There Are Things I Should Tell You
by Christina Rothenbeck

Since I got here, I’ve been trying to learn
the names of the trees. I’ve mostly got them
sorted into pine and not-pine.
Magnolia, live oak, something with flowers

The yard flooded in the storm and I poisoned a cockroach
the size of my thumb clinging to the screen door. It swam away.
I felt a little sorry, but I can’t afford to be sentimental.

Every week I walk to the library through the Confederate graveyard,
the little flags nodding their heads against the grass.

The book I’m reading right now
is all about marriage and magic.
The other book I’m reading
is all about marriage and Stalin.

The cockroach was still twitching on the stoop
when the water subsided and left rafts of trash behind.

I’m not in love
                    with anything, as it turns out.

The air, my father said as we moved the furniture inside, is a real thing here.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: A selfie, taken in front of my current apartment in Baton Rouge, Louisiana,  during my apartment-hunting trip last summer (2015). As it turns out, I grew to love the Deep South so much I’m still living here.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem in my first semester at The University of Southern Mississippi. After growing up in the mountains of New Jersey and spending three years in West Virginia, I felt very much like a stranger in a strange land, a place full of unfamiliar trees and giant, menacing insects, and I was overwhelmed at the same time with the isolation of moving away from everyone I knew and starting over. I wanted to capture both the loneliness and the disorientation of that move through the small daily observations I made and the small challenges I faced (like learning the most effective way to kill a giant cockroach—definitely not poison).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christina Rothenbeck is the author of the chapbook Girls in Art (dancing girl press 2012) and holds a PhD in creative writing and English literature from The University of Southern Mississippi and an MFA from West Virginia University. She currently lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and teaches at Louisiana State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sugar House Review, Bone Bouquet, Reunion: The Dallas Review, and The Jabberwock Review, among other places.