Monday Jun 24

JessicaCuello Jessica Cuello is the author of Pricking (Tiger Bark Press, 2016), Hunt (The Word Works, 2017), and several chapbooks. She has been awarded The 2017 CNY Book Award (for Pricking), The 2016 Washington Prize (for Hunt), The New Letters Poetry Prize, and a Saltonstall Fellowship. Her newest poems can be found or are forthcoming in Passages North, Crab Orchard Review, Transom, Foundry, The Missouri Review, The American Poetry Journal, and Red Paint Hill.

Paris Métro Strike

Inside the métro car, pinned by bodies,
I felt the panic of drowning, invisibly,

against the coats of strangers,
and remembered the long ago pool

where I sank unseen, surrounded
by people, until someone’s older brother

lifted my arm and pulled me gently
to the side where I coughed, afraid.

I lined up the words:
I must get out     I can’t breathe

Je dois sortir   Je ne peux pas respirer
Elle ne peut pas respirer!

cried the voice to the packed car.
Doors rang open, tried to close,

rang open again on the last train running.
I circle the story. Add up the gazes.

One gives you a leg. A face.
A tremble in your skin, seachange.

My body was lifted over the crowd
and passed from one end to the other.

When I was free, with the cold,
empty air around me, I wanted

to reenter the fraternal car:
the strangers who had loved me.

Boxing Match

My brother the boxer
waits to be beaten.

My brother of no wins,
with a forever fist

and animal eye,
enters the ring like prey.

In our condemned
apartment, my

toddler hand in his,
we talked to the dark

above our heads—
then never talked again.

I flinch in silence.
Our skulls share

a shape, but our eyes
saw separate

trails out of the hall.
The cut-man swabs

his face. Here
fear is measured out

and I am not current
with this game,

with ropes and lights
where we squint

at the cage—
not away.