by Zachary Caballero

Depending on the flick of flint
in your cheeks, you could either
what’s up or what’s wrong?

I. What’s up?

Mirrors on the ceiling,

shiny thieves of my body
my mother grabbing my hand,
what do you want?

II. What’s wrong?

That unanswerable question,
is always the worst,
as well as,
dry skin, peeling,
more layers
more lairs of dark
hair and skin
to climb through

my mother’s perfume
leaving the room
before I do,

the sore spots
of my baby brother,
the knots in his perfect
shoulders, the problem is
our freckles betray us
Too easy to pick apart

II. What’s up?

a microphone
amplified reminder: no,
you’re not alone.
my friends, walking in,
beside me,
the path I’ve cleared
leads them back
inside me,
I’m counting the
faces I’ve misplaced
when I disappear

beneath, beneath, beneath

my peeled onion
steel heart—it takes time
to discover the whole,
begin with a part,
it’s really quite easy.
How far will you
go just to start?
Ready? Set? Show.
Your lips are a finish line
run your mouth,
win the race,
win a trophy,
take a pen, rewrite
across your lips,
then kiss me
like gold and first place.

III. What’s wrong?

Oh, I would be remiss
if I didn’t tell you about
the bells I miss,
Their brave kiss, loud lips,
All of it, a treat,
and none of it, a trick,
the songs I fail to catch
do not miss me back
do not care if I am late,
their sound still
rings, sings, strings
me the way a pearl
curls off the tongue
off an oyster, or
the way
oranges and grapefruits
my neighbor grew
were pulled off the
limbs of her trees,
taken delicately into her palm,
pretty little sun with its wrinkled skin,

the gift is so simple
I could not comprehend
the significance.

after she gave them to me.

I peeled one after
the other, all day,
my hands
smelled like a citrus kiss,
curious, but
I did not preserve these
homegrown things
Instead, I left them outside
for weeks, mistook their
sugar for strength,
a swarm of gnats
the last inch of orange
their hunger,
more than familiar,
but acceptable, real.
their hunger
holds me accountable
for the rot I’ve got
brewing up my sleeve.

IV. What’s up?

The sunroof of my
mouth, the floor
of my tongue,
Words stacked like ladders
each step a letter
whose shape I imitate
with the secret messages
my hands translate.

When I lift my head with
no hesitation, with
no ancient echo of ache,
just the image of a
wrinkled notebook paper folded
in half, held in Anna belle’s hand,
the same small hand
passing me a poem
she wrote at home
I read four words:

Love is a path—

then look in her eyes
the color of hope,
holding its breath,
she says,
It just came to me