Maxwell GS CC
Home, Tender Onus
There are cigarettes in the snow.
It is just before dawn, the day doesn’t know itself yet.
It promises the train will arrive 15 minutes late,
through the selfish snow weighing heavy on the tracks.
My breath condenses on my eyelashes,
The snow around them is nicotine yellow.
They vomit themselves in bursts of loose tobacco
and crippled filters stubbed on some departed shoe.
I am so far from home.
There, this day has yet to be born.
It is warm there, a promise never made to winter,
and the sun is serenading the sky, lamenting himself
in all of the colors of my childhood, he dies
flirting with the stars who have just awakened,
who lounge there in the boisterous, humid night.
Those stars wax unfamiliar here, the dawn is
I can see where people have stepped on them,
how they lay there at the foot of the harsh metal trash bin,
open-mouthed and demanding Tantalus.
The headlights of my train come arching towards us
rushing to meet the fetal dawn, another station, anxious
to gather its cold-nosed, early morning cargo
from the numb-toed purgatory of
I do not know how long they have been there,
how many mouths have caressed them or for how long,
what shade the fingers who cradled them may be.
I can only guess, only forget the thought
as the cold is firmly pushed out of the closing doors
with a hiss like a child’s midnight breath.
There, I would be saying goodnight,
embracing those faces that know mine,
the cartography of my life, saying I love you
with these words, the way I sweat through the heat,
the way I open wide my bedroom door,
Rauchen verboten; little missionaries of lung disease
stay nestled in coat pockets as the train screeches on
towards a city that holds today in its dirty palm.
How do they bring others so much pleasure and
pulse me rotten with the remembering, the closed fist,
the tumor of my own tender onus?
After-dinner mint of nicotine, ashen-mouthed
goodnight kiss, ashtray loneliness, smokehouse
of contentment, all heavy-lunged and somewhere else.
There, melancholy wafts into the room and the coughing begins,
my lungs with every contraction hack love, love,
this is love!
The sun has broken the horizon like a plaything or a promise.
I walk the long way, count the slim white and yellow bodies
in a city that doesn’t care to know my name, where every finger
is blue until May. I am longing for something to undo me,
open me, like a door or a window, where I can walk through
and someone will be there,
She Asks If I’m Still Grieving--
How do I speak around the inheritance
of prophecy sewed into my heirloom throat?
I ask small worded questions, they echo
We know there are too many things to name.
Where could we begin, how much more are we
willing to sacrifice to the greedy hands of time?
Perhaps she means one simple thing, one stone,
one sea, from the celestial body of suffering
that settles on our shoulders.
She casts her eyes, sends them skyward, says
When we were kids in search of better days,
instead of our whole selves, instead of this
constant undoing and questioning, this climb,
this wandering in search of the thing that will
make us finally, finally enough,
the sore throat, skinned-knee prayers,
that coming this far without it doesn’t mean
that we will never find it, never hold our whole selves
to the light and not be able to see right through.
There are too many stars, her eyes could be anywhere,
we could have been anyone at all out there.
Are you still grieving the sound of our survival song?
You remember, don’t you?
When it sounded like hope, or the future…
Have you listened lately?
Ariel K. Moniz (she/her) is a queer Black poetess and Hawaii local. She is the winner of the 2016 Droste Poetry Award and a Best of the Net nominee. Her writing has found homes with Archetype: A Literary Journal, The Centifictionist, and Sunday Mornings at the River Press, among others. She is an editor and a co-founder of The Hyacinth Review. You can find her through her website at kissoftheseventhstar.home.blog or staring out to sea.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.