14 | raina j. león

quotilla: closing the bar

with quotation from Laurie Granieri


at the bar, his face glints, a flipping yellow coin engraved,
some simple design set off by shading lines that mark that
point of the horizon where God must dance by himself.
I think he grooves to Marvin Gaye or Andre 3000,
guess that’s where Harlan draws his varied musical tastes.
we’re chatting until the bar empties. my wine glass has
all but cleared down to the bloody remnants. the coin flips.
ready? catch it. red ink, a tiny list of all his lovers’ names. i listen
for the music as the coin flies up again. i see him seated at bed’s edge,
our legs entangled, measuring the length of our limbs, playful
stories exchanged as we touch, compare skin tones. the window’s locked
to thieves. how did you get in? i ask. he winks his eyes, that’s how dreams
end. suddenly, i am rolled over twisted sheets, feeling slushy. his girlfriend,

she could not guess how her man could slip without sin, or maybe she
knows, and this is how he claimed her. how did he get in?
we must have lain here. i look towards the seat where he would have sat,
must have turned when i stumbled in or was it really him sitting there
all smiles, wide grin, down to the stubble on his chin?
wait. a coin beneath my pillow falls as i rise foggy.
our faces imprint there. i hear music pumping through nickel.
turn the coin. where did i go?




for Michael Fritzl


The seagulls fly from the water, Michael,
through threatening gales, those harbingers
of storm. They tempt lightning to strike,
eyeing the waterspouts that dance.

A woman’s womb can be such a funnel
between glory and tumult. You transformed:
seagull torn from sky into blasted sea,
a quicksilver fish, sucked up to swim in rain.

Shapeshifter, twisted child of a child
defiled by her own father, no wonder
you rebelled against a life trapped underground;
you once skimmed clouds, a soul.

A choking cord, a steadfast hand can free
through fire and ash, an incinerator,
a heavenly channel. The seagulls
hasten landward.



villanelle to blink plastique





raina j. león, PhD, Cave Canem graduate fellow (2006), CantoMundo fellow, and member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective, has been published in numerous journals as a writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Her first collection of poetry, Canticle of Idols, was a finalist for both the Cave Canem First Book Poetry Prize (2005) and the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize (2006). Her second book, Boogeyman Dawn (2013, Salmon Poetry), was a finalist for the Naomi Long Madgett Prize (2010). Her third book, sombra: (dis)locate will be published in 2016 by Salmon Poetry. She has received fellowships and residencies with Cave Canem, CantoMundo, Montana Artists Refuge, the Macdowell Colony, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Annamaghkerrig, Ireland and Ragdale. She also is a founding editor of The Acentos Review, an online quarterly, international journal devoted to the promotion and publication of Latin@ arts. She is an assistant professor of education at Saint Mary’s College of California.