Hands and Knees

The missing pixel on my Google Pixel is a lime-lit reminder each time I swipe by it of potential electrocution; a retribution for my dumb brush with inconvenience, a rash morning rush grievance, when my cellphone somersaulted six feet down, slipped cleanly out of my sweaty, caffeinated, manicured hand and splat screen down on the subway track’s wooden slats as I gasped and grasped at air, at passersby, my pencil skirt too tight, the platform too high and the train in sight, its headlights oncoming and me blubbering, flailing and flubbing for firm footing, or a helping hand, when right then a man (whose next move I’ll never understand) dropped his brown knees and brown boots and brown hands into the ground, as curious heads glowered down and he teetered in the center track, feet neat, and retrieved my phone in one reach. My phone, with its crack-proof case and candy heart paint was unscathed, but his knees were scraped: knobby and pebbly and bloodied and metally, and I took stock of his blue collar look, so doled out ten dollars for risking shock, for being my shining white but not white knight; and I, frazzled and fraught with white guilt, in the fluorescent light as the subway’s doors opened wide, said “thank you” (implied: this phone is my life) and he said, “it’s aight” and inquired if the phone was, indeed, alright, then showed me the lines that spiderwebbed his own, and I said something hollow like, “I know how that goes.”  We rode the same car in silence – me standing, him sitting – and I fragmented my frizz with my fingers in a futile, feverish fiddling to avoid his gaze, his buzzed scalp, his sick-of-this-shit daze, his hazel eyes locked on his paint-splattered palms or maybe lost in the ways we volley our days and play mental race games on this voyage, walled in by the years of violence, hung heavy and layered in the balance like an invisible valence that suffocates his stubbled throat with stale, stagnant subway air until it stirs to a stop at my station, where I padded his shoulder in gratitude, a microaggression I’m reminded of each time I thumb the microabrasion on my phone.

© 2022 Andrea Festa


My mother kills basil.
Too much water.
Sodden roots.

But my basil survives.
No, it thrives.
Urban herb.

Care instructions: gut instinct.
Inch of water.
Mist leaves.

To retrieve: clip bottom.
To slice: chiffonade.

Drop in Sunday gravy.
Ribbon atop pasta.
Drizzle balsamic.

Neurotic checks of soil.
Is it moist?
Or dry?

“How does it feel?”
“A walking stereotype,”
You joke.

Something to care for.
Mothering living things.
Being childless.

But I don’t agree.
It’s self care.
Or compulsion.

I’ll keep it alive.
There’s no alternative.
Committed now.

Who am I kidding?
It’s entrenched behavior.
To kill.

I’ll rip the leaves.
The dying ones.
For comfort.

I’ve ripped the leaves.
Can’t bear decay.
Not mine.

© 2022 Andrea Festa


I resent the Spring
in all its pastel.

In all its pastiche
of a life now untouchable.

Of a life jelly beaned and jelly sandaled,
not one where hand soap is triggering.

Not one where memory is archived as
“on this day” trauma, but

“on this day” thirteen years ago,
I was skinny just because.

I was skinny last year
on account of simply not eating.

On account of why eat
what you can’t?

What you can’t do, I can’t do.
When you suffer, I suffer, too.

When you suffer April Fools’ gladly,
like the fickle month it was,

like the fickle purgatory that was your lungs
while the green teens had a spring in their step,

while the green pub crawlers strode mob deep
outside your window like missed opportunities,

outside your window with the decal shamrock
like you were a child, doesn’t that bother you?

Like you were only fentanyl fever-dreaming
and I was only Xanax not-dreaming.

And I was thinking today
that retrospect is a needling bitch,

that retrospect is unsolicited wisdom.
It taunts you in measures of time.

It taunts you like Spring does
with its good for nothing rose-colored glasses.

With its good for running air
that led me to the intersection tonight,

that led me back to you.
You, who is breathing from the open window.

You, who is.
And, therefore, I am also.

© 2022 Andrea Festa

Happy Baby

Flesh, pink.
Not bubblegum, but
Winter White

Two drops red, accidental
baby shower.

Fat, pink
Fascia of the feet.

First to

Look! Baby is

happy baby.

Foot to
foot to mouth.


Find crystals
in the ball.

