Read poetry excerpts from our latest print issue. (Available in our store, in Barnes and Noble, and at your local bookseller.)Read More
By p.e. garcia
poem for the Super Frost Moon that appeared on the eve of my 30th birthday
in the sky, a little egg
hatches ice over the shadow-
light & ugly muscles
By Alessandra Castellanos
My poem has stopped listening to me.
Like an irritable teenager who wears
noise-cancelling headphones, …
by Ariana Brown
alternate memory, or love dances barefoot after the men have disappeared
it is christmas eve in my grandmother's house
& everyone is in love with your gap tooth. you make
all the cousins laugh up bows—everyone more beautiful
than the year before. I unwrap hojas & spoon masa
onto your tongue while the moon drops
from the sky to light your teeth. my grandmother runs
her hand over your hair, feeling for mines.
god has mercy on those who love at the right time: my mother
would know. we become a hit for how quickly you turn
tamales to dust & you remind everyone of my father.
this is the way depression comes: my mother fell
to her knees once & stayed there a few years. love
had something to do with it. because of this,
I do not own painless stories of my parents,
my father's funeral, my feet protruding
from my mother's belly during the service.
you kissed me in the moonlight & I loved you there a few years.
this is the way depression returns: I recall
the skin on your right cheek, the softest
anywhere on your body. the music playing
in your car on that last perfect day we belonged
to each other. my mother crumpled in her room,
a soft, wet sigh. the men we have loved
with thick hearts, mixing & spilling our tears
& offerings. I pull you from my throat each christmas,
vomiting hojas, wiping the moon from my mouth;
my belly, feasted & stretched, mocking
the children we would have had, black & gorgeous & alive.
I do not know how to properly miss you, so I become
my mother & name our children in my sleep.
I take too long giving him my number but he’s nice about it. runs
a hand through his hair & spews ideas for the group project (the one on discrimination).
his pink mouth offers endless ideas & I veto all of them.
“actually, I was thinking about…” & go on to list my own experiences.
when I speak, he doesn’t.
he wears a different version of the same muted outfit every day
& thinks I’m funny & has a terrible accent but he still speaks
this language better than me. he’s encouraging, meets his pupils to mine.
& I’m petrified, leaning so close I’m spilling into the aisle between us.
he wore a san antonio spurs t-shirt the first day I noticed him & I commended him
for being “a good man,” (an unusual phrase from me, directed towards a white boy).
tried to convince everyone in the room (including myself) that I was comfortable
in advanced spanish grammar & composition, the only Black girl in the room.
later, I am proud of myself that we actually met before—the boy & I—
as co-workers for an entire semester. I hadn’t the faintest memory.
I invite him to three of my poetry shows before I realize he’s not interested. it’s fine.
blake isn’t his real name, but I wanted to discuss my feelings on twitter
so I thought of the whitest name I could think of.
my friends have been calling him QB for short.
“maybe you should just text him and be like, ‘do you wanna make out with me?
no pressure. if not, see you in class!” my friend says. I’ve been meticulous with the updates.
today quaker blake walked me to class. today he took a book to the library for me.
omg today quaker blake & I totally had a moment.
my friend isn’t white, but he isn’t black either. I don’t know how to tell him
that the last time I liked a white boy, he kissed a girl named ashley on the playground,
& the school was buzzing for weeks. that day I came home from school & stood
in front of the mirror. pulled my hair tight. commanded it to lay flat, turn yellow.
be like ashley’s.
“what if he’s like, descended from abolitionists? HOOO! what if he’s a quaker?” I yell
across the apartment. my roommate does the thing Black people do when they scream
before laughing. “then it would be okay, right?” my other roommate has a saying—
you gotta stretch before you reach.
he still works at the library. I check out headphones once a week, an excuse
to stare at his lips. he tells me about his semester in san antonio & does the accent
of everyone I grew up with. I give him a pass because it’s accurate. or because he’s cute.
whatever. I do the thing where I ask him questions about his life & he goes on & on.
