Misha Lazzara

SIX SELF-PORTRAITS

1. Alabastered

Up north, I curled like a cat
on a metallic chipped radiator
warming myself in the snow-
fall streetlights waiting for my
mother to get home from work.
It wasn’t until I hit one-thirty
that I stopped eating completely.

2. Nacreous

I saw the ocean first at fourteen
with the curves of Aphrodite
waltzing out of those clamshell hips.
I was regularly cautioned
that I had no body at all,
a temple, a cage, devil’s playground.
To-be-maintained like the off-
white stainlessness of old, bleached
gym towels. Eventually,
I gave in and bled. Only
oxygen-rich blood is red.
Blood that can finally breathe.

3. Irised

Hazel, a shade of well water,
iridescent with pond scum.

4. Opaline

Never a whisper until
eighteen. I was deemed old enough
to know the truth of my grand-
father’s death—Pearl’s son.
I sat in the drive through, listening,
while imagining myself
eating a chicken finger
from Dairy Queen. Yes, they serve
food. No, I didn’t eat it,
but I swear I would now. At thirty
I discover Pearl had a
sister called Opal. They dug
up jasper with rusted fingernails
and picked black-eyed susans out
west. This was exactly three
generations before I
first gathered smashed abalone
from the Atlantic. Pearl did
lose two full-bodied children
while alive. I lost two inside
before twelve weeks.
All that unwelcome blood.

5. Silvered

After the death of my grand-
mother, I was gifted a box
of molten silverware. I
have never used it because
I’m told real silver requires
real care. Guidance I never
received. Where is that box now,
I wonder vaguely? An attic?
Was it my grandmother’s or
was it her mother’s?
Somewhere, I have a
box of someone’s
silver silverware corrupted
by my own lack of care and
by oxygen. Silver cannot breathe.

6. Mother-of-Pearl

At thirty, I discover Pearl
was a poet—my dream! Pearl
and Opal picked wildflowers—
danced in fields of ochre on western
plains. What was their mother
called? Did it start with an H?
I visited the Dakotas
once as a girl before I
ever even knew their names.


Misha Lazzara is an MFA candidate at NC State University. Her work has appeared on poets.org, Entropy, The Fiction Pool and more. Winner of the Academy of American Poets Prize 2020 at NCSU. Her debut novel, MANMADE CONSTELLATIONS, is out with Blackstone Publishing 2022. Mishalazzara.com

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