This week in the PEN Poetry Series, guest editor Heather Christle features a new poem by Natalie Lyalin. About Lyalin’s work, Christle writes: “It’s a little unsettling to read a poem by Natalie Lyalin. They so often seem to be located in that uncanny valley, the space of the almost-familiar-but-slightly-off, full of lines it’s possible to imagine someone uttering, but placed in a context that makes them strange. What could be more homey, more domestic, than staying in the kitchen with the knives and the spoons and their meanings? What could be stranger than writing that down? Even before “First Husband” moves into the closing realm of fairy tale or myth, Lyalin’s flat statements of slightly incorrect behaviors let the reader know that this home is not safe. This poet, she is a genuine weirdo. She is going to look you right in your own odd eye.”

First Husband

I stayed in the kitchen

I stayed with my knives

and my spoons and their meanings

In the morning I turned down the heat

Despite winter, I did not wear socks

I stepped into dead grass

and combed my hair back severely

I was exhausted and mean

He was close by and very eerie

He did not do the dishes

He retreated into our house

or he rode away in cabs

He rode far away from me

Of the two lakes he chose the closest

He threw things out of windows

my handmade things (mostly)

In the morning I pretended to sleep

but I saw his wings extend slightly

and his mellow form leaping out our dirty window


Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).