“and even you forgot those brilliant flashes seen from afar” -Ruth Stone

R.A. Villanueva

DEVOTIONAL

I am writing this
to you among these
strangers on the 2
train because you
sometimes half-laugh
that you would love
for me to write
a poem for you—and
not that other kind
of thing I often do,
that elliptical, art-
thick wandering
that delays I
love you
for well-after
the spectacle, or
the heart-fraught
rhyme, the cave
cathedral, a
painted scroll
bound with locks
of hair. How easy
it is to lose track
of the truth,
the marrow of you
and I together
all these beautiful
years. I love
you I am tapping
with my thumbs
as someone’s grandmother
snores beside me
clutching bodega
plastic, a weathered
Bible. I love you
I am saying now
in my head, opening
my eyes to find
myself looking
face-to-face
at a child
eating his corn muffin,
punching his
sister in the arm.
Last night, in the fog
of a fever and stress
headaches all I
wanted was soup,
its slivers of roast
pork, its green
onions and the warmth
of broth in my chest.
And last night you
filled our last clean bowl
and held it in a towel,
touched my forehead,
and said Here you go.
At this stop, I transfer
to the 1, which slides
local up into the Bronx
for what feels
like hours. Let me tell you
again without ornament
and for only you
and I to hear
in my voice
I love you.

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R.A. Villanueva is the author of Reliquaria, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize. New writing appears or is forthcoming in Ploughshares and others. Read more