Two Poems
J. Jerome Cruz


When Maria shot her mother’s gun / at the ocean, the Atlantic expressed / its hurt in a cadenza
of waves. / She waded through this pain / until her dress was no longer diaphanous.

Prayer: run & gun like her mother / taught her. Then, mania dissipated. / At church Maria only
sang along / with hymns that sent ascension / or grace. Once, in fifth grade, / she mucked up
the sign her mother / hung in the kitchen. Too Much of a God / Thing Loses Its Novelty.

She never liked Ohio. Make that living / at home. For the same reason she didn’t jive / with
Miles Davis, terrifying movies, or anything / to do with parachutes. Too much tension & /
testament, attack & release. When she caught / those old videos of Al Jolson in blackface / she
felt the same anxiety she carried in Cleveland / as well as shame that she married the two.

What’s present, her second therapist / said, is the wilderness. So Maria blended / skin with ink until her chest was blessed / with an armada of starlings. Why not, / her mother asked, finches or
, / the sourness of oranges? Or even a gazette of all / the men who’ve gotten into your pants? Not / every flower needs pomp & circumstance. / Maria laughed & laughed like when / she went Splitsville with her first therapist. / Not because he resembled Tennessee / Williams, but because she hated how he kept / saying they just had a couple more steps / to go. In his office her feet always felt /so motley, so cold.

The last thing she did / before heading to the coast / was watch a Cavs game / with her
mother. One / of the announcers said: / Love is hard to guard against. / Maria bounced out for /
a cigarette & left before / the second half ended. / Her mother found all / the baggage & wailed.
/ The clothes never got / sent through the mail.

In dreams her father spoke / either in tongues or psalms / lost or unattainable. When it rained /
their record player burned / feral. Don’t front, her mother said, / if the undertaker gives you the brush-off. / Soft, off the backboard, as her father / always taught. When scalpel sought / all that was wrong with her / knee, her father told scouts / What y’all are missing out on is the intangibles. / Like last Easter Maria chased down ants / in our pantry with a vacuum. / In lieu of ashes they found it / kismet to rest his stuff in the locations / he felt most blessed. When Maria played / her father’s Strat for the ocean / the Atlantic expressed its hurt / in a cadenza of waves.

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