Work by Laura S. Marshall

Work:vacuum

She brings me home
a brand-new vacuum cleaner,
and it clatters hard

on the wide plank floors.
The back-and-forth pass (and pass
and push) plasters pink

and sweat on my skin,
under my shirt. My back hurts,
but there’s just one room

left to bluster through.
I do this every week, and
every week it’s new.

Every week I ask
the space behind my eyes, “Why?”
And it says, “For her.”

 

 

Laura S. Marshall is a writer and editor who lives in New England. She studied linguistics as an undergraduate at Queen’s University in Canada and as a grad student at the University of British Columbia. She has studied writing at the Ashbery Home School, the Juniper Summer Writing Institute at UMass Amherst, and the College of Our Lady of the Elms. Her work appears or is forthcoming in literary publications including Epigraph Magazine, Lavender Review, Junoesq, and the Queen’s Feminist Review, as well as newspapers and trade magazines.

 

#MeToo: The Various Stages of Not Responding by Laura S. Marshall

Catcalling happens to other animals too
Startle blink and freeze
Saliva and metal
It doesn’t have to be a taser
You wait for things to be over with
You stay engaged

Figure out your own body chemistry
And what sets you off chemically
I remember what I wore
I wore this long flowy desert-yellow dress with sequins
I remember that I had a red scarf on my hair
I remember that creaky pleather jacket
Really I was just weighing myself down
The older I get
The more intentional I become

If you ask me if I have a sister I say no
It’s not even a level of I’m lying to you
Everybody has their arch-nemesis, right
We lie to ourselves
The thing I’m doing wrong is telling the truth
Which doesn’t seem like that big of a deal

I wouldn’t probably say it if I was your teacher
But I’m not your teacher so I can say it
There’s a poem that happens in four sections
The words are like duck duck duck duck duck duck duck
I wanted to write a poem about hands, and then I drew a hand

 

 

Laura S. Marshall is a writer and editor who lives in New England. She studied linguistics as an undergraduate at Queen’s University in Canada and as a grad student at the University of British Columbia. She has studied writing at the Ashbery Home School, the Juniper Summer Writing Institute at UMass Amherst, and the College of Our Lady of the Elms. Her work appears or is forthcoming in literary publications including Epigraph Magazine, Lavender Review, Junoesq, and the Queen’s Feminist Review, as well as newspapers and trade magazines.

 

Art by Brooke Warren.

 

Jamais by Laura S. Marshall

I’d like to believe that you invented French,
that no words like frisson or frémir
existed before you breathed them
against the skin of my neck.

You took my tears and my sighs
and you gave them magical names like larmes
and soupirs, words and sounds and feelings
that never were thought or heard or felt

before you and me,
and now I speak courrament and can
understand without
a dictionary in my hands.

Now we only communicate in French
when we are together: We are all plush tones
and prosodic stress and soft sighs
and mots véloutés and grandes respirations

and we write multipage poems for each other.
Once you sent me a letter,
but it was accidentally in English,
which you still speak with your family

and the people in your office and at the store.
In the letter you wrote not of frissons
or larmes or soupirs but of things I couldn’t
translate or even pronounce. I held it

up to the light, pretending you were inventing
something again, a new way to say: “Oh,
here’s another gift for you, something
to unwrap like French” or “Now

we don’t even need words at all – I’ve made you
something better.”
But you never mailed
the letter. You never even wrote it. In fact

you just called, mumbling, humming,
a little drunk, to get a number
for one of my friends. You were hoping
she could teach you new words and new phrases

and when I gave you the secret code
you used a word I knew once and I said – what –
not hanging up the phone, though
I wanted to pretend that your voice lowered

to velvet and brushed new words
over my ears, my skin, to make me
shiver and tremble and sigh
and maybe even cry

with the magic of the names.
But of course you only laughed
and you thanked me with your flat hard voice,
with your stupid English words.

 

 

Laura S. Marshall is a writer and editor who lives in New England. She studied linguistics as an undergraduate at Queen’s University in Canada and as a grad student at the University of British Columbia. She has studied writing at the Ashbery Home School, the Juniper Summer Writing Institute at UMass Amherst, and the College of Our Lady of the Elms. Her work appears or is forthcoming in literary publications including Epigraph Magazine, Lavender Review, Junoesq, and the Queen’s Feminist Review, as well as newspapers and trade magazines.

 

Detail of Les Deux Amies by Lagrenee.