Meeting you was my third
baptism the only one that loved me back
a holy spirit
to hold with my hands
as a book of cities
over lone star, michelada, and a single barstool,
red hair, nostalgia, and the women
who raised us into tiny splendid family.
I’ve loved you since a grape jelly bruise and
an open copy of Scary Stories
to Tell in the Dark.
We built sandcastles and caught tornado bugs
during California recesses
and beneath the dirt we’d wait to sprout,
get married at the fancy restaurant my
grandpa took me and Thomas to for Easter brunch.
We’d be as good as a bedtime story
where we walking sticks, lived
in a sun-bleached house, and disappeared after 3rd grade.
after planting me
until you said I love you fifteen feet
above Fullerton Avenue.
Words I thought I’d heard
a few times before
turned out to be
how we fit
together. It’s unfair that I can feel your pulse
So what if we’re not the kind of love
that can sell a lifestyle on Instagram?
We’re seeds, you and me.
And when we bloom,
we bloom ecstatic.
Even if the audience is just us,
I’ll keep writing to you from inside a black hoodie
dusted with soap rust.
Our insides shift from serotonin
to broken and back
I’m not the first
person to ask you
where ducks go
when they need to sleep
but I’m the first to ask you now.
I love the surface
of the water, but duck wings
from getting too deep
for too long.
can handle the dark.
We grew them from the ground up.
Literary theory knifed us clean
off bible studies on submitting
to your husband, or how to prepare
for heaven while still investing
in real estate. We memorized the 80 east
and packed whatever fit into my Hyundai.
If there were no cows we counted trees.
If there were no trees we counted invisible trees.
In lieu of the second coming
we ate Subway in Wyoming.
A man with no flesh on his left hand
scooped bologna from a metal tray,
insisted we try the mayonnaise.
When the Pacific didn’t return
my frantic calls from Omaha asking please
send me the recipe for salt! The reflection
of the moon inside your mouth—
you told me this was winter
after twenty years of waiting.
For miles we were miles
with nowhere to park. Newspapers
stapled at the margin, written in another
kind of English, and there were no oranges
for sale. No dry brush for wildfires.
At junctures of snow we had no prayers
we could not string words into sentences.
We could not even tell the difference.
Raul Alvarez is the author of There Was So Much Beautiful Left (Boost House) and holds an MFA from Columbia College Chicago. His work has been published in Fourteen Hills, Inferior Planets, PANK, Fanzine, Pinwheel, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Seattle and works for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
Photograph by Christie MacLean