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Carlos Andrés Gómez: Two Poems

Selected by Alexis Rhone Fancher, Poetry Editor

Poem about Death
Ending with Reincarnation

after Matthew Olzmann & Tarfia Faizullah

 

Blood has its own democracy.
My father & I puncture steaks
& watch them ooze—deep maple
walls eavesdrop as steel teeth

scrape & claw the porcelain
we use to distract our manically
clenching jaws. I’m well-practiced
in this ritual: empty & fill, empty

& fill, until there’s nothing.
Our filets gone, we sit & stare
at the eggshell table spread,
abdomens swelling like silence—

They found a mass.
She’s having surgery next week.
I had always planned for him
to be first. Now the woman

fifteen years his junior, mother
to my twin baby siblings, is dying
or might be. I’ve been rehearsing
years for this talk, except it isn’t—

my father, held only by the dim
lighting that shrouds his silhouette,
reduced to heaving. I envision
the stepmom it took me eleven years

to embrace being lowered carefully
into the damp earth, an old man,
flanked by two teenagers, watching,
& I will be there too: an overcast

Tuesday that no one passing by
will remember, & as usual, I won’t
be able to get the dimple right
in my tie. For a second, although

we are nowhere near the mountains,
I will smell the crisp air she so
loved & remember the first time
we walked without the heaviness

of that first encounter both of us
carried for far too long. But on that
unremarkable day for most, a light
rain will interrupt the hike I am on

in my mind, a man will read overly-
rehearsed words from a book she
did not believe in, & we will stand
like guards, numb. We will watch over

the sacred earth she spent an entire
lifetime trying to protect, now her
home, flanked by roots cross-stitching
the rich soil, what becomes the promise

kept to those endless rows of buds
ready to push through & that twisted
symmetry just above, a dangled blade
from a mouth chewing in first light.

*

Morning, Rikers Island

Physics and light
pierce the hollow stench
of the forgotten gymnasium
stripped naked of clocks.

All the adolescent boys
stop—offer their grief
to each other like water,
glancing out the only window
they all share. A single ray
unfolds its warmth
across the dusty belly
of the thudded parquet,
and here’s the miracle:
the sun frees everyone
to sing.

***

Cover of the book Fractures by poet Carlos Andrés Gómez, with his name in orange to yellow gradient and the title in light blue.

Fractures by Carlos Andrés Gómez

From Fractures by Carlos Andrés Gómez. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. © 2020 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved.

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