“When You Ask Why My Arms Are Empty” by Amy Alvarez

Amy Alvarez


Why on this march toward forty, my man
and I live in a house with more bedrooms
than bodies, I say I’m not ready, I say art
is reproduction, that I teach—so don’t I
already have so many children to love?

What I cannot say: I was twelve, the only
one home. My mother wept on the throne.
I begged her to let me call for an ambulance,
but she shook her head between sobs, would
not release my hand as our bathroom filled with
the copper of her blood. She held out a tissue
to me with something pink, only little larger than
my thumb: This was your brother. Oh god oh god oh—

from Rattle #66, Winter 2019


Amy Alvarez: “I am the daughter and granddaughter of Caribbean immigrants and a native New Yorker. I decided to become a poet at fifteen after a poetry class at my public high school in Queens, New York, helped me realize the immense power that comes from putting one’s ‘best words in their best order.’ I became an educator so that more young people might realize how poetry can set them free. I taught in New York City and Boston public high schools and now teach in the Department of English at West Virginia University.” (web)

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