Forbes and Fifth

Assorted Poems

Oddities in a Mental Hospital


I think about that time

in group therapy a woman

said when she dies she wants

to be buried under a redwood tree.


Her body be petrified by bark

branches for arms

fingers for leaves

her bones ground into soil


any flesh left behind becomes

food for the finches who

rest on her branches and

sing to god





Our Lady of Charity 


“miracle baby,” my mom calls me. A daughter after

three sons is an act of divine intervention. Karidad,

named after the saint she prayed to, watermelon

halved and rotten, surrounded by wax from long candles

with saints on them. Steeped in Cuban superstition

and generations of blind, desperate hope. The kind

my abuela lined on her shelves next to rosary beads

and cigarette smoke, she never believed in god.

My name catches in the mouths of the untrained like the

molasses in our china cabinet catches evil or

like the January cold catches the thirteenth grape

I throw off the porch, bare feet stick to frozen wood.

I was twelve when I got my first period, mom’s working

so dad slid a pad under the bathroom door. I didn’t

go to school that day. I felt like a woman when I

flushed my blood down school toilets. I felt like a woman

when I called my mom a bitch. I felt like a woman

when I sat around a bonfire with high schoolers smoking pot.

I listened to them curse out the math teacher and brag about

a hand job some chick gave em’ in the backseat of a car.

They said she did pretty good for an eleven-year-old.

Property taxes were almost as expensive as the snow kids blew

behind football bleachers. I still remember the night mom

called to tell me about the woman who died in the bathtub

her hand holding a bottle of whiskey and her belly full of Valium.








It’s the word your mother whispers

under her breath as she defrosts the meat

screams when her son comes home high


Ojala, “if God wills it”

mama will live, ojala

rent will be paid, ojala


It’s the word my abuela spoke boldly

around the cigarette nestled between her lips

accent thick like the smoke she swallows


She tends to the roses

wags her finger que linda you are 

she tells me stories about

the chickens she left in Havana

the dog named whiskey

the people set on fire


I was told my great grandfather

had his fingernails plucked out

like my brother’s wisdom teeth



and one by one


Ojala he must’ve sang

the killings will stop soon, ojala

the roses will survive the winter, ojala


How gently I’ve learned to hold hope

pass it down through generations of suffering

rock it softly to sleep and cradle it through the night

hold it just like my mother did to me,

painfully naive and crushingly realistic



Volume 17, Fall 2020