Published on Academy of American Poets (

Things Haunt

California is a desert and I am a woman inside it.
The road ahead bends sideways and I lurch within myself.
I’m full of ugly feelings, awful thoughts, bad dreams
of doom, and so much love left unspoken.

Is mercury in retrograde? someone asks.
Someone answers, No, it’s something else
like that though. Something else like that.
That should be my name.

When you ask me am I really a woman, a human being,
a coherent identity, I’ll say No, I’m something else
like that though.

A true citizen of planet earth closes their eyes
and says what they are before the mirror.
A good person gives and asks for nothing in return.
I give and I ask for only one thing—

Hear me. Hear me. Hear me. Hear me. Hear me.
Hear me. Bear the weight of my voice and don’t forget—
things haunt. Things exist long after they are killed.


Copyright © 2018 by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 11, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This piece was inspired by being out on tour with Sister Spit, a revolving, long-running collective of queer writers. I was thinking about our interactions with one another, the community we found sharing our work together, and how even as this world tries to kill us, we persist—if not in body, then in spirit, in the words we give as offerings.”
—Joshua Jennifer Espinoza


Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

Joshua Jennifer Espinoza is the author of There Should Be Flowers (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016). She is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of California Riverside, and currently resides in Riverside.

Date Published: 2018-12-11

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