Back to Issue Twenty-Five.

taphEphobia the morning after i learn chester bennington committed suicide

2018 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry
Previously appeared in diode poetry journal

In the 18th century, cholera flooded Europe
& all the faucets

in people’s bodies opened. They leaked
& leaked until the coma set in. This yawning

sleep was so often mistaken for quietus
that the fear of live burial

bloomed like bacterium, mania wet
& septic. To prevent more

accidental entombment,
a German doctor mechanized a coffin

with bells the dead could rattle
if they found themselves gasping,

lungs filled with muddy oxygen
& an urge towards resurrection.


The human body can lose about twenty percent
of its water before the coma sets in,

before sleep is a box nailed shut.  Afterward,
we exist only in endings, in dirge

& dirt. I’ve been to enough funerals
to know that at the heart

of every cathedral, there is an organ
gasping for air. The tune pushes

through a depressed cavity into a sick,
sick sadness. I’ve learned what I can

& cannot handle, what body I have left
when I am no longer water.

I can lose twenty percent of myself
before depression sets in, before all the songs

in my head go silent. & after,
I can only talk about myself

as ending. My throat, a carillon tower
flooding with the musician still inside.


I’ve learned depression
is the name we give to gravity

when we demand a diagnosis.
It is both the casket & the cavity waiting

with its eager mouth.
I am afraid that someday

I will catch myself sleeping
& reach for a spade. This morning,

before I could open my eyes
I pushed my ear toward my chest

& waited
hoping to hear bells. 



i watch the family move into the house at the end of the block

2018 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

& I remember how a man hung himself
            in that garage on the hottest day
of July & his daughter walked in
            to discover his body

a little closer to god. Rumor was she found
            the family dog nuzzled beneath
her father’s legs but it snarled & snapped
            whenever she got too close.

For a week, the news boiled
            the air in our neighborhood. Anyone
who walked passed that house swore
            their neck started to burn. By Sunday,

everyone was back
            mowing their lawns & drinking Coors
out on the fresh paved asphalt.
            All the teenagers gathered

at the community pool
            to drink vodka & escape ourselves,
to count the years until we leave
            this city without season, this forever

empty sky. As far as I know
            no one saw the dead
man’s daughter after that.
            She barricaded the front door

with plywood one evening & was gone.
            No one knows if she ever came back
for the dog. But months passed
            & the summer heat stayed muzzled

inside the house all year. I know this
            because when the U-Haul pulled
into the driveway this morning
            & the garage door creaked open        

for the first time since,
            two rows of gnarled teeth
 lurched out
            & disappeared into the open sky. 



reino or i see my grandfather by the side of the road, about where he’s buried, but he’s wandering around with a flag of vertebrae

2018 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry
Previously appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal

I mean, he is dead, though.
           Doesn’t this make him American

enough to demand the land
           he was buried in is his?

Doesn’t this entitle him to break
           bread with gods

whose names fill the sky
           with anvils?

Or was he just buried
           in random earth—

because I saw a truck
           drive over his grave

like that isn’t how people
           get cursed—like that driver

isn’t going to crack open
           their jaw tomorrow & spill out

ratones, conejos, cucarachas,
           & all their teeth.


Who’s to say this soil
           is American anyway,

like have you asked
           my grandma?

She once swore
           the whole of California

belongs to her
           mother & my father still

calls this dead man
           Reino. That’s right, the whole

damn kingdom. Grandfather was,
           after all, an unruly man

he once pulled his spine
           out of a screaming mouth

& carried that hurt
           until the end.

Who’s going to tell him
           he can’t still reign

from the dirt?


           The U.S. government

denied my grandfather
           a military funeral,

denied they ever held him
           against a gun

& called them both by the same

The official reason they gave
           was my grandfather

did not join the Marines
           legally, & fine

but he still volunteered
           to walk into any slaughter-

house with a crown
           of bullets in each hand,

they could have
           at least sent a flag,

or the name
           of that truck driver,

or a throne. 



Melendez 25

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

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