R.A. Villanueva



The world has always been ending, I

said. And you said: Yes. Today, half-lost 


on the senderos, among its dry

brush and thorns, I hear my mother's voice


in the rocks—see in the rust plains and

lava bulbs and cairns stacked as markers 


her cells massing upon her heart, lungs,

running riot along her sternum.


Soon, the nights of marrow-talk, of jabs

and the Seven Last Words. Serum nights


with viols, the Joyful Mysteries, thumbs

on decades falling asleep. I light


a match with the end of another,

warm poisons and gauze for the new year.





The world has always been ending, she

said. And I said: Yes. Today we walk

bearing hymnals and lilacs for the

gazebo green, for stairwells and chalks


drawn to mark the hem of a body.

We bring each place its dirge in the shape 

of teeth, slugs, a tongue pressed to concrete,

its fugue scored for sirens and windpipes,


pellet guns and bells. We bless the blue

of this wide winter sky above our

city, for once. Let it mean more to

us than smoke, more than blood starved of air


beneath skin, more than anthems hollowed

or a field for stars, dying and dead. 




The world has always been ending, he

said. And you said: Yes. Today they are

burning the names of the boys they are

shooting in the street. This because we—


and they—know ashes mean undone leads 

and muzzles loosened, floodlights and flares,

eyes doused with milk. At the chapel for

vespers, a woman holds a globe she


has decked with poppies and birch-tar and 

foil; her son colors in a book of

heralds and dragons, traces his palm.


Now: the Magnificat. Now: I am

down on my knees sure only that the

fires will come again and again.

Found In Volume 44, No. 04
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R.A. Villanueva
About the Author

R. A. Villanueva is the author of Reliquaria (U. Nebraska Press, 2014), winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. New writing is forthcoming in The Common, Crazyhorse, Five Points, The Wolf (U.K.), and elsewhere. A founding editor of Tongue: A Journal of Writing & Art, he lives in Brooklyn and London.