Ruben Diaz Vasquez

The End of the Universe

Rubén JDV

Dr. Bans lectures on the end of the universe.

One thing is clear to me: when all the stars die,

It will be so cold, it will appear like the winter

You and your mom would not leave that motel

In New Hampshire, because the day before you

Almost drove off the mountain road, and for

Some reason, the car slid everywhere except

Over the edge.

I am a young boy again and I am sinking to

The bottom of a deep well. The descent is

Lonely as hell. When the universe decides the

Fate of everyone, I want at least to be by your

Side. A hand reaches into the water and years

Later, my mom tells me that I landed exactly

On a single plank of wood jutting out from

The wall. I owe my life to that single plank

of wood.

Dr. Bans is still miraculously lecturing, and we are

Miraculously still alive. I do not learn anything

Beyond the fact that the universe is like God:

a hard subject to teach in the middle of the day.

As I walk out the class, I feel drowsy. But I

Remember clearly that day I almost drowned.

When my mom pulled me out the well,

The sun blinded me and amidst gasps for air

She looked like God.

Native Tongues

By Rubén JDV


The horse drawing on the wine bottle reminds me of September.

I am a young man next to a pretty woman. We drove in the rain

For an eternity. Now, we read poetry to each other in native tongues.

Somehow, I understand she loves me. She understands I will leave.

Between knowing and wanting, one of us stumbles on the word.

Neither of us can pronounce the sound after falling.


A road figures in my dream and it is the same road.

When I open my eyes, I hear only the patter

Of rain over your grandmother’s cottage.

Inside, we are warm and full. All night long

We practice cannibalism. You swallow bodies

And acres of land from the stories I tell. I choke

On what I do not know. Yet, I still cannot believe

I found you after lifetimes of searching. Mhudi.

The sound of rain has summoned you. You look

beautiful tonight. Ready to face a world wont

to separate us. The rain grows heavier. It sounds

like galloping horses.


We have been driving in the rain, for an eternity.

The horse drawing on the wine bottle reminds me of Septembers.

I am a young man next to a pretty woman.

Somehow, she loves me.

What none of us can pronounce, I finally say.

Your tongue reminds me I will not be loved when I leave.


Rubén JDV


You will be startled at discovering vases full of white lilies.

All over your room. They will bow their heads,

And you will bless them. The side of your finger, holy.

A voice will speak from a phone. It will remind you of a hand

Exquisite at picking flowers. It will make you feel like a lily

Wearing a tight glass dress. Decorated by desire at the edges.

You will not remember my body lying in your garden

Receiving love from a sun I need. A tree that will not grow.

I will not grow what you desire. Bushy-haired, thin, lackluster,

I will never be good enough. See now my soiled body crawling by

Your window. Hear my nails scratch against the stone walls.

My pricked skin satisfied by punishment. Listen: a man

Once carried a cross for your sins--he called that love.


One evening, I laid rose petals

in your bed knowing when you

came home, you would take off

Your clothes and wait there

In the middle of the bed, for

Me to appear out of nowhere.

Running a rose petal across

Your thigh, your eyes would

Give me no choice. What I want

To forget is how our bodies would

Become like rose bushes, thorns

Piercing flesh, our beauty hiding

Our tendencies for harm.


My father was the kind of working-class Mexican man

Who would take us out to Denny’s nights after beating my mother.

My brother and I solved mazes in children’s menus. After a while,

he places his hand over hers—an apology. For a crazy moment,

Mother lets the silence hang, looking down at her lap. The lies sit

with us like a family at the dinner table holding their breath. As the

fiction falls apart, what will happen to America’s Diner? Somewhere

at a table inside Denny’s, a couple’s screaming children might sound

like lovers.


You and I sit across the dinner table.

Instead of holding hands, we hold

Deadweight. Years of our lives. In

Lines of our palms. I am no longer a

Man who yearns for love. You are

No longer a woman who yearns this

Man. We eat in silence. We eat solely

For the purpose of being excused to

The far end of a bed where we fall

Asleep counting more time. When

we are finished, you do not look

At me. You do not give thanks for

This last meal.

Kira Tucker


Your Most Wanted is like America’s:

a terrorist. You’ll soon need a man to kill

your terrible need. Someday, you’ll learn to kill—

to strike back when hurt sooner than kiss.

Next time hurt strikes, turn back sooner. Kiss

only if sure you’ll remember you’re Black

when it’s over. Remember when your black

eye, swollen and numb, could no longer cry?

Swollen and numb, mouths do not cry

while America pays for men who escape.

And as you pay for the man who escaped,

what you’ll want most is just like America.

Delta Wisdom

On our dock steps, my mom braids

my hair. Splitting my scalp in rows,

her fingers work hard at high tide

like oars fighting white-water currents.

Down where I sit, I watch the river fold

in on itself, again and again—waves

part and smoothe at the surface,

the way fresh-greased coils weave

tight into cornrows. Her wise hands

let no strand slip; I feel they could kill

a man if she willed them. The shears

she’d take to his neck are the same

blades that now clip frayed ends

as dull throbs flood my temples.

On Soul, Signs & Suicide Songs

In the Alabama countryside, I brake

just past a church sign: STOP DROP & ROLL

WON’T WORK IN HELL. If and when hell

happens, will I try death? Perhaps, hell is

when death ends and I still miss my mother

pouring soul in my three-year-old ears:

Ooh-ooh child, things are gonna get easier.

Like anyone, I seek direction from signs I see,

driving: half-dead men who roam days like

roadsides. A skeleton hung from a crepe myrtle,

plastic as the stickers claiming my life

matters. If and when hell happens, will I

trust signs then? Maybe the day I meet Satan

is when I kill myself with the truth that I have not

slept since I was three. My mother’s lullaby:

Ooh-ooh child, things’ll get brighter.

I learned 72 signs for the test to drive but no directions

for when I get lost. I first tried death at the same age I could

legally speed off any Alabama mountain. Wildfires ignite

valleys and remind me of hell. Now, I see my world aflame,

knowing my mother’s words were only sounds

to soothe my eyes to sleep.

Someday, we’ll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun.

Emily Gardin


me llaman morena

como si negra me ofende

como si mi objetivo es blancura

no puedes ver que la resistencia corre en mi sangre

desde mi afro hasta mi puño levantado

mi cuerpo chocolate con leche

solo reconoce trauma

y abuso

puedo sentir el dolor de mis ancestros

pero este cuerpo será reclamado, y nunca más explotado

azucar negra

divisive for acknowledging my African roots

yet controversial for speaking my native tongue

there’s no middle ground for me

yo sé quién soy

but i can smell your ignorance from a mile away so don’t you dare ask me how Black i am or if i’m sure that i’m Latina

because i know that i am the descendant of slaves

abusados y violados por los españoles

stripped from the motherland

no tengo patria

él no me reconoce

está avergonzado de reconocer que soy su hija


the product of suffering

a beautiful catastrophe

erased history


no me avergüenza admitir que soy negra y tengo el tumbao