YOU AND ME IN THE ZOMBIE FLICK
You tell me that you’d be a survivor,
smart enough to stay out of the way.
I peg myself the second guy
to figure it all out,
who picks up
the key and opens the heavy door
before being swallowed up
in the undead-stuffed corridor.
We omit the promise of wasting
and kiss good luck
before our fight against
a horde of ex-people
devouring toward us.
I think a thought as secret as the tiny
bite wound I hide:
I would end you
if the village depended on it.
You’d do the same
STANDING AGAINST THE TREES
Because the elm must be lonely
in a field’s wintered landscape,
featured in the tree poems I routinely see
in a journal that’s rejected me five times.
Because the tree stands for decline
and the nobility of aloneness, I resent it.
I’ve talked my share of students out of tree poems,
especially the ones featuring a tree house they feel
guilty outgrowing. These are my selfish aversions.
I’ve cut down the evergreens, dying in the middle,
but I never thought to eulogize them.
I’m not the hippie
who offered to do odd jobs but refused
to cut them because they were still alive, man.
Maybe I’m wrong and the poems and the trees
are one. Maybe that’s why I’m afraid of them burning down
and taking me out in the process.
When you’re undead, the compatibility parameters expand.
You’re caught in the rot of your own bag of skin
with one ravenous mouth and two hands
to claw down a kill.
You now mass with others like you
and no longer worry about
first-date jitters, ordering a dish with garlic,
how long to wait before you text or call, or narrowing
the field one nervous coffee at a time.
If only old instincts could fire up brain cells again
to yearn for the one who could fall
for your unique bite wounds and scratches or look past
the dab of victim on your face
that defines the new you,
the one in a staggered gait missing a shoe.
You were once the guy she could teach
to use chopsticks, who always opened the door
or offered the crook of your arm during a walk,
who could follow her to a favorite clearing
with a blanket to watch for falling stars, but now
love starts by sharing screaming flesh
captured in chase,
playing it hungry, almost confident.
You don’t have to worry anymore about her getting tired of your jokes
when you moan out to your undead match,
the one to share harmonious wanderings
toward brain binges, the one you wouldn’t have found
in the herd unless you died first. You’ve adapted together
even if you cannot tell her how divine she looks tonight,
or how somehow, in her tattered, reanimated body, she glides.
-from The Handyman's Guide to End Times, (University of New Mexico Press) selected by Spring 2023 Guest Editor, Gerard Robledo
Juan J. Morales is the son of an Ecuadorian mother and Puerto Rican father. He is the author of three poetry collections: Friday and the Year That Followed (2006), The Siren World (2015), and The Handyman’s Guide to End Times, winner of the 2019 International Latino Book Award. Poems have appeared in Acentos Review, Breakbeats Vol. 4 LatiNEXT, Crazyhorse, Hayden's Ferry Review, Pank, terrain.org, War, Literature, & the Arts, and elsewhere. He is a CantoMundo fellow, a Macondo fellow, the editor/publisher of Pilgrimage Press, and professor and department chair of English & World Languages at Colorado State University—Pueblo.