Tag Archives: Pilgrimage Press



Photo by Jeff Sirkin



Your buyer’s remorse is sanding out

raccoon prints tracked in paint through the kitchen

and out the back door.

You will ask the wallpaper not to pull off

the plaster. You will put hands

in between floors

to replace leaky copper pipes.

You move into your investment,

starting with you

on an air mattress in the living room

until you finish a bedroom.

Then renovate the next room

like young newlyweds who don’t believe

in ghosts, oblivious to waking

malevolent phantoms

in the walls and left-behind furniture

stored in the basement.

Except there is no couple.

You’re on your own.

Instead of voices piercing the silence

with “Get out,”

they’re enticing you

to swallow the bitterness.

You’re tempted, but roll up your sleeves

to get your new haunted house cozy enough

to let the ghosts

you brought from the last house

mingle with the ones

already living in the solitude.


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*** ** ***




He wiped it with the cloth and bit into it. Dry and almost tasteless. But an apple.

He ate it entire, seeds and all.

—Cormac McCarthy, The Road


I bite into apples

with wrinkling skin, lost crisp,

that brown with every bite.

The apple’s wisdom tells me

to stop short

of finishing off

the whole core, so I can always

recall tastes that once

teased my tongue,

the knowledge mislaid

in my gaping stomach.

I practice

for meager times

just in case.


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*** ** ***



It sounded like someone taking a shower

when the water heater’s seam popped

to unleash enough water

to snap a prideful town’s houses and bridges

into shambles

of muddy brown.

We thought about vengeful deities sending

awesome waves.

We drowned mops. We littered the floor

with dirty towels.

We smacked wrenches against

the empty tank in vain.

We stood in

wet clothes, guiding the Shop-vac

on the soaked rug,

trembling mad when touching soggy drywall

with defeated hands.

We cleaned

every angry inch of the basement

on achy knees and wished

for time to stockpile

soggy books and blankets

like animals

huddled in an ark,

adrift at sea.


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*** ** ***



Because the elm must be lonely

in a field’s wintered landscape,

featured in the tree poems I routinely see

in a journal that’s rejected me five times.

Because the tree stands for decline

and the nobility of aloneness, I resent it.

I’ve talked my share of students out of tree poems,

especially the ones featuring a tree house they feel

guilty outgrowing. These are my selfish aversions.

I’ve cut down the evergreens, dying in the middle,

but I never thought to eulogize them.

I’m not the hippie

who offered to do odd jobs but refused

to cut them because they were still alive, man.

Maybe I’m wrong and the poems and the trees

are one. Maybe that’s why I’m afraid of them burning down

and taking me out in the process.


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*** ** ***




It was Lennon and McCartney who said all you need is love, and

I would agree with that. As long as you keep the gators fed.

—Stephen King, “Why We Crave Horror Movies”


I descend to where gators must be flushed

after outgrowing novelty houses.

I can smell the bite of violence brewing

in stale water and waste. I am walking

against the rat traffic until tunnels

grow too small, search until the water gets

too dark, the light too weak. I approach

the flickering eyes above water,

jaws flexed. Offering myself to the reptile

that sent me colliding with sweating mains,

I sadly search into the slick grime,

the teeth crushing through the bones change my mind,

tugging me back through the labyrinth of pipes.

I surface and slide the manhole back in place.


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*** ** ***



Behind my reflection, I slide

a putty knife to loosen the glass.

I chip through clear epoxy. I pull forward

with caution to extend the rift between

wall and mirror, optimistic

I can salvage it as a single sheet

until the first pop snakes and cracks

up the middle. I fracture it more

as I contort and bend the mirror, still tempted

to explode and smash it all down.

I never looked at myself in the large shards

that could free-fall and make

my vital arteries and limbs

hectic reds as seen in slasher flicks with enough gore

to make me turn away. I’ve always respected

broken glass and I already have a tab of seven bad years.

I count myself lucky to be sweeping up

dots of mirror off the floor, wrapping then breaking

the bigger flakes into a cardboard box,

and fooling myself into thinking I survived

all the horrors reflected around the house

with only yellow bruises and scrapes

I don’t remember placing.


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Juan J. MoralesJuan J. Morales
is the son of an Ecuadorian mother and Puerto Rican father. He is the author of three poetry collections, including Friday and the Year That Followed, The Siren World, and The Handyman’s Guide to End Times (Forthcoming from UNM Press in September 2018). His poetry has appeared in Copper Nickel, Crab Orchard Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Pleiades, Poetry Daily, and others. He is a CantoMundo Fellow, Editor/Publisher of Pilgrimage Press, and Department Chair of English & World Languages at Colorado State University-Pueblo.


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