R.A. Villanueva

Risks Beginning with ‘Answer’

And so perhaps every poem that means something to me these days risks being christened “Tenderness,” risks beginning with “Answer:” before, inevitably, turning and turning in its own intimate contradictions. Visible or not, audible or thrumming at some private frequency, I hear those two words now, affirming that the poem that follows must be a response to what history or memory, the body or faith, grief or whatever haunts us asks of us.

A Rendering

Here is a man’s chest inked with water and charcoal tapped into the skin with thorns. Here, look: a small frieze of X’s, another of arrowheads near the meeting of his ribs. And there: tessellations become snakes’ scales, then a wreath of shadows