Nicole Oquendo


I split the people of this world into red
and blue, and admired the blue ones for the oceans
in their mouths, not red like me, but blue enough
to slow the time between their fingertips in a gentle press.

Red, though. Red—the blood in a snake’s heart, red—
copper between my tongue and teeth, red—a shiver,
and while blue may be the taste of turpentine, red is
the current under skin ready to be flayed,
to spill out into every private moment, the opening
of seven pill bottles, my mouth rended, red,

around all seven layers of what could be, blue,
if only I could slow down long enough to pinch the minute
between thumb and forefinger, if only I could lick
the salt from the eyes of one more blue, I could learn—

there is nothing like the slow compression of a moment
between two bodies, or more bodies, just as there is nothing
to the burning up of two bodies, or more bodies.

Where blue turns to sand my bones become ash, and where
blue would rise from water in a shell, there would be no more
of me to trace the ridges and the edges with my palms.


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