For our new apartment, which my mother may never see
since slugging into that old person’s disease—I won’t bring myself
to say it in writing—I bought a cactus and it’s beautiful,
its soldier-green skin and feline-whiskered dress howls
beneath the den light which encourages me to keep my big-boy jeans on.
I know I look for answers everywhere. Everywhere there you are
with your eyes a war-less country, a privilege we sometimes share.
But tonight, there isn’t a country. Just a sky fussing. Anxious music.
The classic duty of breath as we binge another episode of
What Should I Do When You Want to Die. Sometimes, you fail
to love me, I think I say, the math ain’t mathing—but what could you do?
You’ve researched plants, I know, to find which could live
without much gusto from its human. You pour yourself
another glass of vodka, a shot of tequila for me. Who am I
to think I’m too good for your anger—you were right…
Come, let’s sour our swords together. Come, let morning waltz
into our bedroom all cocky-like like it landlords the place. Come,
let’s plunge forward, drunkenly in love, grab hold the darkness we become.
Copyright © 2021 by Luther Hughes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
after Gala Mukomolova’s “On the Brighton Beach Boardwalk”
Families roll on toward summer, its feral freedom, ocean waves
beckon every sibling like schools of skipjack leaping together to
catch the sun on their silver scales. Bundles of beach umbrellas
waiting to be raised high & planted for their temporary kingdoms.
Trucks bobbing with oranges, station wagons bouncing with
babies in the back. Lovers fight in the red gleam of a rover or
swerve in the sweat of a frolick behind the wheel. A highway
stretch of to & fro, bodies raucous & guzzling. So many dreams
leaking from gas tanks, the oil drip of wasted want. A congested
uproar of miles in waiting. So many exits missed. What-could-
have-beens, just beyond the turnpike. Dead ends. Concrete &
My aunt, a tree cutting herself down & me with, turns to me from
the front seat, says, some of us didn’t get the looks in the family, right?
You know how it is. My silence hits the lane markers, all we hear is
bumpbumpbump. All I hear is my tías telling each other, you are
beautiful, mija, but wear a hat so you don’t get too dark. All I hear is a
world saying brownbrownbrown a little too much & I am furiously
stuffing my mouth with plantain chips crunching centuries
between my teeth, my lungs a bouquet catching a windfall of
particles unseen. So much ugly
I tug on my seatbelt to breathe a little easier, flicking all the dead
ends off me. A cement barrier, the road of my throat. No one says
anything, the words filling the car like murky green lake water after
a tumble off the road. I imagine the doors stuck in the pressure of
the plunge, my drowned body floating to the surface not pretty
enough to salvage & burn. I spread to the shoals, a seasoned meal
in undertow, delicious, at least, to the fish. I am the fish, feral &
But I am flopped against the window, a pane dusty with estival
judgment. I roll it down, gills gasping for air, my face a drum of
highway breath, the 65 mph hot wind on my cheek reminding me
I am a body on an irreplaceable planet. Don’t take everything so
seriously, I hear. Roll the window up, dear, it really is too loud.
Copyright © 2020 by heidi andrea restrepo rhodes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 12, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.