I say thanks & head back to my computer, but not before he calls me “vato.”
& I freeze. turn back around. “was that weird to say because you’re a girl?” he waits.
no. that wasn’t the reason at all.
sometimes when I talk to him, my accent comes back. the way I sounded
at five & six years old trembles underneath my tongue in spanish, marches
out the black hole of my mouth when I have to switch, quickly, back to english.
& I remember the small words: a ver, ya dejalo, muévete, n’hombre güey.
little cherries I place in the air between us & later wish I could spoon back into my mouth.
Ariana Brown is a Black Mexican American poet from San Antonio, Texas, with a B.A. in African Diaspora Studies and Mexican American Studies. She is the recipient of two Academy of American Poets prizes and a 2014 national collegiate poetry slam champion. Ariana, who has been dubbed a "part-time curandera," is currently earning an MFA in Poetry at the University of Pittsburgh and is probably eating an avocado, listening to Ozuna, or validating Black girl rage in all its miraculous forms. Follow her on Twitter & Instagram @arianathepoet.
by Suzi F. Garcia
Run Away with Me
For Carly Rae
There are teeth
where my heart should be
and they are always hungry.
At night, in our darkened bedroom,
we hear them gnash against themselves,
cry out for more than this. We are stuck in
our bodies, and when I breathe in,
my lungs are full of asbestos, all itch and
paper cuts. We try to drown my heartteeth
out with a bass line, a trumpet that cuts
across air, but we mold in corners,
sick of the party. We move
to the front stoop, still our legs, drum
fingers in call to nature, to one another. Darling,
we are small town dreams, and we are big city sweets.
There is a howl that starts in my stomach, and I feel
my body go feral in the Southern summer humidity, the kind
that drowns civility in favor of bare feet running, and
darling, yes, let’s run. We’ll cross state lines on nothing
but adrenaline and Fireball, kiss me cinnamon burn.
When it grows dark out, we’ll follow moonpaths
across rivers, let our feet slip through mud, and finally
breathe rainwater clean.
Con Mis Tías
Admonishing in Spanish just out of my reach,
so I learned to understand tone at an early age.
They didn’t visit often, but I remember one spring,
they came and it rained for days, that hard Arkansas rain
where you just know that tomorrow will be thick and rich,
that you can walk barefoot for days and your feet will sink
in grass long and opulent, breathe petrichor straight to your veins.
It was that rain that hits pavement and the pavement hits back,
so steam rises up soundless and full. But they don’t have
this kind of rain in Peru, at least not where my tías are from.
My tías were not still women. They were quick bodies, who
walked to the store and back, no matter the weather, who always
found something to clean, whose stoves were never without a
bubbling pot, who did not know the word rest. But on their last night,
we sat on the front porch, just us women, the only people on our block.
It was years before I went to Peru myself,
when I would ride in a car through desert after desert, past
shanty houses made from tin, surrounded by nothing, to stand
on the coast where storm clouds gathered, like starlings.
The wind pushed at me there, pulled on my hair, undoing
each braid, returning curl to my hair. But those clouds never broke,
they just congregated at night, scolded me in thunder, and were gone
by morning. Back in Arkansas, my tías sat on our porch
in silence with me. And I was a child, yet I didn’t need to talk either.
We watched the rain. We stayed dry under our arch while Tía Chela
opened peanuts, passing some to me, passing some to Tías Rosie and Reyna,
keeping some for herself. Her hands, smooth muscle, moved in swift efficiency,
a small pile of shells building beside us. Later that night, the rain finally lifted,
and I swept the shells into our front yard, where they were lost in the grass,
where I didn’t think of them again
Suzi F. Garcia has an MFA in Creative Writing with minors in Screen Cultures and Gender Studies. She is an Editor at Noemi Press, a CantoMundo Fellow, a Macondonista, and a member of the Latinx Caucus. Her writing has been featured or is forthcoming from the Offing, Vinyl, Fence Magazine, and more. Find her at: www.suzifgarcia.com.