Amalia Mayita MendezLa Presencia (photograph)

We roll joints on the steps
of the yellow porch
until our fingers are derailed.
The wreckage we smoke
like postmen with bronchitis
delivering unemployment checks
to the newly dead.  No one
on the porch is dead exactly.
Powder burns, sure, but parole
is the new rebirth. At night, the stars
have a way of blacking
us all out. So we swallow
like thieves, smoke
like cities, stare at the smog
we’ve inherited.
We keep crowing
to hide the tenderness
inside our mouths,
but it’s all in the exhale—
the rodents we’ve killed
and left in the walls,
the promises we’ve made
not to be our fathers
or our brothers
or ourselves.

Fritz Ward