Lisa Mottolo

Two Poems – Lisa Mottolo

The Electric City

Daytime in the electric city scatters a series of old decrepit men across each hour. Flecks of decay gather in their teeth; the odor of perceived laziness, the perfume of over-priced American dentistry. “I just need bread and milk.” A woman says. “Bread and milk,” She repeats while shaking her leather purse. But does she just need bread and milk? We wonder, and we keep our tiny bit of cash to ourselves. My first apartment was here right next to The Van Dyck; live music reverberated through our brown-stained windows, and old bodies danced in sequined skirts as though their frail feet could stomp hard enough to scare the tired ghosts from our efficiency apartments, the ghosts of our childhood hopes, all dead as a container of moldy strawberries. The boy I dated still performs at the bars and he doesn’t have a car or health insurance, and he’s losing his long black hair. It makes me want to hijack the sign at the Bowtie theatre and write “we’re not lazy, we’re just tired.” I’ve tried talking to people about this. I’ve tried befriending the locals on social media, but it’s a hellscape of “boss babes” supporting pyramid schemes, “bros” writing e-books about how to become a millionaire, and “Karens” not understanding the world has changed (including the job market). So I simply talk to myself through poetry that dwells on the negatives, and everyone calls it beautiful, because the prettiest thing they’ve seen lately is a pothole finally being filled, and a sparrow hopping along, pecking at greasy crumbs, filling his daytime in the electric city.


The New Yorker

I submitted some of my poems to The New Yorker. I must like pain. When I was a child, I would thread needles through tissue-thin layers of my skin and marvel at my minor injuries, my new little baggies of flesh that hung from my fingertips. Not much has changed, I see, as I stare at my rejection letters with a similar gross curiosity.

I’m not thinking about it too-too much, I tell myself. I’m rubbing my fingers together over where they were once scarred from sewing needles that ate my body like metal termites. I suppose my skin went “back to normal,” but I have no clear memory of what that normal was and who knows if normal is ever inherently good anyway.

I’m tired of trying to figure things like that out. We all once had fun with philosophy and then it cracked and shriveled, like a house plant without a window.

I own a book on walking through these kinds of forests that don’t have paths. Forests as dark as the insides of our organs. It has something to do with a metaphorical trailblazing and I’m over it. I am struggling to turn its pages with my fingers; they are tapping on the armrest. I am impatiently waiting to receive my rejection from the New Yorker.


Lisa Mottolo is the Project Manager for Atmosphere Press and she lives in Austin, TX. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Laurel Review, Santa Clara Review, Stonecoast Review, Diagram, Little Patuxent Review, TypishlyCounterclock, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Pine Hills Review, and others.