Predictions of the Material

Before the wick rejects
the flame; before the glass salts
the waters, or the rental en route
to your funeral stalls, I worry

the dog isn’t getting enough sun,
& it is midnight but we step out
anyway onto summer’s chow

tongue. Clouds extend the glare
of lightning far off. Before phlox
heads drop, the dog sinks
the anthill gathered full & quick
at the ceiba’s trunk. Nothing swarms

his leg or the river he pisses
into the heart like a god, no arthropod
island, no insect bridge of grappled
spurs. Before sunrise, I turn

a burner high in anticipation, olive oil
dollop ready to smother the pan,
when a moth plummets to the blushing
element. Wings immediately

charred. Let me tell you,
more than once in a parked car
I’ve held the searing buckle
to my chest—before drivethrus,
before driveways, drivel down

philtrum; before the beach, crushing
indistinguishable mounds
in bare feet, a horse conch’s crown

tearing skin. Even anaphora
can’t coax the future. You said, Ay mija,
are you crying again? before dusk
revealed the hook in the pelican’s beak.


Copyright © 2020 by Jessica Guzman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 29, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I was writing poems about losing my father and kept returning to a moment in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude where the characters interpret the state of objects around them as ‘predictions of the material.’ After my father’s death, it felt like every tangible object—animate and inanimate—offered predictions I disregarded. This poem emerged from a meditation on that feeling, as well as an interest in how anaphora both reveals and conceals what we remember.”
Jessica Guzman