelming heat rising

To the 4th floor merging with air

Made in sleep

There was a full moon that rose

Too high my neck couldn't

Support the sight blocking

Curved planks the landlord expected

Us to shutter the windows before

Leaving the apartment trapping the thin

Symmetry of cool inside-air locking

the heat & whatever it brings out

Manmade artifacts in survival

Guarded by luck or maybe by something

Not man-made the rue traces

Back to war-era steps

The train’s weight roars

Into more summer to be had

Locking in this morning

Don't Tell the Women (Ghazal)

Small, we have the sun to unseat, holding it down, unrequited.

In the disfigured street, I left him. Our sun, unrequited.

The rooster stares into the sun, we are together for a day.

Read with me Unreadable, a fugue we make—unrequited.

I am lost to distance, quietly weaving a carpet.

Loom with me a fugue made of love threads, unrequited.

Don’t tell the women, the moon & sun will be hushed.

Put into place, for an uncertain life, unrequited.

You saw drags of being in me to live up to, the sun to unseat.

Will you get water with me on our way up, unrequited?

Which tree will I inhabit, only the unrequited will know & tell.

I weave golden thread into the sun, rising to meet the day, unrequited.

When I discovered nihilism, I held on for more light.

The good it did—the sound of the moon, unrequited.

The pockets are overflowing with knowledge, replacing the sun.

I make-up ruins, humming—unrequited.

If history is on repeat, I will be taken—again, left to hold on to air.

No, your father’s star, you will not be held—by the unrequited.

I keep measuring out my life in breaths—holding on.

Let’s do it, run away with one star for a map, unrequited.

About the Author

Stella Hayes

Russian-American poet Stella Hayes is the author of poetry collection One Strange Country (What Books Press, forthcoming in November of 2020). She grew up in an agricultural town outside of Kiev, Ukraine and Los Angeles. She earned a Creative Writing degree at University of Southern California. Her work has been nominated for the Best of the Net and has appeared in The Lake, Prelude, The Recluse, The Indianapolis Review and Spillway, among others. Poem “The Roar at Wrigley Field” is featured in Small Orange Journal anthology and is nominated for Best of the Net 2020.

Read more work by Stella Hayes .

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