4 Poems by Brittany Menjivar

By Brittany Menjivar

modern odyssey

meaning has no meaning but on interstates at night

you roll your window down
so the songs of highway spirits
can spin shivers round your skin
your t-shirt flutters like your childhood hopes

penelope wove weighed down by woe
but you’d never have her patience
you will find your lost love
before it reaches home
weary and wild-eyed
whispering, “where did i turn wrong?”

the radio lyrics speak of death
but your friends don’t know
so you let them keep singing
the notes float so beautifully

and a brick wall says “art is trash”
in letters glorious enough to make picasso envious
and you marvel at the irony

and the smokestacks of a factory
shine like lighthouses in a cosmic sea
the stars are likely crying
but the clouds look so pretty

and crumbling buildings become monuments in the floodlights
and you take off your glasses and lose yourself
to a blurry whirlwind of christmas color
even though it is July

and you want to shout “why”
but no one’s words could satisfy your thirst,
so you drive on into the dark,
praying you’ll taste the answer in the air somewhere


“Interstate” © Juan Alberto Garcia Rivera (https://www.flickr.com/photos/99815049@N07/9435327551)

what a kid could do

after school,
we cast off our complacency,
replacing stiffness with swagger

we stomp through the rainbows
in puddles of oil on the asphalt
wondering if such small marvels
hide in the fissures of our subtle existences

we sing with our stride,
our smiles
we’re kids
scorn us if you like,
but we’re too young to die

the gun shop shines across the street
we stare at the magic wands in the windows
until we’re told to run home

in control,
do you want to feel in control?
rebellion is an electric word
i will not let my textbook tell me how to think
i am a fire in the shape of a child
show me how to burn, world
show me how to burn

i want to be forever young
with boldness that bites
and feet that refuse to tremble
with the shifting of tectonic plates
let me be your prodigy
the news item that haunts your dreams

the shop beckons us again
we eat ice cream on the bench beside it
and shout at the cars that speed by
we don’t know what we’re asking for
until we get it
we laugh all the way home,
trying to forget the way
that one man looked at us

my teacher tells me i can change history
my parents say i can be president
some people like to find lies,
i like to find truths

ashley’s brother bought a rifle today
he looks like g.i. joe, you know
or some kind of hollywood action hero

saturday brings adventure
we set out for the woods,
wearing dark green
and patches of common dirt

we stumble upon a precipice
i try to take a photograph
and my camera plummets
below us, i hear cries
i hope no one dies

you could kill someone on this cliff
the boulders close in on me
and i shudder

kids can drive themselves crazy
thinking about all the things they could do

three deaths

we all wanted a piece of the accident.
we thrilled ourselves with half-witted hallucinations—
it happened on a road like this one.
he smiled like my brother.
so that’s what the parade of sirens sounded like that night…
we wore makeup to school just so our tears
would leave mascara ashes beneath our eyes.
he knew but half of us, yet every one of us sent his name skyward
in prayers on street corners.
the time he shoved me aside at a football game
became a blessing from a spotless saint.
“he was a good guy… a good man…”
we watched as his teachers stared into the flames of candles,
erasing their thoughts of detentions
and replacing them with images of a blank face
upon which they could write thoughts that had never crossed their minds.

i felt like the woman reading the paper in tom’s diner.
he was no one i had heard of,
so why did i bless his sweetly smiling face
when i saw his photo on an internet sidebar?
the murmurs of newscasters and panicking friends
taught me my go-to chant: “oh my gosh. I miss him…”
(even though I didn’t)
he was our American icon, and we painted him
with stripes of valor and flourishes of flaw-masking gold
because he loved his daughter and loved God
and loved chasing dreams while we reclined in armchairs.
he was the star we wished on— a martyr
for something vague and sweeping we couldn’t put a finger on…
at the end of the year, his portrait appeared
between performances by one-hit wonders.
i resolved to watch his movie but never got around to it.

i am running to the bathroom with my hair tied in a bun
the elastic snaps when i bend over to vomit
and a song i hate is stuck in my head
and i can’t turn on the radio in the passenger seat
and the pale girl in the waiting room thinks i don’t have problems
and i beg you to SAY SOMETHING,
something i can write on a wall or in a yearbook
and tattoo on my arm when i am of age
but your lips are still
like your heartbeat
you are stupid
you must have let go of some cosmic rope to leave me behind
your acne will never disappear
you won’t wear that suit (and the store won’t accept returns)
you won’t drive me to the mall on Sunday
and i can already hear the lies dripping from lions’ mouths
if anyone says you moved through this fallen world
like an angel,
i will reach through the heavenly veil and seize the reality
of what you were—
someone who radiated glory but wore no shining armor
someone who hated firm mattresses and old buildings
someone who would cringe inside a mausoleum
unglamorous, i cry,
we are unglamorous.


“Untitled” © Panu Horsmalahti (https://www.flickr.com/photos/nawitus/7281535736/)

cleopatra eyes

your cleopatra eyes hide shadows
of nothingness. a parade of stars aches
to welcome your presence on the open road
ahead of you, but your darkness will not be
interrupted. really, who are you? i used to know,
but last autumn, you held your paper self in a trembling hand
and erased the marks that gave your soul shape
until black holes broke your peace into pieces. i guess
you had nothing else to do in the back row
of our drafty classroom, sitting beside maps of places
you’d never visit, people who melted your dripping mind
with stories of glory and smiles like flames,
and a window wasp that etched insults into your eardrum
with a shining, singing stinger—
but i’ll never be sure,
maybe because i don’t wear makeup.
i miss you like middle school.
stab me with your tiny dagger.
give me cleopatra eyes.

Brittany_MenjivarBrittany Menjivar is seventeen years old. She attends the Academy of the Holy Cross, where she is the editor of “Images,” a literary magazine featuring students’ writing and art. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming “inKaPow! Creative Writing Zine,” “The Noisy Island,” “Crashtest,” and a handful of anthologies. In addition, she is an alumna of the Shakespeare’s Sisters Seminar at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Brittany’s influences include S.E. Hinton, Madeleine L’Engle, Mark Foster, and Damon Albarn.

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2 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Holy hell I wish I wrote like that when I was your age, heck I wish I wrote like that now & my kids are your age!
    Don’t let the world tell you to get a ‘real job’ and squash the spirit behind these poems. You, Miss, are a firecracker.

  2. Jessica says:

    The first one is so perfect for endless summers

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