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  • Writer's pictureMarías at Sampaguitas

Poetry by A. Martine

Trick of the Light

When I was 17 I leaned my forehead against the dirty window of a bus

and made a promise to the going-to-bed-now sun: this time would be the last.

And for many years (3 and a half to be specific) that promise was protected.

I never severed: you see? I don’t always lie, I don’t always say things

just to say things. Water, she harbors her own light. I was made to believe

in something mutable, shapeless, not in the truth. These fictions carry

so much within their sodden folds, they find themselves submerged,

drenched, and I drink and drink and I drink every time. When I was seventeen

I became a teetotaler. When I was seventeen, saw more clearly than probably

ever would again. How many times have I seen it, that other water I partook of

more than once? Wanda Coleman unmasked Saturday Afternoon as the killer.

Mine was always that acerbic Friday Morning, cusp day, when old things

are passing on over, new ones pledged to begin, and I stay rooted

in the hour, straight razor in the hand, deciding, deciding.

How many times have I seen my own blood? Put that bad water down.

Nobody will know that you are gone, not that you reach on back anyway,

not that you look away from madness’ lighthouse enough to make

your screaming self heard. How many times have you seen your own blood?

Reverse-engineered creation with each slit-hacking and sawing?

What happened when you were 17? Why not now? Hark! Here is a child

who thinks she knows everything. Here is a child who has never learned

to count, even when all cards were in her hands, a flush. Been parading

marked skin for years before in-denial eyes, in front of can’t-answer-now

tongues, of ask-again-tomorrow pouts. So this is me asking now,

Richie Tenenbaum over a sink: how many times, how many times now?

I don’t always lie, but I seldom tell the truth at the urgent, vital hour.

There is an explanation in that deciding. Too many questions. I can’t

say it now. Later though, I promise — yes, promise — to tell you.

A. Martine is a trilingual writer, musician and artist of color who goes where the waves take her. She might have been a kraken in a past life. She's an Assistant Editor at Reckoning Press and a co-Editor-in-Chief and Producer ofThe Nasiona. Her collection AT SEA was shortlisted for the 2019 Kingdoms in the Wild Poetry Prize. Some words found or forthcoming in: Déraciné, The Rumpus, Moonchild Magazine, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Metaphorosis, South Broadway Ghost Society, Gone Lawn, Rogue Agent, Boston Accent Lit, Porridge Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, Figure 1, Willawaw, Tenderness Lit. @Maelllstrom /

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