Our new poetry editor, Wendy Xu, has selected one poem by Roberto Montes for her monthly series that brings original poetry to the screens of Hyperallergic readers.

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Rashid Johnson, “Falling Man” (2015), burned red oak flooring, white ceramic tile, spray enamel, mirror, black soap, wax, 96 1/2 x 72 1/2 x 2 1/2 in (© the artist, image courtesy Hauser & Wirth)


Should I kill myself
Should I in all my craving
For self-realization   Realize I did
Nothing   To deserve
The family that could afford to
Save me   Should I question
The motives of the man who wants
To make me great   If he is
A user  To whom should I complain
Should I allow my participation in a space to
Absolve that space of accountability
What is the duty of the poet
Where did I see myself in 10 years
Would anyone be better
Knowing what I don’t
How do I convince the dead
What my career can afford them
Where can they send their thanks
When the poems that invoke their names
Win acclaim
Is a career climber poet of color preferable
To a career climber pale in the face
As if they have just been spooked
By an insinuation of prejudice
When a latinx thumbs through their contacts
To show off at the dinner table
Do our ancestors know
It’s for them we scroll
A labor don’t forget
We should be paid for
A reasonable deal   A fat honorarium
There is nothing further
From poetry than the little tokens
We use to justify its existence
The voice you find is not your own
Maturing on the page
The desktop pageantry of removed reflection
Do I pretend to be above it
Should I admit the time I blacked out
Alone at my computer
Told a gay white poet I don’t like
That another gay white poet I don’t like
Was too beautiful to be talented
Should I talk about beauty
What have I earned disfiguring my body
The name of the 13 year old
In the suicide ward I can’t recall
When her father told my own
I would return
When she called me handsome
And I blushed  16 years old
And forced to listen to Enya every night
Before a mandatory sleep
The nurses joked it was better
Than a shot in the ass
What do they know
The caretakers of the world
Those who lock the door behind you
Who reward the narratives of grief
The way we kill ourselves or try
Anoint me then      I want to die
But I survive   Each day
Our betters don’t
Who am I on their behalf
For whose memory
Do we build the shrine
When the time comes
Which of you will come for my body
Intern me
In your poem
Will you get my name right
Tell me
How would you know

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Roberto Montes is the author of I Don’t Know Do You, named one of the Best Books of 2014 by NPR. His poetry has appeared in The VoltaGuernicaThe Literary ReviewWhiskey Island, and elsewhere. A new chapbook, Grievances, is forthcoming from the Atlas Review TAR chapbook series.

Wendy Xu is the author of the poetry collections Phrasis (Fence, 2017), winner of the 2016 Ottoline Prize, and You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013). The recipient of a Ruth...

One reply on “One Poem by Roberto Montes”

  1. Playfull depression should reconcile the afflicted with the indifferent cold reality of the natural world.
    But what do I know about orthography and style; I had a few regrets in my long life, but was never depressed myself. Sorry all y’all.

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