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Krystal Languell

Krystal Languell was born in Indiana and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She is the author of two books, Call the Catastrophists (BlazeVox, 2011) and Gray Market (1913 Press, 2016), and five chapbooks. In 2013-14, she was awarded a Poetry Project Emerge-Surface-Be fellowship and, in 2014-15, she completed a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council workspace residency. She is a 2017 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship Finalist in Poetry.


my grandmother: no contact for five years

my aunt: no contact for eight years

my biological grandmother: no contact for 12 years

her partner died and in the obituary, my cousins were listed but not my sister or me or our parents

the grandmother moved to North Carolina in the 90s and said the black people there were more respectful

periodically she tattooed her eyeliner and brows

when we saw my aunt at my grandfather’s funeral she said, “I hate being divorced”

a few years later we found her husband’s mug shot online

no contact for eight years

wanted for three years

he fled the state of South Carolina when he was due in court on charges of child rape

my parents’ best friends: no contact in several years

since they divorced and the husband cited her son’s black girlfriend and her black children as a reason

the wife moved to Belgium and remarried

she’d worked in a cardboard factory previously

she’d drive to Walkerton to pick up her grandchild

the husband had sometimes been drunk enough to piss himself

the husband had told me that if I were to plan a marriage, he must approve the groom

this is just one side and some friends

a handful of dead ends

her boss stole from the homeless shelter

he faked sales receipts on donated cars for decades

she photocopied years’ worth and kept them at home

he’s dead now

she was afraid he would burn down their house if she leaked it

my sister lost four friends to suicide

and referred to loss in a mock interview, & the counselor thought she meant ‘friends moving away for college’

our grandmother had an address book with a ✓ next to people to notify of her death

we didn’t get a ✓

Do I think anyone will see the poems?

No, I don’t think anyone will see the poems

a white girl touched me with her toes

she was barefoot with her feet up in Latin Sports Club

I recoiled

I decide against responding when my aunt sends me a message

“Why, because they’re acting like vultures?”

you can punish your family after you die

you can punish anyone

I used to ride in the Escalade with my aunt’s ex-husband

he took me to a property he bought in Myrtle Beach

a young man had set his girlfriend’s clothes on fire, then the fire got out of hand

she moved back in with her parents

in the condo, I looked through her burnt things

he was turned on by the smoke smell

by the neighbor watching us, clipping his toenails outside

I liked his money and I wanted him to like me

he watched me notice a ceramic dolphin & told me I could take anything I wanted

I touched it, I didn’t take it

message boards about his crimes teach me his family is rich on owning trailer parks

money never not dirty

dirty never not worse than dirt

when he sold the red Suburban, he printed a new title off the internet

his friend came over to look at my x-rays while I puked percocet into a sand bucket in his bed

he should have let me go

what happened happened

am I afraid of anyone?

yeah, I’m afraid of a few people

as a child I was warned about airing dirty laundry

(it’s probably not the people you would guess)

another poem about corruption

a stranger told me I was lucky to get out alive

I am lucky to be alive, but I am pretending to be dead

or I am pretending they are dead

you can punish your family before you die, too

he cut her face with a car key

she hid in the closet

my biological grandmother had a daycare with her partner on U.S. 31 for a while

they wore similar flannels & mock turtlenecks, not matchy-matchy

north of Indianapolis: not Carmel and not Meridian Street

my mom drove us to visit one summer and it was boarded up

she used to call my parents’ landline and leave a voicemail every few years

she’d say “It’s been a terrible year” and not leave a callback number

“Everybody’s shit stinks,” my sister wise-asses

No contact

No contact

No funeral

No obituary

No future

No contact

No ✓


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