Kimberly Esslinger


Do you know what is going on in the world? 
Silence at first. The Ukraine. War. Her students 
know war—occupation and escape. They carry 
stories like scars. My wife launches into the day’s 
lesson, The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolfe. 
Thirty years and it’s never not relevant. So much 
a woman still can’t attain. She gives this lecture 
three times today. It seems to go with war.
This war we wage within. Bodies as collateral. 
Women as casualties. My wife will turn sixty-six
on Sunday. Her body is strong. Thick legs and arms 
like trees. Her face—bright as candles 
on a cake. And I wish on them. On her. 
For her. More time. More years. Today, 
she’s weary lecturing to camera-less squares. 
These black windows crash and disconnect
too often. She worries if she has done enough,
if there is still time to change the world.  
Sunday, I will surprise her. Nothing will turn out
and still, we will celebrate. 

A therapist once told me that love is conditional
like she was offering me a bowl of oranges
that I could take one 		
                                      your mother never had
                                      to love you 
but I took them all 
and peeled them sweet
and clean, tweezing the pith
plunging thumb deep
                                       but she did.
   —a gift I gave myself.

Kimberly Esslinger lives in Southern California. Her poetry has appeared in publications such as SpillwayChiron Review, and Thrush. She recently completed her MFA in Poetry at CSULB. For more poems, visit


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