Brandon Melendez

How to Write the Quantum Mechanics Uncertainty Principle into a Promise to Return Home

The further you drive north / from the southern California border / the more the desert simmers / in your throat / rock & ember cool to ice / coyotes lie coiled / beneath barbwire / with blood matted in their fur / The further you drive / east from your abuelo’s gravestone / the more the light refracts off its epitaph / Keep driving / until all you remember is diamond / cut against the teeth of rattlesnakes / & how the rattlesnake’s body evolved muscle / strong enough / to swallow whole animals / & countries / & that kind of power / dissolves skin / faster than any choleric or vengeful summer / even when California hasn’t spilled / anything but blood / in years / The further you travel / from home / the more you realize / you’ve been hurtling towards home / this whole time / & it’s all a trick of language / Anything can be a field / if you walk through it / Anywhere can become you / once you forget / how you got there

The further you walk across New England / from rose garden / to snowlit harbor / the colder your father’s voice becomes / gentle / fading echo / housed in the wind chill / along the Charles River / it shouts your name / into the water / & then freezes over / & all you want / is to live a life that makes your father / mistake his hands for emeralds / He carried you / across Los Angeles / to give you the type of home / songs are written about / & the further you flee from his arms / the more you forget / what empires he’s toppled / & turned pathway / what ghosts he’s given shelter & names / now when you say home / you think dead language / dead coyotes / dead embers / If you return / when you return / tell him / how you stood knee deep / in Boston winter / & the snow peeled its skin from your feet / salt rose from gravel / until verbena flowers bloomed / like busted lips / you brought the desert with you / & you can’t shake it / no matter where you go

Note on Demisexuality

perhaps, I am broken. machine rotten
with rust & pink moss. emptied furnace
in place of each organ & everywhere in me:
coal & copper wire & an engineer’s severed arm
trapped inside bent gears. what I’m saying
is, often, I wonder why I am incapable of performing
the most basic function of a body: take hunger.
someone says open & a dam breaks, a gated neighborhood
is set on fire. someone asks what do you want?
& I show them a perfectly set dinner table, a lake
with a single floating lantern among the lilies. I say
don’t touch. I say, like anyone I want nothing
more than to feel desired
. I want to desire like the rest
of them, to jump out a building or into bed & be happy
with whatever hand catches me, because hands are good
enough. but when it’s time to undress,
when I’m supposed to prove this flesh is worth the price
of teeth, I unbutton my shirt & reveal nothing
but thin wire & a path through me. perhaps, I am not broken,
I just need someone who understands when I say machine
I mean be patient with me. I mean, don’t be surprised
if you go to touch me & I’ve already left out the back window.
perhaps, someone snuck in one night & replaced my bones
with fire escapes & that’s why I understand the world best
as an exit.


The First Time I See My Father Cry He Is Pulling Me from the Water to Explain Alcoholism

son, not all gods
deserve to be prayed to.

this god of salt, of serrated
tooth, god of sea

turtle gored by ragged hooks.
god who makes the ocean

floor swell inside you. god of god-
less reef, insatiable in his lust

for pilgrimage, pillars
of sacrament & cirrhosis

bottle-necked through
a single throat. god of

your grandfather, of gutterwater
& gold. god who lives

in the aperture between
your body & it’s wreckage.

god of ships. god of sailors
caught in the rage

of a ram-headed sea. god
of desperation, who makes

saltwater shimmer & taste
like honeysmoke,

who makes you sing
of salvation while your mouth fills

with his name. song of rapture,
song of drowning. psalm

that holds dying men
in its belly, daring you

to come
save them.


Brandon Melendez is a Mexican-American poet from California. He is the author of ‘home/land’ (Write Bloody 2019). He is a National Poetry Slam finalist and two-time Berkeley Grand Slam Champion. A recipient of the the 2018 Djanikian Scholarship from the Adroit Journal, his poems are in or forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Ninth Letter, Muzzle Magazine, the minnesota review, Sixth Finch, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Boston & is an MFA candidate at Emerson College.