Tanya Paperny

I’m a writer, editor, and translator based in Washington, DC. My work has appeared in the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, Pacific Standard, The Nervous Breakdown, Harper’s Magazine, PANK, VICE, The Literary Review, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere. I am the recipient of fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Vermont Studio Center, and OMI International Arts Center. My chapbook “Short Shorts” was a semi-finalist for the Gazing Grain 2014 Poetry Chapbook Contest. I’m at work on a collection of essays about violence, trauma, and resilience. More at www.tpaperny.com Photo credit: Fid Thompson



Loss Prevention


Friday evening, Lower Manhattan

4- and 6-year-olds, my nieces

professionally choreographed dances

to the tunes of pop songs

written before they were born

dramatics as if they’ve been in love

seated in the dark

simultaneous smiles and silent tears

want to shout “act your age!”

worried that someone might sexualize the form

the leotards, the pigtails


Saturday afternoon, West Philly

a 33-year-old, my new lover

not anticipating another encounter

with the movement arts

but they take my prompt literally and

on the hardwood floor

of a one-night rental

enact a feeling of giddy abandon

to no sounds at all

just their body’s friction with the polish

Jesus never knew foreplay this weird


some things can only be described in halting poems

couldn’t have known of these collisions

a weekend of two dances

bus ride back home

where I do my best thinking

everything is vaguely ecstatic and vaguely erotic

violent losses of control ages 8, 9, and 13

stranger danger meets

a new relationship’s varied and unbridled play

a fridge empty of anything except a lone jar of peanut butter

meets a plastic-wrapped bouquet intended for a child


a clarity —

bodies in taut control —

a wish





I remind you that six months before we met

I told myself I wanted to date a queer tattooed dancer

worried that was an improbable combination

and yet here you —


ppppppI know I know

ppppppyou’re about to say

ppppppyou’re not a dancer

ppppppfine I’ll concede

ppppppbut you’re a movement person

ppppppa former gymnast of ten years

ppppppit informs your thinking and your art

pppppplike me you’re moved to tears

ppppppby displays of bodily control —


now you concede

laughing into my lap in the darkened theater

as I stroke the back of your head and tell you

I wrote you into existence

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