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Orpheus as El incomprendido

Malcolm Friend

—after Ismael Rivera


Voice scratching itself out my throat, tearing the air. Yo

sé esa agonía. Yo sé perder. And this is pain—that I believe

the voice to boil the air into molasses, melaza que

ahoga, drowns the vocal chords. Cursed with such sweet. I’m going

to sing all sugar. Cavity the ears of any who won’t leave me solito,

pobrecito, pobre diablo—¿quién reza por mi? This pain? ¿De estar

enamorado? Smitten by the honey dripping down my own chin when

I sing, runoff of each thick note. Only thing I have to sustain me.

Reminding me I’ve always known how this ends. How I die.

With a song caught in the middle of my throat, all the sound I have

reversing through the air, a symphony of molasses bent

backwards into the voicebox. This clogged larynx forever concert. Choral

reckoning forever on repeat. Fate of any sonero incomprendido.

To drown forever in the sugar of their own voice. Azúcar que no ni

satisface ni alimenta. All in search of the perfect song, canción que tú

no puedes imaginar. Canción that finally reaches the sun without the agony

of this voice dissolving back into the ocean of my body, broken so no one

can resolidify it. Melody lost forever in my spit. Tell me,

is there any torture worse than to lose a song like this body has?

No desamor, no traición, no lágrima or falsely uttered querido

could ever equate to the voice abandoning invention. This tall

noise having no end, floating past sky. I’ll tell you what it’s like

to bubble the air molasses. Nadie me quiere, la dulzura que soy.

Malcolm Friend is a poet originally from the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. He received his BA from Vanderbilt University, and his MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of the chapbook mxd kd mixtape (Glass Poetry), and has received awards and fellowships from organizations including CantoMundo, VONA/Voices of Our Nations, Backbone Press, and the University of Memphis. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including La Respuesta magazine, Vinyl, Word Riot, The Acentos Review, and Pretty Owl Poetry. 

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