by Mark Cugini
Mark Cugini (@ascaredwhale) is a poet from Staten Island, New York & a dues-paying member of the IWW. Abolish wage labor.
FLORAL ARRANGEMENT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS PROTECTIONS "WRONGFULLY EXTENDED BY THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION"
after the Department of Health & Human Services
Am I a man or just a social construct of one NEVERMIND says the clerk at hardware store as he seemingly imagines my genitalia. Alone in my Latin-rooted gender, I tongue kiss a garbage can with baseball cap & ponder my queerness. Dysphoric swimming pool, rose-toned truck hitch—quick, define assibilation WRONG AGAIN the wind couldn't hear you, it was listening for lisps. I live somewhere within the gray space of butch & b____h & I hate every vowel just as much as the last. The hawks call me ma'am at daybreak. A dove drags me into a lake. For once I am grateful for birds.
FLORAL ARRANGEMENT FOR THE STRESS COVE
for W & K
“Dogs shouldnt be up that high,” says I, noted ground expert Mark Cugini. I'm either having too good of a time or wondering if you are having too bad of a time. Also, i am a terrible point guard. But if I had to say one nice thing about myself, it’d be this: treestump. Tropical bromeliad. Reuben and/or taco shell. Imagine this: a blue dragonfly lands on the back of a new friend's hand; how are you ever to be scared again?
IN WHICH THE POET BARGAINS WITH THE VILLIANS IN NATIONAL TREASURE 2: BOOK OF SECRETS SO THAT THE UNITED DAUGHTERS OF THE CONFEDERACY ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR FORWARDING WHITE SUPREMACY VIA THE LOST CAUSE NARRATIVE AND AS THE CREDITS ROLE NICK CAGE PRESENTS THE POET WITH AN ENAMEL PIN WITH ‘BOSS BITCH’ EMBLAZONED ACROSS A CUPCAKE, WHICH IN TURN FINALLY VALIDATES THE POET’S EFFORT TO PRIORITIZE SELF-LOVE
after George Abraham / Ocean Vuong / Chen Chen / Roger Reeves / Frank O’Hara // New York Harbor // Water Mammals
Maybe I’ll be perfect in a new dimension
but i won’t
“but” is likely white noise::
“but” is a broken clock: a borough:
a mortal corpse: a sewage-riddled
pond: dead lilacs
at the bottom of a sea
Mark, dear: We can trace the trauma on your forearms like
burnt gauze; we can pick the scabs when your breathing
scampers, judge the tremors of the hallow earthquakes
as the concrete convolves, but nothing will stop
The shaking—your body is an unruly ghost,
the esophagus its heterosexual graveyard,
the acid in your throat the ectoplasm
that possesses you.
What we mean here is these dimly-lit demons
make it hard to understand the depths
of your hurt. We’ve run miles away from these monsters
and they’ve eaten us every time.
And yet: yet. ‘Yet’ has become
your war ship—a golden field of
wheat when you can’t get out of bed.
Anxiety: and yet.
depression: and yet.
The sound of the galloping horse,
the dull curve of the bigot’s fist,
the dead prairie at dust,
the serrated pierce of every
‘F*ggot’ uttered in your
direction, and yet. Yet
is a dainty wolf, a galaxy
of glittering queens
with brass knuckles
and deadstock Black Cement
3s voguing on your
Do you even know you’re alive? Do
you see how every day you
transform death into brittle fuckboi, a
chalky calcium cough in the back
of your throat? You were born a brick
of shit & yet you made this a cathedral.
Your scars are iridescent strobe
lights; your heart a dancefloor,
your arms a bucket of water.
This trash compactor of a life
has become the most beautiful
funeral we’ve ever seen.
And thus—you scale a landfill
& dredge through the garbage
until you find a conch-sized portal.
You peel the gremlins from your shoulder &
howl your penance. You fall to your knees and beg for
a god that will peg you on an iceberg. When she holds you in her
arms and feeds you fearless cantaloupe, whisper your only hymn:
Lord, give me the strength
to know you’re not there.
Let me know the greatest
nothing & let me know
no one is watching. Let me
Be the stuff of dreams—
a genderless anvil
a queer river
a strong &
—inside this scared whale.