“Self-Reflection”: a poem by Leah Umansky


Apparently, St. Margaret was so pious that she was

indigestible when the dragon tried to swallow her.

The dragon didn’t want her, was repelled by her,

and saw her as alien. She was both easy to resist,

yet also irresistible. It often feels like I am of the

same flock. I repel; I reject; I shun; I halt; I

discard; I deter; I resist and I disavow.



Inside is the alien/ inside is the hunt/ the hunt that

makes monsters out of us/ the hunt that makes us

hunt the want / the hunt that makes the want/ the

hunt that makes us want the want/ the hunt that

makes us want the want that we want.



My friend says: you are different; you walked

through the fire and came out on the other side.




I think about that fire. All my phoenixing. All my

aligning and redefining. I think about all my

reframing, all my scaffolding and my lexiconic

leaps.  What are they for? To establish this

monstrosity? To establish my monstrosity? To

establish the reflection of myself to myself?




In myself, I see the hope. I see the urgency.  I also

see the bleak. I see the way I reinforce this to

myself, tearing the edges, punching the holes; I see

the way I keep, and I hold and I stare, and I see

the way this should go, and I see the way this would

go, and then I see the way it actually is. In my own

self is what is alien:  the woman I’ve become, the

woman I now am, and the woman I thought I’d be.

Who is to say any of us are better than any one of

us? Who is to say we aren’t all the same woman,

for what woman is ever the same?




Okay, let me stop dramatizing.


What I know is that I’m tired of fire, its heat and

its staunch; its climb, its origin, its sanctimony. I’m

tired of its necessity, its ritual, its height, spit and


What I know is that I’m tired of looking at myself.

I’m tired of looking within myself. I’m tired of

looking around myself. I’m tired of looking at you

in relation to me. I’m tired of looking at this in

relation to me.  I’m tired of looking. I’m tired of

sifting and treading oh so lightly.  In an instant, it

is you.  We are all of this now, of this Tyrant.  In

an instant, nothing is bolstered, and everything is

let loose.


New York City poet, Leah Umansky

Leah Umansky is the author of two full length collections, The Barbarous Century (2018), and Domestic Uncertainties (2013), among others. She earned her MFA in Poetry at Sarah Lawrence College and is the curator and host of The COUPLET Reading Series in NYC. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such places as POETRY, Guernica, Bennington Review, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day, and The New York Times. She can be found at @lady_bronte.

The Barbarous Century is available for purchase at leahumansky.com

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