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Roy G. Guzmán




What we momentarily dubbed permission

was fiery ocean-wrapped crag, toeless oath.

This was our death dance, a slight whirlwind

that softened my tail with the VapoRub pulse,

nasty knots that wouldn’t obliviate. & I raised

my ugliness elsewhere, disciplined the vestigial

slender-headed cluck-clucks. So much of finality

galloped to lodge to our fingers, that we almost

mistook second silver-blinding coda for rest stop,

unwarranted hip shake for cherubic purpura.

Our skin agonized black radiation. The first time

he clutched my tail to pasture, I lifted his meat

castle, guided his hands, scorch-steady, like tea

leaves of ash, towards that aura within me that

once flamed my dog bones to mosh. Two suns

snapped, rose to fill my nostrils. Crazy what intimacy

will forge from colonized hunger: a map forever

extinguishing, taking more than a blitzed glitch

to cover the stratosphere. I almost evolved in cinders.



You don’t have to watch me whip my wings

back & forth to count the number of fiyahs


I’ve put out. Single-handedly. Lady don’t

PLAY. Up-in-out—don’t break your nails


on that triceraTHOT! Out-in-up—

werk that bill! werk that bill! werk that bill!


Dudesteroid wanted to barge in here

all dudesteroidsplainy, all PCblazin’,


but I was like, NOPE—.

You can’t be going around preaching


that embers wash off more easily than glitter,

not if you’re going to fry our camouflaged


nightgowns with your silicate dick complex,

exploding on every beach we go sunbathing on


like a bottle of Viagra roulette.

They used to call me Shorty for my short


appendages. But I ain’t no chickenhead,

no duckhead. Don’t confuse my bobbing,


my elongated lips, for submission, for a trick

daddy’s mass extinction. Lift that tail,


swing that pitchfork, swing that tail, tail drop!

Momma Dearodactyl used to say that when


you deal with murderous jaws larger than yours

you ought to multiply your fortunes


near an active volcano. Sniff the fumes,

swallow your enemy’s offspring in one gulp,


go for the longnecks first—bigotry will claim

innocence even while it burns our sanctuaries.


Raptorhole. Tyrannohole. YouAintFly-

LikeMehole. To hell with dudesteroids


doing Triassic 4 Pay—the voyeur will always

miss the freedom of a red sunset.


Box dip, hairpin, mating squawk, shwam!

Cunty cunty cunty cunty cunty cunty cunty…


Don’t let them know where you hide the rest

of your fangs—sis! Or that you’re into fossil-


friendly excavation sites that can fit an entire

rainbow. So what if I have pycnofibers


on my back? Call me cub, call me bear, I ain’t

roaring like a DinoKatyPerry. Bring it! I said:


Bring it!!! Now sashay… Dude’roid still

hoverin’ in the sky—closet queen, angel dust.


In this ball of fiyah hate can’t enter our ozone.

& for as long as the Earth remains a hungry bae


there will be no death drive. We won’t perish.

Our scaly spirits can survive in fields of magma,


don’t they know? Silly hoes. Hoes that can’t

even get into this party. HOES. No one’s ditching


this bitch without leaving an impression: phoenixes

on the dance floor—thrusting in the face of loss.



Seconds before the shooter sprays bullets on my brothers’ & sisters’

bodies / the DJ stops the record from spinning / & I am interested


in that brief dazzle of pink light / how it spreads on iron-pressed

shirts until they turn purple / how a gun is a heart that has forgotten


to sing. The rapture in a stranger’s eyes / a candid take on resurrection.

