Two Poems by Alina Pleskova


Ambivalent Third

On the fetish app, hetero couples seek
open-minded, fun-loving thirds 

Shrugs, it turns out, are no one’s erotics
Life, friends, is— oh, we aren’t

supposed to say it. If I empty
of rote tricks, each by each,

maybe the key
will finally cough up:

Don’t confuse rapport for chemistry

Lube’s great for taming flyaways

Moderate choking is a form of emotional excision

–so on, until we come
to the heavier magic

like foraging for radiance,
how to get in way over one’s head

I can’t reconcile the shift from pleasure vessel
to companion animal,

what becomes of want’s largesse
The signal cuts out whenever

an end to longing is sensed,
no matter if I’m kept, curio,

bait, switch, torch song, honey,
homewrecker, spectator, spo—

— see, if I had better tactics,
I wouldn’t be here, troubling all this

As a kid, I bit the insides
of my cheeks until

the cartilage toughened
or got on a bike & came back

bloodied, asphalt-flecked,
having punctured the membrane

between self & out-there
Having dinged up my subjectivity

good. I grew into alternate
diversions, went further afield,

felt my dumb luck winnow,
learned to clamp my mind

around what-all wasn’t planned,
wore my shock absorbers

nearly to the bone. Sometimes,
I could almost make out

the gossamer logic linking
heart to cunt to haven


In the data dump
of past encounters, thousands come up

w/ one commonality:
a body’s semaphore motioning

toward obliteration, or at least
a well-appointed waiting room


Saturn Return

Everyone hurries a touch in the moody weather
while I reach peak Aquarius: calmer in risk’s orbit,

ruthlessly down for whatever, even or especially
if it stings. Good morning, universe, with yr sudden biting air—

My erotic imagination remains on sabbatical despite
many blessings in the house of novel apparatus

& the alleged libido spike tied to this astrological transit
as consolation for its relentless cataclysms

I tried to look moved when you showed me
a vibrator that doubles as an alarm clock

though most days, I wake trembling
around the edges & think, What rot awaits?

which cancels out both my OPTIMUM CHILL banner
& the energy-cleansing effects of a Himalayan salt lamp

my mother gave me because she suspects
I’ll never produce grandchildren

This may be true, since our economic system
is structurally rigged to fuck the working class

& for this, my dirty chakras
aren’t to blame

Based on break room discourse,
the approaching cuffing season

isn’t nearly as kinky as it sounds,
& hinges on a crude sense of urgency

Back in my reality, some friends
avoid saying partner

as it indicates a hierarchy
& this harshes the egalitarian vibe

I don’t seem to fall into either camp:
power dynamics maintain their hobbyist appeal

while having a primary partner
sublimates me into a gentler form

To demonstrate why this is important,
I gesture now at the unstable world

More than 100,000 want to go to Mars
& not return reads the headline

I’ll wait right here & bore a path into
the center of the earth, using just my anxiety

or carry out the neoliberal conspiracy
of self-care: Rumours on repeat

& a man-repellant shade of lipstick
named dirty money— smudge-proof

for all those late late-capitalist nights
spent tidying this condition to let someone in

After returning from a wedding, I dart
around him for days, just in case

nesting is a communicable state
or desire molds to its closest container

When he sends a fresh batch
of dick pics, my equilibrium returns

in the stillness
of remembering

we’re only dopamine vampires
trying to skirt the mortal coil

Bleak humor suits
my Soviet blood

& everything does feel fine
when Rachel says

Do you know anybody
who is okay right now

with the question mark
deliberately left out

Reclaiming my life
meant divesting

explains an article about hoarding
As if I get to choose how long

her muted perfume clings, or apply
logic like a compress to the forehead

The difficulty of divesting isn’t
in the discarding—

it’s in knowing what to keep
But I recall our particulars all wrong

which is to say incandescently
which is to say I romanticize

the lack of understanding that keeps
predictability or comfort

from permeating “our thing”
Nothing’s nailed down

in this holding pattern
of torpor & grop​e

Limp parts left out in case of mood lifts
Drape swell & recede

Hoarse mouth suctioned to a shoulder
Language held taut

& my oracular heart resigned
to hit snooze again

So much for yr fixed sign,
a wobbled laugh on delay

About the Author:

Alina Pleskova is a poet, editor, & Russian immigrant turned Philadelphian. Some of her work appears in American Poetry Review, Peach Mag, Cosmonauts Avenue, Entropy, b l u s h, & elsewhere. Her first chapbook, What Urge Will Save Us, was published in 2017 by Spooky Girlfriend Press. Find her on the internet at & @nahhhlina.

Image of Saturn by NASA (cc).

Comments are closed.