Tori Ashley Matos

prayer for us who await state execution

i wish there was enough quiet
for me to watch for migratory birds

to smell wet trees on a sunrise
and give up my medicine for
just a breath of air.

some hymns are loud—
too nestled in the nation’s mourning
for me to access their symphony.

so i hear the great thud instead—
the instruments finding their way to rest. 

i am many creatures 
that live sick at the bottom.
we chew at the cud of the captors

and pray to stay unseen.
but like my ancestors
who walked under the water
and made their last prayers 

in the moon fire,
the faintest chord still
sets my body floating up
to the source of majesty. 


exhume the Bodies that i might make them absolve us

i was birthed
screaming     in the middle
of a nation made of fire

but my people
bubbled me out of the Water.

i pray to Death—
draw me a map. 
send me to the water
and i will find who is
left of us.

i tread the path
the stories told—
into the river.
let her lick a lie
of sleep into my ear.
drowning comfortable

when it bursts.
finally i am ready
to listen my bloodfolk
who also chose the Water.

every time
that i
have sought out silence
it has not shot me down
on the street.

in that way
it is not like


i asked the tarot why it hurts when you’re inside me

1 the craftsman

maybe i am a seed
not the soil. 

perhaps the body was right
all along. 

a joke before
the harvest
                       to find joy 
                       to let you inside me
                       without a sound.

arms undone and around the world and maybe you find your way between them too.
is it fatherly to want to take you into me?
so the streets cannot smother you? 
if i laugh will it make you uncomfortable?

let’s make light feet into the water
and i’ll let you cry when you fuck me
like men do.

2 fog and his consequences

my grieving finds cover in the fog
               the shelter made up what is left undone
               at the end of the day.

i smell it when i go to rest but
the fog’s so thick and green we only ever
get close enough to grope 
at our moaning in the dark.

my vision got blurry—i can only assume you bent time around me.
if you think i fucked up you can just tell me.
              bite my lip so it bleeds
              clean me out with your fingers even when i close my legs

mother is angry i’ve let them make my waters dirty.
but at least she isn’t subtle.

try again.
i promise i won’t yell this time.

3 pilgrim

i have packed
i have not forgotten a companion
not again.


undoing is walking toward morning.
morning is to be without bed nor fellow.

unmake love to me.
unfuck me then if it makes you feel less vulnerable. 

i leave at night
and the crickets tell me where go
where they are loudest. 
there is no way past the mountains
but still i leave them behind me. 

i’m clean now. so it’s okay to kiss me.


Tori Ashley Matos is a poet and performer based in New York City. As a non-binary and Afro-Taino poet, their work is always evolving, searching, muddy, and filled with ghosts, liberation, and freedom. They graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and they’ve been published in Curlew Quarterly, beestung, Perhappened Mag, No, Dear Magazine, and more. They are a Gaze Journal Loving Gaze Poetry Prize winner, a Brooklyn Poets and Lit Fest Fellowship finalist, and a two time DreamYard poetry fellow. Follow them on Instagram @ToriAshleyMatos.