Two Poems by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

Two Poems

Elizabeth Kate Switaj

Fire Flowers in the Lagoon

turn my flesh into flowers
burning in the cities of night
let there be something beautiful
in the chaos of you love me not,
of what was tested on Bikini Atoll

now a martini’s name, made
with pandanus in Uliga

let me breathe
saltpeter & sulfur

instead of sewer—trust
the hint of rotten egg
will remain
with the chickens attracting

rats below your flat

you touched me
beneath my shirt
& wouldn’t lift it up

make my stretchmarks
curl among their silver selves into rose
-ettes and the rest

of my skin
blossom into fire

there will be a battle here
if only against sea level rise

let the fireworks
between us

Third Space

two teenage boys rock on a boat for fifty cents
behind glass, women have their eyebrows ripped
away—a mass
of bottle cap headed men
nod on aircon waves

over black & tan & harmless
chess women & men
& horses

other men make whole bottles,
arms crossed, watching the boards
especially where the pieces rise up to their knees
and the battle’s set in the seafoam fake
marble floor

and on their other shore
Korean barbecue and Japanese
noodles occupy
the same peninsula of black & white
where metal forks meet bamboo sticks that split


© Elizabeth Kate Switaj


Elizabeth Kate SwitajElizabeth Kate Switaj teaches literature, creative writing, and composition at the College of the Marshall Islands, on a coral atoll in Micronesia. She is a Contributing Editor to Poets’ Quarterly. Her first collection of poetry, Magdalene & the Mermaids, is published by Paper Kite Press. Her poems have recently appeared in Red Savina Review, Clare Literary Review, and Really System. For more information, visit