Flush, pink
to white
and back,

fun with

fostered for
in the womb.

How the

fine lines of the

a path for the
foot, but will

in tally marks
how many dumb

you’ll have, ones that

to be

I’m one of them.
But I swear, I’m happy,


© 2021 Andrea Festa


A stoop is a stoop
to rest your new chunky heels,
even when no one cares
to notice them.
Even when the restaurant it belonged to
(where you both enjoyed
lambics and lobster once)
is papered in the windows.
Even when its cement is pockmarked
and narrow
and familiar,
but you’re sans a warm Hurricane
on a warmer summer night.
Even when you tip your feet
to the crescent moon
like a bored child,
not because they hurt
(for the first time)
but because you wish to slouch,
to recoil yourself invisible
in the black and amber lamplight
from the group of gentrifiers
sashaying the crosswalk in clean clothes
cut from caddyshack daddies
and Main Line mommies.

A backseat is a backseat
to rest your new beaded necklace
and beaded back sweat,
even when you know the Uber driver
won’t abduct you
and your textured forehead,
even though you’re now skinny,
just in time for the end
of hot girl summer.
Even when no pleasantries
(the ones you used to hate)
are exchanged,
and you take it personally.
Even when he pulls over too early,
and you object,
and he reminds you,
“The street is closed.”
Even when the corner
of 15th and Sansom
is stagnant sewer steam
and sad sidewalk day drunks
turned to night drunks.

A bar stool is a bar stool
to rest your new corduroy skirt,
even when it reeks of urine.
Even though they replaced
the women’s toilet with something
tacky and pearly and plasticky,
but your thighs
were anticipating “the usual”
but sturdy ceramic.
Even when you forget “the usual”
drink order (yours,
or his.)
Even when you order one more of this new
and you know the guy next to you
won’t drop something in your drink,
but you and your aging hand
cover it anyway.
Even when your friend doesn’t show
and you have work in the morning –
work you’re not prepared for –
and you forget how to commute,
which buses to which
subway cars to which
new overpriced lunchfare,
now that “the usual” is gone.

A front porch is a front porch,
even when a cat
chose to lay down and die
on it this afternoon,
its mouth agape,
teeth gnarled,
tabby fur flattened,
fooling the family into thinking
it was the family cat.
Even when after the panic,
it was a false alarm:
“It’s just the stray, everyone!”
Even though it did look eerily similar,
but different,
an unshakable alternate reality
where it just wanted to rest
its newly old head
somewhere it could call home.

© 2021 Andrea Festa

Out of Body

Reminiscing on My Time Dabbling in the Occult

“That was the fun of the unknown, after all, the anticipatory ‘What if?'”

The name of the store was “Possibilities,” which I frequented with my friend at the time, Kara, the only Pisces in my life I’ve ever befriended. It sat next to a therapist’s office right off Pittston Avenue in Scranton, a therapist I visited only once at my mother’s urging after my parents divorced, but that’s not what this is about (although the timing of traumatic childhood event and thinking I was a witch pairs nicely, like spicy red wine and a good cut of meat.)



A True Story of Culture Shock, False Promises and That Time I (Almost) had a Sugar Daddy

“You have a nice figure, Gringa. But you could still get a little more meat on your bones.”

That’s what Jim matter-of-factly suggested to me, right after gesturing his big, expensive gold watch in front of my face towards the passenger seat where I clutched my cell phone with a sweaty palm and frowned down at said bones, the knobby knees and bony thighs I had since childhood. He was shaking his head, craning to leer at the petite females we could see through my window, blonde ponytails swinging as they jogged Kelly Drive, headphones in, oblivious to his judging stares. “Why do white girls like to work out so much? You see so many of these pretty little things running and it’s like girl, you don’t even have an ass, why you tryin’ to get rid of the fat you don’t even have? I don’t like that. I like girls with curves.” Then that chuckle of his – that infantile giggle like he just got away with doing something he shouldn’t have – followed by an emission of cigar breath. I didn’t agree nor refute. I sat there silent and dumb, as I always did and always would in his presence, only this time I had the unwelcome thought that I really should have learned how to jump out of a moving vehicle if it ever came to that. It didn’t, but the reminder tingled at the base of my skull as I checked my phone for the tenth time that minute.