for Dzvinia Orlowsky

When I die, I want Papi’s boleros in air. Quémame con su canción.
You say, I burn you with my voice. I say, bésame con tu canción.

After Papi’s death, 8 songs are growing in my throat. His orphan’s
ache lives in the cuatro chords you play. Tócame esa canción.

1989. To love you again, I sell my violin, fly 3,000 miles. We forget
our mother tongues, our bodies, one. Ámame con nuestra canción.

From “Silvertone”: “Father’s reaching deep/fingers stretched
into seventh chord/to find his soul.” Dzvinia, llórame esa canción.

Mami says she left her first love in Manatí, refused to share his body.
Papi’s bass chords stateside, new spiritual balm. Sáname con tu canción.

Twenty-one stories up, your colibrí kisses before & after. You want
to meet my son. I refuse. Bury this now. Entiérrame con esa canción.


From Destierro Means More than Exile (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018) by María Luisa Arroyo Cruzado. Copyright © 2018 by María Luisa Arroyo Cruzado. Used with the permission of the author.

Passion killings plane crashes overdoses
accidental and intended

Suicides bus wrecks women the inability to choose
between one woman and another

heroin, booze the inability to choose
between pleasure

and the Lord men prison the white man
the white man who owns

the record company the melismatic celebration
of disaster the gut-wrenching agony

of joy, the anger and hush of the naked soul alone
sighing and shouting intensely hyperbolic

declarations of erotic heroism—anywhere, baby,
anyhow skidding out of control and into the next-

to-the-last chorus and over the bridge and key
change, popping the balloon of a heart inflated

with humiliation and pain and replacing it
with guttural and shrieking glissandos

—I once was lost and now am found—
as if a singer were an angel commissioned

in the highest holy orders, as if a song had wings
extended into flight and feathers of shelter—

as if true love and its fraternal twin, the blues,
possessed equally the powers of devotion

and redemption, as if the one true heaven
were standing around the corner, laughing

drunk, and locked with lust and abandon
into the everloving arms of the mortal world.

Copyright © 2002 by Anthony Walton. This poem was first printed in The New Yorker, May 6, 2002. Used with the permission of the author.

after “The First Time You Hold a Gun”

My mother’s heartbeat
the first time I heard a baseline.
Her womb, the first room I danced in.
How did it go again?
Kick cloud-soft twirl
dark gulf
neon on my clay brain.
Kick . . . Then
the melody drops
& her vocals come in.


There will be strife,
burnt days, a God
besides me
sex & crueler colours
than the abyss
but there will be this.

Copyright © 2023 by Caleb Femi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 14, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

for Patti Boyd

Hollow body, solid body, Archtop, Strat, or Flying V,
my shape’s a pitted avocado; a frying egg, yolk broken;
or nearly any Braque; my dark sounds utter hyperbole,

as in Eric’s bottleneck falsetto to his Layla—formerly
George’s something all too much—her gold ringlets
bloating Slowhand’s bell-bottom jeans with Blues.

Plenty other muses teased voltage from my pickups,
but the duende she awoke could play, until who knew
whether I fed back through her or she through me? 

From Departures from Rilke (Arrowsmith Press, 2023) by Steven Cramer. Copyright © 2023 by Steven Cramer. Used with the permission of the author and publisher.