Feature image by Matthew Palladino.


Raillan says beginnings. Wilkinson, on the other hand—
Nalini says Milli Vanilli or Nilla Wafers were my father’s favorite.
I feel you I feel you I keep saying—back carved into a loaf
of back carved twice will twist the spine and make one
leg shorter, one barrel of a chest, confusing
body movements that smooth when the diaphragm’s in heavy
use—I feel you I feel you I keep saying, which means:
constant pain and paying attention. I feel you I keep saying
amid a burst of incoherent language, language being the thing
that we pour, molten, and cool and use and chip and melt
down and I don’t know what to say when my date waves—“reading
is boring.” That he’d never before finished a book because
words don’t “grab” him, his attention. And I wanted to say atten-
tion is a resource, the groundwater, the condensation, the band
of elemental scar tissue protects us from solar wind. Like a joint
passed back and forth until it singes our lips—You have to grab each other.
So terror tallies shorter and shorter, so Jacob says or
was it Mason? Maybe the names are more like Chunky and Young-
bird, Chuka, Limpy n them and I say “and them” and mean
how in “the sticks” where I lived, the reservation, the mail-
boxes were like maypoles at the end of the Earth I mean
beginning of the dirt road that leads to the home that
is no longer there, but I rest my cheek against the cool linoleum
of my memory whenever Canal Street is too thick
or the subway slams into the two men fighting in front of me
and how generally, Limpy n them and Beebee and Angel
and Turtle and Sterling n them and Chop n them someone
would drive home and say who’s that at the mailbox and you
would suck your teeth and say Bee Sting n them and you
generally don’t want to be one of them, but if needed, if some-
one was messin with you at school they and them burned
with intimidation—I would say them would literally fight all your battles
for you.

Tommy Pico

Tommy “Teebs” Pico is the founder and editor of birdsong, an antiracist/queer-positive collective, small press, and lit/art zine. He’s the author of absentMINDR (VERBALVISUAL, 2014)—the first chapbook app for iOS mobile/tablet devices—was a Queer/Art/Mentors inaugural fellow, 2013 Lambda Literary fellow in poetry, and has published in BOMB, [PANK], and Flavorwire. Originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation, he lives in Brooklyn.