POETRY – 3 Poems by Marcella Yakalis


There’s a cephalopod
in my ribcage,
it’s tentacles wrapped
through my organs
like the ribbon on a
Christmas present.
The suckers cling to
every surface,
leaving rings of salt
on my thighs…
would you lick them clean
if I let you see my scales?
I’ll sing you an ocean
from my siren throat,
worthy of a sailor’s
Watch, those human feet
on my coral reef,
those shards of memory
will split you wide open,
and I am not the only one
who is starving
in the sea.

Yes and No

I come from a family of “yes,”
appeasement is our causality.
Yes ma’am
Yes please
Yes of course
Yes you can.

My yes was never my own.
I will
I can
I should

My choices were made of guilt.

Don’t displease
Don’t offend
Do not disappoint.

From birth girls are taught to be
don’t argue
don’t tease
don’t fight.

“Do you mind?”
“Is this alright?”
“Why are you crying?”
“What did I do?”

What have you done?

My “no” is trapped
somewhere between the gap in my teeth,
where secrets hide.
My tongue pushes forward,
aching for no.

“No I will not.”
“No, you may not.”
“No, I do not want this.”

My tongue traces maybes and what if’s
on the back sides of molars
and canines.
The enamel grinds out agreement.

“Yes, come home with me.”
“Yes, touch me like that.”

Maybe is a tease.
Perhaps is a lie.
Later is a promise.

A word never felt so foreign in my mouth as “no,”
and never as much a lie as “yes.”


My palms were the water color
canvas by which I painted my
artichoke heart,
watered down into
a grey ocean for my paintbrush helm.

When I was a child I drove it often,
steering blue and pink rivulets
onto paper that wrinkled under
the weight of my ship.

On the fridge I taped my
my sunshine days,
my paper mache spine,
begging attention for my masterpiece.

Nowadays I don’t boat so much,
and the rivulets are my own.

My keel is rusted out,
and my rudder runs me in circles,
swirling with the chum of my heart.

Marcella Yakalis is a First-Year MFA Candidate in Nonfiction Writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.

Featured Image photograph by E.B. Bartels, www.ebbartels.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top