The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 22–JAN 23

All Issues
DEC 22–JAN 23 Issue


Ode to My Ashy Feet

I peel the skin back
on my cracked and blistered feet,
and disgusted by my own delight,
I behold their snakeskin,
amazed by how much I can shed
and still be myself.

Bearer of trampled stories,
unread unlike the lines of my palms,
stuffed into size seven cherry red heels
and years of beat-up work boots,
scorned messenger of mud
onto just-mopped floors,
toenails dented, broken, purpled
under a misplaced toolbox,
still unaccustomed to the black heat
of August asphalt, admonished
for all they cannot do.
Lotion does them no good,
husking as they do on long walks,
discarding themselves.

But it’s true: all things fight
to stay alive, no matter how ugly,
my bunioned inheritance burst
through cracked earth like so much cattail,
bulltongue, duckweed, cutgrass, bullwhip.

I love their insistence;
they are where I go.

Aubade With Creek Bed

On my worst days I doubt
even water is wet.
At my best, I doubt some more,
but ever since you touched me,
all this light has been leaking
out my body in ways I can’t explain.

I am sinking in the wave
and particle of it all,
in the infinite and infinite, the everything
and everything,
even the mosquito fodder,
even the stagnant creek beds.

I come from women
who made the river run
backwards with want,
who only dared walk towards freedom
under the moonlight.
For years men called me
hurricane so I marked my body
with red spray paint, high water lines,
but now even the light
has started to flow like water.

I think if we really tried, we could walk
until the river becomes ocean again,
but half drunk on creek water, all I say is
that I will not give you my name, this fat past,
this heavy, fought-for thing,
but if you let me,
I will sleep in the part of your bed
where the sunlight pools.


Irene Vázquez

Irene Vázquez is a Black Mexican American poet and journalist, currently based in Hoboken, NJ, who writes at the intersection of Black cultural work, placemaking and the environment. Irene's debut chapbook Take Me To the Water was released by Bloof Books in October 2022. By day, Irene works at Levine Querido, editing books about feisty twelve-year-olds.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 22–JAN 23

All Issues