Silent Friends 

The two men flail on the balcony.

Sky glitters behind them.

One with goalpost arms.

The dork with a toilet bowl mouth.

Not potty—who said that?

Just an O, an around, a black hole, how all life’s episodes go.

Here is an apartment.

A wok clatters from a cabinet.

I can hear the sound ricochet off another man’s face.

A woman in a pink robe walks out a door—blue or purple or the periwinkle everyone once wore, a color like medication and stone beaches, surf as a noun or body spray?


There are products on shelves—who knew?

Clabber Girl clamors.

Is that rice or Argo Starch?

Did people not notice Uncle Ben?

The KitchenAid, yellow, on the counter?

And pans the hapless man upends.

And my ears, nectarines, stuffed with rocks or salt.


What else but the pedal and push?

I made cash and slid it toward Oskar.

Deposit slips are a thing of the past, he swore.

That’s a clothes call or close wisdom.

Cunt mouth—curtsy munch.

Sketches—mini me, mini mini, mini min.


Hours exist with groups of adults.

At wire tables.

On beach tables.

Around gravel tracks.

In heels, the women march about campus on paths the nuns paved donned in habits.

Those wimples with eyes, robes hiding knees.

Sure, I’ve been fooled into wanting.

I see them, old Constance, sweet Patience, virtuous women wondering in pairs, exchanging a bead or a biscuit, sucking their silent oaths and binging on causes: charity, congress, sisterhood.


And me leashed to a dog.

Red plaid lead cinched around my ankle, another length fattened by need.

Glugging up sunlight, I’m a plant.

With feelings, feelings, feelings.

Even dirt has those.


So low, I scarfed and crumbed.

Clipped my black nails.

Took a boiling shower.

Like a witch—oh wait, I envy them, too.

Women in black with friends.

Trios and duos and covens.

Dying their pastels in a cauldron.

Like summer girls and Kool-Aid and cornrows.

Whatever you get on an island.

Cheeks pink beneath all that zinc.

You see I’m thinking the Hulk.

The Wizard of Oz.

A route of gleaming bricks.

Sunflower yellow.

Stalks in a field.

Even stems have company.


It’s so quiet cracking my ankle.

Listening to the crank of my wrist.

Peeling the skin off my points: nose and elbows and toes.

Watching three boys in a field: were there ever children on Friends?

Shoes neon green, like Gatorade.

So fluorescence tells a story of kinship.

Picture a box of assorted highlighters.

A fleet of sports bras at Target.

Certain popsicles from childhood.


It started then so what’s now but an outcome?

A tooth infested with guilt.

The years of one plus none and then sum.

A pebble squatting on a leaf, hoping to leave an impression.

That’s popsicle humor: a gnaw and a joke.


Rachel’s arms: thinner than we thought.

That hair—worth $500, what coif.

That cardigan—eggplantedly purple.

And a foozeball table for fucks off the camera.

You’d be shocked by who visits in bed.

This one, that one: it’s so usual.

To have someone stop over, say hi.

Share toast, a big mug, hazelnut coffee.

Everybody in a well-chosen robe.

The blonde in men’s pajamas.

I singe my desire in the flames of labor.

Now I draft the closed captioning:



There are counters and couches and torsos.

And a pet you can trust to be sociable.

I was bored or haughty when I started.

Writing my name in my notebook.

A signature so perfect Mead would call.

Make me a spokesgirl or angel.

Canonize me, call me special, fame me.

It’s the slow poke: cigarette, ash.

An ant traces the thread of a twig.

My dog boot-scoots forward.

I drift from lawn to gym.



A. Nuh uh, not really.

As though there’s the lock and the key.

As though sun shelved for the day tells night’s story.

Stars like bullet points in the sky.

I think the men are stuck on the balcony—better together than alone.

Both brunette, young as me, thirty? Thirty-five?

Ross, maybe?

Joey? I had his pic in my locker.

JoAnna Novak writes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Her debut novel, I Must Have You, will be published in 2017.