by Cristina Nehring (July 2024)

Seated Woman with Legs Drawn, Egon Shiele, 1917


Has made my affections gentler.
The bold brave touch
That was my pride and trademark once
Has softened
Its grip.
Today I imitate E.T.
The tentative finger crooked and long
Like a question mark—
May I? It asks.
You won’t strike?
You won’t cringe?
Safeway sells bite-size kisses,
Big feelings come in small parcels,
Small words, easy to swallow.
“What nice socks you have,”
Says Little Red Riding Hood to the Wolf;
Say I to you,
“What nice poems you send.”
Sugar and water drip from my mouth.
My blood stays in my veins.
I won’t spit blood just now,
Nor spill kisses
On your clean and contemplated day.
No, we shall trade in trifles—
Discrete, individually wrapped chunks
Of Emily Dickinson—
With lots of dashes
Spaces pauses blanks
For all those things we’re leaving out.
Fill in the blanks,
Scholar, stranger.
You do it for her.
Do it, do it, for me.


Table of Contents


Cristina Nehring published The Child Who Never Spoke: 23 1/2 Lessons in Fragility on October 24, 2023. She is also the author of A Vindication of Love which made the front page of the New York Times Book Review as well as two books in French. She writes for  Atlantic, Harper’s, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. She lives in Paris with her daughter.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast