Last night we rode a train in an ugly dream.
We were ugly people.
You could feel the hate radiate like
the coronas of twin suns,
like bone bonfires.
We sat on a slat-board train and
I called you a needy sl*t.
And you called me a c**t.
And I said bitch. And you replied d**e.
And I think you called me the old slur for
I haven’t been called that one since high school.
K**e, I mean.
You always hated that word too.
I might have did that you were broken
That is only a little true.
I might have said that you were broken
This is only a little true.
I felt those things
even dreaming, that disprove.
I was being intentionally cruel.
Years have passed without a word.
Still, sometimes I wonder what you’d say if I told you
about that eating disorder I used to have.
Well, “used to” might be wishful.
Would you thin(k) of your mother?
And what would you say about this new novel I’ve written which you haven’t read?
When I was young and heartless, I thought I’d be dead
before a shred of regret.
I wonder if you think that I loved you then
That would be so like you. You always did equate queerness with wanting to fuck your friends. But I never loved you like that.
I loved you like a sister, like a second head,
like a paper bag in a clenched fist and tears in a tent.
I loved you as far as a Jew can love a Germanophile.
I loved you like an orphaned squirrel, like shattered glass.
I loved you like
a suicide risk.
All this to say:
I loved how you ought when you’ve shared the latter half of pubescence. When I was
sixteen I missed you like a pound of taken flesh. I coveted like a Shylock,
wanted like La belle juive.
I molded myself from that love, a golem out of clay.
When I was sixteen, I missed you in the way
you’re supposed to when your best friend is a dishwater blonde and straight.
Once, I loved you enough not to write about you.
You should see it as an honor,
All the great loves of my life have been put on paper.
Ask the the first face I met in college on registration day
Or the woman who crashed into me on the ivy tower, who I’ve always likened
to a piece of
But I loved you enough not to be cruel.
Though it’s possible that I was just afraid.
Long ago we rode a train
in the land where my people were gassed in droves. I didn’t pay the fare a single time:
A crime for a crime.
And you taught me how to say “Ich habe meinen pass vergessen” just in case I got caught.
I had a German boyfriend, you’d never been kissed. Time is linear, not static. And our particular
hatred has been learned, not taught.
When I left for France, you told me
you’d missed us
I said “I can’t wait until you come home”,
And we called each other bitch without meaning it.
I loved you like the silent refugee tracing the lines of the unknown.
Edited by Jamie Chen.
REBECCA N. FRANKEL (but most people call her Becca) is a twenty-two-year-old poet, speculative fiction writer, and long-suffering novelist. Originally from Royersford, Pennsylvania, at the time of writing this, she is an incoming Masters candidate in Greek and Roman Studies at Brandeis University, Massachusetts. She is an alumna of Sarah Lawrence College where she concentrated in Creative Writing and Classics, and of the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore. She was the 2021 recipient of the Andrea K. Willison Prize for poetry. Their work has appeared in Love & Squalor and The Sarah Lawrence Review. In 2017, she published a limited-run short story collection with Endless Press. She has served as a featured staff writer for the Towne Book Center blog and writes other miscellany about classical studies and fan culture on her own blog, The Closet Classicist. In her spare time, she can be found playing the piano or the bass (badly) and trying to work through her nightmarish “to be read” pile. You can find her on Twitter as @beccafrankel.