Two Poems by Leah Umansky



Diane asks me why I need to have another goal why I need to have another dream why I need to have another direction why I already have a next focus why I already have another timeline, why can’t you enjoy it why can’t you just revel in it how do I even stand still how do I stop looking how do I stop careening how do I stop scrolling how do I stop trying how do I stop forcing how do I stop craning how how how how how how


Maybe that’s what I love about the water, the cycle of tide, its smooth and its roundings, its cycle of sound, its cycle of light, the way the start and end are the same. When you think about it, so are ours.  We are brought into this life, and we are taken out of this life. It’s all the moments in-between that are the questions. Those are difficult for me.


I think about choice. Everything we do is a choice. It’s something I think about a lot, and I don’t mean just as a writer, not even as a woman, but as a person in this world.

Jen tells me to be myself. She says, Leah, you can’t question your feeling, and she’s right.  Later, she tells me you’re the only person I know who overthinks their own overthinking and it’s not because I think too much, but it’s because of my feeling.


Lately, I’ve been feeling such a spooling of possible, such a linking and unlinking of desire, a buttoning and unbuttoning, a slow pause at the push of the round plastic through its creviced mouth. It has been scaring the shit out of me.  These are the worst days I’ve ever encountered (and I’m already well past the first quarter of my life.)  I’ve been walking in a stream of thrill. Every ounce of me alive in wanting. I am glad to overcome the rage of this year.  I am glad to smack it with my body, my body, my body, which feels so colored in touch.  Blued in wonder and violeted in lust. I believe the universe is not random, but what if this is how it’s supposed to be?  What if I need to trust myself more?  What if I need to be true to myself and run with it, blushing myself into each and every step…


I sing songs to my cat. Mostly small nothings about his green eyes, or his little white locket of hair on his chest. He crawls up on me, passing his face across my face and I know there is so much of this world we really haven’t uncovered yet. I sing him little songs about his stripes. I make up words, diminutives, singing high and then low. Sometimes, I whisper into his ear, someday, we’ll be able to communicate (though I know we already are) I want someone like me, to sing to me, whispering in my ear; is that weird? I don’t think so.  Aren’t we supposed to be what we want in this world?


This is the age of using. My using feels fair and reciprocated, so I tell myself it’s okay. This is the world now.


What is being in this world without feeling?  What else moves us?  What else stops us in our tracks?  What I want more than anything is to be stopped.  Maybe that’s what my friend was saying:  stop and enjoy the life you’ve made, even if it isn’t all you want it to be yet.

will it ever be will it ever come close what is close what is close-enough



Life is a Fucking Nightmare

after Russian Doll

1. Outside

The other day, while taking out the kitty litter,
My neighbor tells me, “you’re lucky;
You have a distraction.” And I think:
What do I have to do with this life?
I think about history. I imagine the
Longest run of thought racing
Through the wars of my mind.  Always,
Always, I am distracting myself from my self.
I am pilling secret wants from one
Another. What does she know about my
Life; this hunt; this forgotten heart?

2. Her

She tells me a woman in her parish insulted
Her, telling her if she was a child, she’d run
From her face.  My neighbor, this woman,
This person standing before me, she is the same
As l, she is a woman alive in this horrible world.
Here, the nightmare ripens, enriches, sprawls.
Who can be that cruel, that humiliating,
That despicable under the eye of God.
She starts crying next to the recycling; she is
Easily twenty, maybe thirty years older than me,
She’s lost her job; she can’t pay rent; she could
Be evicted or worse, homeless.  She gazes at me
In a stare I look into; I delve into; and I don’t know
What to do or what to say; my empty and my lonely
And my only is a golden fruit spoiling; is the peel
Stuck and wasting; is the juice bittered and brown;
And there; there; there is the flesh of this life.
So, I open my arms, and hold her body to my body.
And the body feels wronged. What more could I do
To tone the blast that people are cruel; the world
Is wicked, but we don’t have to be.  She says
“That woman, that woman is a professor
At Columbia.” My jaw drops: “she should know
Better, I say,” but maybe not. Education doesn’t
Always make us wise, or better or sensitive
To the needs of others.  Sometimes,
It does the opposite, turning us to rust or rot.

3. Inside

Life is a fucking nightmare.
It often feels like we live the same day
Each day; as if the fuse is drawn
Into my body, through my body, and out
My mouth; as if I am waiting every night
For the light inside me to go out;
For someone to turn me out and over;
For something to help me fathom
Where the wonder in the chaos lies.
Oh, to be drawn into the shape of a fighter;
To be fluent in the arms of strength and solace!
So, this is the terror of today; I think;
The way even women are now sharpening
Their words, their breath, their teeth.
I apologize again; I expose my tendering;
I draw back, back, back and away.


About the Author:

Leah Umansky is the author of two full length collections, The Barbarous Century (2018), and Domestic Uncertainties (2013), among others. She earned her MFA in Poetry at Sarah Lawrence College and is the curator and host of The COUPLET Reading Series in NYC. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such places as POETRY, Guernica, Bennington Review, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day, Poetry International, The New York Times, Rhino, Pleiades, and the anthologies, The Eloquent Poem (Persea Books) and Misrepresented Peoples (NYQ Books). She is resisting the tyrant. More at: or @lady_bronte.