Homeward and other poems by MJ Santiago

I thought I remembered
digging into your soft sides,
dripping splinters on the
ground. And after that a hole

remained. We could see
straight through, from
our cracked bed frame to
the tree we’d use to reach

grass growing from your
gutters. My grandfather
broke your floor so we
learned to skip that step,

like leapfrog. Our game. You
wanted nice things too. Cars
with radios, doors that open
when you twist the key. Instead,

we abandoned you before the
storms. Stripped you of your
blankets, your framed portraits.
Nothing boarded up.

Drove away before water rose
to breach between your walls.

or with water

the future can’t be staved off
with rocks thrown from one

side of the river. the future
will appear to you and

you’ll know it’s power.
invaders will get lost

and give up wandering
in your trees but only

for so long. there is a myth
that we are a mixture

of the earth and the water that
engulfed it,

but the water
was only passing by.

Bed Frames

Do you know how many guys I knew
in middle school
with mattresses on the ground
and a pictures of their girlfriend
as the desktop background of their 5 years old
used laptop
who showed me their throwing stars?

You can only see so many throwing stars
before you stop being friends with boys
“Oh, nice throwing stars”

and you sit on their mattress waiting
for your mom to pick you up.


the floor squeaked and
it sounded like a cat meowing

I heard a kid scream and
it sounded like a peacock.

take the sides off a crib
and it’s a bed for a very

small child or
a woman holding a lizard

like a baby on the brooklyn
bound subway.

the lizard looks happy.
the woman looks asleep.

I wish someone would
wrap me up in a towel and

carry me home, too.

awaiting a corpse flower bloom

the crowd holds its breath,               shaking
in anticipation.

it blooms.

the crowd doesn’t get what it wants,

a rare blossom whose smell fades as they
walk back to their cars,
a natural attraction
born touching memory.

the flower decides it’s not done blooming.

growing, unfurling,                           moving.

they hide it’s leaves under their beds, crush
the petals in their hands,
try to put it                                     back, but
it follows them,

appearing months later
under park benches,                   in morning
bowls of yogurt, slipping out from keyboards

they pray for it to stop                        but it appears
between their clasped hands, stalking upwards

leaves spread until they cover
eyes,                                stem stuck to car windows

refusing to whither.


I go to orlando to visit my mother
not to see anyone sleep in
dry soil. the a/c is always broke
here & sweat rolls down my back
on the ride to the store,

to the aquarium, to the museum of
my mother’s touch in my hair
but it’s good. I don’t miss anyone
because there’s no one to miss, because
it’s always raining when we need it,

   this is the only living manatee
   born in captivity. he has no survival
   instinct,     he likes people more than
   he likes other manatees,     because
   we feed him
I touch the glass & wait for him
to notice me. I wake up in his water
eating seaweed, carrots from soft
white hands, my gray skin willing
us to break the surface.

Originally from central Florida, MJ Santiago currently lives and works in New York. Their work has appeared in Reservoir Lit, Heavy Feather Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal and Drunk in a Midnight Choir, among other places.

1 Comment on Homeward and other poems by MJ Santiago

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