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Modern Museum

—Miguel Barretto-García

Modern Museum

The cabinet is a room of curiosities:

A microscope, an Erlenmeyer flask, a body

That used to be a bird, a body that used to be

A boy. A giant turtle. Vintage black dress. The glass

Separates the living from what used to be

And what used to be living gather around

And gather dust. How curious for curiosity to be

Left on display. I perform experiments

Through thought. That is to say, I philosophize.

Not philosopher. My language wears a little

Black dress, singing to the river dressed

As the moon. I undress and speak plainly,

My vernacular is cursing. My language is

A curse, that I put a peso or five in a jar as if

To pay for a ticket to death. Never have I thought

That language poetry be so avant-garde. Simply

Weave the scrap patches left and make them

Sound. With a forked tongue, split lip, my nature

Is a cabinet of curiosities and a word

Is a room that would lead me to another room

The way I open the door and take a turn

Of phrase. A line

Break. A broken English, not my grammar or syntax

But the way English itself picks its nose

And navel gazes whilst asleep on a monsoon night

My grandma wakes to the naval canons

And airstrikes and each strike

Through on the page is skin scarred

In class when a mouth is measured through

Class. Accent is no more studded jewel

To a dress, but thick

Walls of a border crossing, separating living

From the passport holder defumigated for lice

But how delicious: to taste the sweet

Unintelligible songs the cicadas chirp and chip

The wood to reveal the coffins

Of hanging fruit, waiting for a mouth to savour

Syllable. At the botanical gardens, a generous

Display of pineapples, dragon fruit, urchin

Rambutan, spiky durian labelled

Exotic, just like the living they let to live

In a village in the cruellest month of April.


MIGUEL BARRETTO-GARCÍA's poems have appeared in The Margins: Asian American Writer's Workshop, Poetry Northwest, Palette Poetry, wildness, Rattle, among others. Their manuscripts were finalist in the Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize and The Palette Chapbook Prize. They've also received an honourable mention for the Hawker Prize for Southeast Asian Poetry. They currently live in St. Louis, Missouri.

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