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poem /nick martino

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

Aubade From The Prison Visitation Bus

I wake up from a dream in which we lay together in your vinyl cot, narrow as a birch

bark canoe—light and bound in spruce root, the woodman’s wire. We sailed downriver

swept on by the broom of current, helpless in the rapids, springing leaks. I dreamt a glue

of pitch, sap swirled into ash, spit I culled from the dark of the tongue, painting seams

to keep the river from closing like a trap door above our heads—but we survived the dream.

The bus lumbers us into a country of concrete weather, blister grass. I watch a dead oak grow

overcast with seabirds. When our bus driver throws his cigarette out the window, the bright

angel shatters on the pavement. Before I left I packed the stars into a blunt to blue the air.

I live like this, surfacing an hour from my high, a river made of tar, and diving under. Hunger

makes a pet of me, keeps me begging at its feet for fevered, gulping, greedy relief. It’s good

to nurse a need that I can meet. That word need, one bird different than desire, my branches

heavy with both. Beside me, a sleeping woman holds a sleeping child. The sum of their sleep

stuns me. Is this feeling desire or need? All week my high lifts me like a bride, until the hour

I can finally see you. Until the hour the stars sink further into light, and I’m forced to leave.


Nick Martino is an MFA student in poetry at University of California, Irvine. Nominated for Best New Poets and Best of the Net, his work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Frontier Poetry, Meridian, Hobart, Five South, Carve Magazine, and Sugar House Review, among others. He lives in LA.

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