by Carlos Andrés Gómez

I.

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
refuse?

II.

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