by Carlos Andrés Gómez
In the basement of the crack house I used to visit
as an outreach worker on 121st street in Harlem,
I was convinced He refused
to travel north of 96th. I wrote a letter
to Joanna on her mission in Taiwan, detailed
each irrefutable piece of evidence proving
we are all, in fact, alone.
Told her about the nine-year-old orphan
forced to sell her body
for three years before ending up just off
Times Square, discarded in a dumpster.
I told her about the eldest son
who answered a burglar’s call and was shot,
paralyzed from the waist down. I asked her
about drought and famine and endless
civil wars—what lessons does His book
When her heart rate dropped by half in less
than a minute, the population of our cramped
hospital room tripling in a handful of seconds,
I grasped for anything that would keep me
upright. At first, the wall: cool and steady,
demanding my body ascend beyond what seemed
possible. Then, nothing,
no one. I stood in the waiting room
to the O.R. waiting to be called in,
to find out if my child had survived.
I spent each second trying to pull tiny shoe-coverings
over my too-large feet. I confessed every wrong
of my life to an empty, over-lit room of steel
and sterile instruments that all reflected back
distorted versions of myself. I fumbled
for any prayer I could remember, hoping
that I had all along been mistaken about the hollow
blackness of the infinite sky. I never wanted
so badly to have been wrong
about anything in my life—
and then a disembodied
voice called out, seemingly only to me—
a tiny growl at first that blossomed
into a wail dwarfing any thought my mind
could possibly hold, any faith
I’d ever been so foolish to claim.
CARLOS ANDRÉS GÓMEZ is a Colombian American poet and the author of Hijito, selected by Eduardo C. Corral as the winner of the 2018 Broken River Prize. Winner of the Atlanta Review International Poetry Prize, Fischer National Poetry Prize, Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry, his writing has been published, or is forthcoming, in the New England Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Yale Review, BuzzFeed Reader, The Rumpus, Rattle, CHORUS: A Literary Mixtape (Simon & Schuster, 2012), and elsewhere. Carlos is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.
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Featured Photo: “Sala d’aspetto” by Luca Rossato