3 poems

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

            —SZA, “Anything”

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

tongue.

 

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                                      &        

                            rotten               bone

        —inside this scared whale.