The Poetry Project

Melissa Lozada-Oliva

Yolanda Saldivar Gets Away With It

Suddenly, there is a hole in the bars.
They melt inwards.
I put my hand through it.
The security guard makes her morning rounds & I clamp her boca
shut with my hand. I hold the gun to her head & demand
she undress. She nods & begins to unbutton. Her belly fans
over her panties the same way mine does & blue veins sprout
across her corn-flour thighs. Her breasts hang
like two arms of a forgotten sweater.

She’s got dyed black hair that thins at the top in a perfect circle.
In another life, we could be primas.
In this life, one of us
has to die.

I slip into the security guard’s blue uniform, I two-step over her body
& the blood spreading around her head. I hide the gun in my pants.

I stop at the water fountain. I sip. xxxx I’m feeling cocky.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I wipe my mouth.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I take my time.
I swing my new baton & whistle.

Blood starts to dry on my face; a small, rusty sun. This uniform is itchy now. I’m already tired of this role. But I keep swinging. I’m whistling. I’m humming a song now.

I do not look back.
I whistle into the glaring daylight. I take a right into the parking lot. I take the dead guard’s keys & point at cars until one lights up & beeps for me. I get inside her basic white Sudan. I turn on the gas.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx No one’s gonna ask me where I’m going.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx No one’s gonna ask me who I’m going to be.


My ID is expired but maybe in the next life I’ll give my body to science.
My heart would’ve given a hopeful ballerina another 40 years of hating herself
or some toothy politician more air time.

I walk down the street in a trench coat & sunglasses.
I screamed when I put on the clothes.
I am slimy, raw & pulsing.
I am a clit with the hood pushed back,
hitting the hot water in the shower.
I am a hangnail all-over.
I am trying to act normal.
A child sees me slide my
MTA card & gasps at my hand,
which is exposed like
a photo of two lovers caught in a seedy hotel room
or an ATM receipt outside the scene of a crime
or a reblogged tumblr post form 2012 with racist epithets
or an essay found on a desktop about why GIRLS is actually a really good show.

It hurts to touch anything but maybe in a few days
all I will know is that hurt
& how it defines me.
I’ll crawl into the shape of the pain &
make my home there.
I’ll invite my friends over & they’ll make excuses to leave.
I’ll say, “Tell me all about your big trip to California!”
then I’ll go to touch their shoulder & they’ll flinch,
& they’ll feel ashamed that they flinch,
sad about this instinct to be afraid of me.
They’ll wash the pink goo
that came from me off later, in
their bathrooms with plants.

A gust of wind blows my hat off the train’s platform.
My glasses, too. My trench coat blows against me, pathetically.
I see people steal glances & then look down in fear.
My lonely & obvious insides screaming
The world hearing them but refusing to look my way.

6’3 Looking For Something Casual That Has The Potential To Be Something More ;)

[In a dimly lit restaurant]
Is this a date?
[Walking back to a car in a dark parking lot with a gun to my back]
Is this a date?
[In the trunk of a car]
Is this a date?
[In a room, tied to a chair with one, dangling light bulb]
I actually would say that I’m like, an introverted extrovert.
[Locked in an attic dressed up as a doll with a bowl of water & a plate of food at my feet]
Yeah, I don’t know, I just have such a weird relationship with social media!
[In a submarine unaware of what day it is]
I’m trying this cleanse, have you heard of it?
[Chopped up into little pieces & dispersed into the ocean, little fishes feeding on my hands]
So, do you have any siblings?

Karaoke Interlude

Tonight it’s somebody’s birthday
or it’s nobody’s birthday or it’s the anniversary
of the third or fourth time we heard this song.
Some of us sit all night flipping through the binder
either because we don’t want to embarrass
ourselves tonight or because we are trying
to find The Song, one that we can sing well
but one that everyone
will join in on, too.

Someone sings a song we don’t know & we turn away
& talk shit but still feel happy for them.
For a moment we can become someone else.
What’s the difference between anyone
& an Elvis Impersonator?
Us & acned tweens dancing in front of the TV
Us & bloated men with toothpicks on the long truck ride home,
Us & manic single moms slicing carrots by the sink,
Us & horny middle-schoolers sweating to “Stacy’s Mom.”

Maria’s singing “Gasolina” by Daddy Yankee
because it’s the only song they have in Spanish,
& also, weirdly, she likes it.
Hannah’s singing “the Calling” because finally, they’re in love.
Don got here early & has been practicing “Strange” by Patsy Kline all week.
Monica, who leads Drag Trivia, is drunk again & yelling at everybody.
Puloma knows all the words to “Careless Whisper” & don’t need to look at the screen.
No one likes Jordan but when she sings “Dog Days Are Over,”
her hair flies behind her, her silver doc martens shine.
When Linda goes up & everybody goes quiet
because she can actually sing.

For now, we are Jenny, Patsy, Daddy Yankee, Florence, Carly, Robyn, Mariah.
I do not sing Selena because she’s too niche.
It will always be now
& we can’t do anything about it.
It is now until it is another now,
shaking its head at now,
making deals with now,
turning past now because
it doesn’t recognize Now, anymore.
& we are always trying to find the right song.
What is the word for getting
someone to fall in love with us during karaoke?
We know that if somebody loves us,
if they really really love us
they’re watching us & every bad thing that ever happened to us sing.

Everything is a regurgitation of something that once lived better.
We practice into our phones all week
& playback our own tiny little voices.

We channel the past through us & throw it at the Present,
which boogies, whether we want it to or not, into the future.
All of us are standing on the Present’s stage
as it hurtles upwards,

how we stop feeling the jolt after awhile, the rise.
how it slows down the more we sing
how we keep looking down
as the words scroll up
because they won’t let us forget them.

Issue 16