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
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