Marta Shaffer

American History Lesson


My dad told me I’m lucky—
During the Cold War, Americans were constantly scared of a nuclear attack.

I told him he is lucky—
There were no attacks, and now we have iPhones.



“The Family’s Principal Entertainment Was for Everyone to Recount Their Dreams”

from “For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off from All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II”
—Smithsonian Magazine, 28 Jan 2013


I imagine them waking all together
in one bed under several elk skins.
Snowy breath meets the cold first,
rising, seeking warmer air
like the smoke from the fire
not yet lit.

I imagine their mattress made from grasses
and reeds, dried over the fire, then stuffed
into a sack. Every night, they sleep
father brother sister mother,
lined up like their boots,
leather warming by the
smoldering logs.

I imagine them shifting in silence
every morning, begging the dreams
to stay longer: Come in, come in.
No one like you has ever
visited us before.




Shaffer, Marta

Marta Shaffer’s work has appeared in Califragile, (b)Oink Magazine, and is forthcoming in The Finger. She has her MA in English from California State University, Chico, where she received first place in the poetry category for the 2015 Intro Journals Project Award. She has worked as a student co-editor/poetry slush pile reader for Watershed Review. She was the winner of the haiku contest judged by Kazim Ali at the Wordspring Writing Conference in 2014. Marta was also a Chico News & Review finalist in the 2015 Poetry 99 contest. She cannot roll her tongue. She hails from Minnesota.