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heidi andrea restrepo rhodes


across the river

(for Tala & for those who know the calendar of bedlife.)


the body, the island bed

the droll of days stranded, bones calling out

for signs of life,

met by the muted loneliness of the city’s chaos

the metaphysics of a desert, solitary citizen

on planet bed, in bedcountry, attic of illness

(we are the secrets)


nightmare throb us ground our teeth to sand

kleenex like tumbleweed, pill bottles emptying their guts,

crumbs in parade, a marching band of echoes


ghost of other days curled in the sheets, remember?

that infinite drumming of her hand inside you

big bang, cosmological theories in your ear

galaxies born in the molecules of your breath

your exhale, your many yesses (anchor yourself there)


the worn & trailed question of whether we still exist

in the string of forfeited days, weeks blurring

together, whether, if we speak

to the moon, she will cast our message

her mouth like a pelican, fish full

& deliver us to each other

across these two rivers

that some days might as well be

the wide Sargasso


I have wondered


if, in another universe, parallel

somewhere, we

are lovers, gall & gale in our ferocious hair

dreams at the helm

masts full of tomorrow maybes

we feast on the wind, belly rolls in tides

chanty melodies lapping at the stern,

hearts spry beneath the sternum


if there is a world, in which

we are sisters

converting sea salt to gold

by the song in our mouths

& gold to bread, memory


in which we are

stags in a wood

guarding the nethergate in the dawn shift

stern, resolute,

hungry for morning supper

for news of spring & next year’s aplomb

a plum’s flesh for the tongue


(are you also a shapeshifter? Was that you flying, surprised by my glass window?)


the body, the island bed,

loneliest planets, we living

like Jupiter & Neptune

orbiting the sun, ships in the night


I crave the stillness/the stillness eats me.


not nine miles between us,

a sargassum tangle

sweetbriar patch cutting me, I swim


I swim I swim I swim


we sick know

body is but one universe

body is a fiction

to which we are bound

body is land

ship wrecked

we know

these maladies, viruses, courted by the body

that affliction is diasporic too


I see you across the river, shine

in your iris, face to the sun:

I see you torque immobile,

willowy meadow of swollen joints


the water fettles us, vessels, we

tired bodies, beacons on the shore

lighthouses, we steer the lost

out the jaggedness of high-tide shoals

we are a constellation, a hundred million beds

across a continent, gleaming alight the watery road.

the dream (the bed)

(after Frida Kahlo, 1940.)


we know

these maladies, viruses, twisted bone & flesh tornado

courted by the body, so many lovers we lost track


corpuscles pinned like corsage, reddest tender bloom

warding off misery in misery’s ward—

minute body in the endless count of the minute

pounding out a bilious blues,


how a red blood cell is also a historical tiny particle

founding matter or light

how we fight how we matter

how we bear


ecological catastrophe of relations, immunity & flood,

broken shards, the cell

is a room with a nucleus,

a cave for fugitive planning


we steal an hour by thriving: that is what we call organizing

& they will call the thriving work-shy, shiftless idles we

unmoving wrapped in night-sweat pillows, fuckery

of nine to five & dime shifts, let shiftless mean we beat the clock,

settler colonial time, its genocides pumping through our veins

who wouldn’t run & bury, scheme & steal an hour?


the heart, a peeled citrus weeping ichor

for the days when I must be my own mother

& bed is a grave one day we will refuse to leave

& bed is a womb we rise from daily, a grave we refuse


we know

that affliction is diasporic too

the weight of wars inflicted

the nervous system latticed by the wound


Death, she knows no borders—so

when she knocks, we will put the needle to the vinyl,

offer tequila while downing its tendrils, say dance with me.


when we were swain fighting fascism, did loving anguish

as much as the chronicling of every curative violence

from which we wretched were raked ungovernable? (even Death is perplexed)


did you dream my strange face up, like Frida in the face of her strange?

did you know that I was here all along, bizarre and flawed

searching for you from the tiny island of canopy hay,

flower bed, river bed, freshly tilled with my fevers,

this recline & fertile ground?


heidi andrea restrepo rhodes is a queer, sick/disabled, mixed-race, second-generation Colombian immigrant, poet, artist, scholar, & activist. Her first collection "The Inheritance of Haunting" was awarded the 2018 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize & will be published by University of Notre Dame Press in 2019. Her poetry has been published in As/UsPankRaspaWord RiotFeminist Studies, and Huizache, among other places. She is a member of the Canaries Collective, and is currently a doctoral candidate in political theory at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Instagram: @vessels.we.are


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