You visit Orlando to fantasize about the childhood you didn’t have /


even though I grew up in Florida the trip was a luxury because I grew

up poor / & when I finally could afford it I took my parents to Universal


Studios / this is the first time I ever saw my mother get on a rollercoaster

because she’s always been ashamed of her weight & we ended up


buying a timeshare by mistake / not really by mistake / but by my illusion

that my parents worked themselves sick in the US so they needed


vacations / & the debt collectors still call us after all these years to remind

us of the Great Recession where my mother lost her job & my father


had to go into early retirement. Our mothers gave us names

so we would know what goes at the head of a tombstone / bare précis /


& our duty is to feel the isolation that any alignment of letters can trigger

when they’re carved out of grief / since most of us were born or bloomed


out of sorrow like swans always bent on pond water or unpaid bills /

as though we are fishing for clues about our graves / or where we’ll stop


to mislay our moisture on others’ necks. & just the night before I went

out for Drag Night at Lush with four other poets / one reason to escape


my schedule & relive my adolescence / I am afraid of attending places

that celebrate our bodies because that’s also where our bodies


have been cancelled / when you’re brown & gay you’re always dying

twice / I got to see thirteen performances by amateurs / a few special guests /


one queen who happened to make a stop in Minneapolis / she’s a national

sensation / & the MC sang a raspy but virtuosic version of “When You’re


Good to Mama” & the boys & girls & femmes lined up with their dollar bills /

which the queens scarfed down with their perfect bosoms & their teeth


& I turned to Danez & said the whole performance reminded me

of receiving communion as a child / how for me a church is a roof


that’s always collapsing / though I might have been talking about

lovers paying their condolences / so often we forget that what kills us now


once believed in our survival / that a pistol & a rifle pulled apart

can be the shape of your arms as you pull a lover closer / that when his


teeth are black it means you picked the right bottle of Sauvignon /

that in our video games one can ride a bullet toward eternity.




My partner is asked to sing at the vigil in Loring Park. His choir

has commissioned an hour-long piece inspired by David Levithan’s


Two Boys Kissing / in which a pair of teenagers participate in a kissing

marathon to set a new Guinness World Record. A Greek chorus of souls /


who won’t be vanquished by the epidemic / find comfort narrating the tragic

but true events. How can I sing for an entire hour about that much grief


without breaking down during the performance? my partner asks me

as I scroll through the news. On the phone / my mother says the shooter’s


hatred sprung from watching two men kiss in Bayside Marketplace in

the heart of Miami / & I am imagining how my mother might never approve


of me pressing my lips against another man’s without that man being

my father or a mistranslation of him / because even our fathers have prayed


at least once for us to be gone / No eres mi hijo maricón. In Bayside

I held an old lover’s hand before I moved away to college / the moon upon


the water like a wound that wouldn't heal / & he dumped me soon after /

said he couldn’t bear the pain of me parting / which when you’re older


you rank as necessary pain that trained you when to open up & shut

like a house with only hurricanes moving through it / or hasty promises.


Orlando like an orange / now green with mold / but still edible for some.

The evening of the shootings / after dinner with friends who grieve


by not dying / I come home to touch my partner’s sweltering body /

a humid June evening without AC in Minnesota / far from the carnage


but still close to feel it / & we produce baby noises / an uhn for witness /

an uhn for hope / as we give shape to the carefree child of vulnerability


that runs between us every evening / safe but somehow lost / until my lover

falls asleep & I stay awake out of need & continue to whisper their names


as they are added to the list / like faces from a river of baptism. I forgive

the earth for not turning its neck further / for not allowing those pink lights


to keep flashing / for the cackles to remain intact no matter how boisterous.

In those seconds when their skin has never beamed so bright / so self-


assured / the bartender is shaking a piña colada / goose bumps flower

on someone’s arms / the streets are humming from delight / a pair of lovers


walks in / another eagerly awaits the last call of the evening. It would seem

the record wants to keep spinning while we wipe their blood from the floor.


For them we learn to touch again. For them we walk home / & we are safe.

-from Catrachos (Graywolf Press, 2022), selected by Fall 2022 Guest Editor, Michael Walsh 

Roy G. Guzmán (they/them) is a Honduran poet and scholar. Their first collection, Catrachos, was published by Graywolf Press in 2020. Catrachos was named a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry. Raised in Miami, Florida, Roy was named a Debut Poet by Poets & Writers Magazine. The recipient of a 2019 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, in 2017 they were named a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellow.

In 2016, Roy was the recipient of a Scribe for Human Rights Fellowship, focusing on issues affecting migrant farm workers in Minnesota. That same year, they were chosen to participate in the fourth Letras Latinas Writers Initiative gathering. In 2015, they were awarded a GRPP Graduate Research Fellowship to investigate trauma caused by violence in and migration from Honduras. In 2018, Roy was awarded a second GRPP Graduate Research Fellowship to travel to Honduras for research.

Roy holds degrees from the University of Minnesota, Dartmouth College, the University of Chicago, and the Honors College at Miami Dade College. They currently live in Minneapolis, where they are pursuing a PhD in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature (track: Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society) at the University of Minnesota, in addition to finishing a young adult (YA) memoir-in-verse, scheduled to come out through Scholastic.

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