Five Poems by Esther Sadoff

we wear names like bracelets

Names like earrings,
like perfume dotted behind each ear. 
Names come and go like seasons, 
names paired together like ingredients.
The room is crowded with possibilities.
I pretend to know how to laugh,
give a knowing quip,
to say It was all a joke,
I wasn’t even trying
That wasn’t even me,
In dreams, I am always opening
someone else’s locker. 
My name stays in my own mouth.
I say it over and over until it means something.


no one is afraid of the dark anymore 

I’ve seen my friends laughing in the dark,
naming names I don’t know.
I think this is what it means to be forgotten. 
I want it to be morning, 
morning like an orange peel,
morning like everything is new,
not like these ragged heads leaning against walls,
smoke hovering like dirty curtains, 
the world turning away from me, 
baby photos along the walls of the house, 
but we were never babies. 
We are this and this and this
cinders flaming like lighthouses
enveloped by fog, 
someone tripping in the yard, 
someone stumbling through the door. 
In my dreams, I’m not afraid.


I feel the weight of each number 

How quickly numbers subtract
like plucking petals from a flower,
He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me.
Each year has a color, a personality:
7 with its cap and rounded belly,
8 like a spotted snake with a pink tongue, 
9 all vigilance, head turned, always looking.
16 is nothing but smallness, 
and I will only ever be 16, 
thinking about the boy down the street,
the curved lane to my friend’s house,
how we drifted through the pitch black 
corridor of pine trees, 
streaming toilet paper and ribbons 
of dish soap through the yard,
weeks later turned to strips of dead grass. 
Day after day, the darkness runs through my fingers.


I stiffen in my jacket

Each swish and shudder reverberates.
This is not where I want to be. 
Every move makes this more permanent.
I still and freeze until my head feels numb.
Maybe this is sullenness like the teacher says.
I miss the time when there was nothing to hide,
living our life like we were hanging out a window 
before we knew the window could mean something, 
that heights were dangerous, that someone might see us.
I am bolted to the floor, bolted to this room. 
I am afraid of what this looks like, afraid of what this means. 
Every moment I’m becoming something, 
I’m becoming what they see.


I run my fingers through the candle’s flame

My bed unmade, my hand drifting over 
the wax cradle as I breathe into the phone.
There is no heat, only the heat I feel that makes
me want to switch places with any body in motion.
the only time I remember being happy
was when reading under the old oak tree 
until I forgot where I was and the tree became a ship
sailing me through the enormity of lethargic summer days.
Starting anything new is embarrassing, 
taking up space is a tragedy, 
and though I never learned anything about origami
I wish I could fold myself into a swan,
my wrists flashing with stiff white feathers.
Like the quick of a nail cut too short
when the time comes to fly, I’ll feel it.

Photo by Atikh Bana on Unsplash

Esther Sadoff

Esther Sadoff is a teacher and writer from Columbus, Ohio. Her poems have been featured or are forthcoming in Red Ogre Review, Santa Clara Review, Drunk Monkeys, Roanoke Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, among others. She is also a poetry reader for Passengers Journal.