Issue > Poetry
Ricardo Hernandez

Ricardo Hernandez

Ricardo Hernandez is a graduate of Baruch College. In 2014, Lambda Literary named him an Emerging LGBT Voice in poetry. He lives in Queens, NY.

The Lovers, 1928

So everything has changed.
     So history has cut a wide swath
in your mind, has made

     the insides of the frame—
the distant pear trees, the off-white
     sky—heavy with implication.

So you can't look at it again
     without thinking how
its significance

     has to do with the artist who,
as a child, was brought to a river & told
     his mother has drowned.

Has to do with him,
     a witness to the instant
her body is fished out of the dark

     by pulley, by counterweight,
working together like some grim wrist
     to raise her, carefully

by the waist,
     her off-white nightgown, soaked,
clinging to her face.

     Has to do with mother
as handkerchief being lifted,
     as exposed bone.

Mother, the question mark
     at the center of his life
usurped by other questions like

     Weren't there signs Something
unusual Something
     you should've seen coming

son You should've warned someone.

     The first time I understood
the uselessness of marriage
     my mother led me by the hand, locked

me in the bathroom, hoping
     I wouldn't hear them fight.
Then, later,

     us in front of our screen door
bearing a small black duffle bag
     stuffed with clothes,

waiting for the storm to stop,
     waiting for what
felt like hours. There,

     her eyes
not watering, not breaking,
     but looking,

as she took one step
     beyond the awning
to let the rain come,

     to let it wash her face.
Then me, reaching for her
     wrist, asking

Can we go back in?

     So is that what it is,
what he's trying to answer
     sifting the bottom of the palette,

the frame, kicking up river
     rocks & algae & pear trees
& history—

     searching for meaning
as if meaning could be
     wrung out?

But of what?
     The nightgown? The pear trees? Their bodies
peering out at us as if being

     photographed, as if seeing
their reflections on the surface of a river
     before stepping in.

So what was he thinking
     (here, right here)
when he raised his wrist to drape

     the whites, the greys,
to hide the now
     phantom face?

What was she thinking?
     Was there hesitation?
Was there a moment

     he imagined removing it,
raising it,
     placing gold coins

over the voids
     where her mouth & eyes
would be?


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