Or Flight

Remove your shoes and leave them by the door to his home. You will not be allowed to stay long. Tread paper thin as ghost. Watch as muscles stretch into smile. Remember not to take this act as truth. Eat only what he gives and nothing more. His food is brittle. It is Autumn’s dead leaves – beautiful but startlingly empty of life. He will offer you a chair, a grackle, a shot of vodka. Together you will reminisce about the womb you once shared, your penchant for the drink, that one time you both rode in a limo as sleek and black as bottom feeder. The city lights had bounced and shimmered their reflection from all that tinted glass. The mirror image of your smiles almost too good to be a lie. Keep one eye on the clock, the other on the ashtray. The smoke will soon choke the room. The smoke will soon wrap clinging fingers

about your neck and rattle your carriage. The smoke will soon have its way with you. Do not forget about your shoes at the doorway.  An impending getaway is close. His teeth are sloppy. His eyes too shiny. He spits more than he speaks. It is a cruelty you still marvel at to this day.

It is your father’s favorite knife handed down as heirloom. A dangerous and glittering bloodletting in your back. You are solitary witness to this disassembling. The music is banging again. It clangs its way into your ears and down your throat. A garbled elixir. He rambles on about his own desires and sycophantic

philosophies. He has shat himself again with all this righteousness. You are a livewire on the edge of your seat. The last wayward cigarette hissing in the pot. You only came to convey with your eyes that you love him. The lamp catches fire. The drapes incendiary with their madness. The television bursts into bright bubble. Shame and indignation have coupled violently. Steak knives and plates rattle from their cages. Beers burp their excuses. You will now take leave from all this mess. This sour soup. This spit and bright noise. He has stolen away to the kitchen and mixes a Molotov at the counter. It is a fiery reminder that you should leave. When his back is to you slink

away. Do not let your keys clatter your purse. Slip one then the other shoe onto exiting feet. He is mumble crazy and only two mouthfuls away from screaming the word bitch. Two shooters away from a handful of your hair. The carnage is too real. His house, an inferno. His house, a tinderbox. The smoke, gutwrenchboil.

A rolling black intrusion. Leave. Leave now. Wave to him like you did when you were both children. Dandelion soft. Like a pinwheel whipping in the wind. The door knob will feel guiltily good in your palm, a smooth golden globule cool and reassuring. Close the door behind you. Softly and without anger. Pretend.

That you are not a coward. This is how you say goodbye to your brother.

Jessica Helen Lopez

Jessica Helen Lopez was the former City of Albuquerque Poet Laureate and the Poet-In-Residence for the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History from 2014 - 2016. She has also been a featured writer for 30 Poets in their 30’s by MUZZLE and named one of the “10 Up and Coming Lantinx Poets You Need to Know” by international digital publisher and agency, Remezcla.  Lopez is a nationally recognized award-winning slam poet, and holds the title of 2012 and 2014 Women of the World City of ABQ Champion. She is a member of the Macondo Foundation. Founded by Sandra Cisneros, it is an association of socially engaged writers united to advance creativity, foster generosity, and honor community. Her first collection of poetry, Always Messing with Them Boys (West End Press, 2011) made the Southwest Book of the Year reading list and was also awarded the Zia Book Award presented by NM Women Press. Her second collection of poetry, Cunt. Bomb. is published by Swimming with Elephants Publication (2014). Her third collection, The Language of Bleeding: Poems for the International Poetry Festival, Nicaragua (SWEP) is a limited release in honor of her ambassadorial visit to Granada, Nicaragua.

A Puschcart Prize nominee, she is the founder of La Palabra – The Word is a Woman collective created for and by women and gender-identified women. Lopez is a Ted Talk speaker alumni and her talk is titled, Spoken Word Poetry that Tells HERstory. A featured poet on PBS Colores!, you may find some of Lopez’s work at these sites – thebakerypoetry.com, newmexicomercury.com, and asusjournal.org, drunkinamidnightchoir.org.  Her work has been anthologized in A Bigger Boat: The Unlikely Success of the Albuquerque Slam Scene (UNM Press), Earth Ships: A New Mecca Poetry Collection (NM Book Award Finalist she was also a co-editor), Tandem Lit Slam (San Francisco), Adobe Walls, Malpais Review, SLAB Literary Magazine, Courage Anthology: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls (Write Bloody Press), and Learn then Burn: A Modern Poetry Anthology for the Classroom, Second ed. (Write Bloody Press). Lopez was the Volunteer Coordinator and planning member for the Poetry Slam Incorporated (PSi) 2015 Women of the World National Poetry Slam Tournament recently hosted in Albuquerque.  She is a book reviewer for World Literature Today Magazine.

Photograph by Christie MacLean


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