Three Poems by Miguel Barretto Garcia

if I were some body, I would call new york

and vomit all
             my happy-hour alcohol
                         inside that earwaxed
                                    manhole,
             wobble around the streets
                         beside a dog
                                             wagging its tail
                         until            a pair of arms
                                      grabs me       holds me

on a greasy leather couch,
            the host hands me back
                        my water.
            my head
                                                    snaps.
                              they say,
                       I am leaking:
             rabid froths
    melting liquid tears
            and sweat.
                       my mouth

                                     flapping drunken
                                                chicken wings,
                                          winding
                                                    one turn
                                     then another      and another.
         a confession
                                        spirals     into madness
                            wailing                       and calling
                                      for my mother
             sleeping somewhere

                    in her grave.
she,                          indeed,
                    can hear          you.
                               if only,
in a second-hand 99-cent store in Queens,
            she
                      could rent a mannequin for a day,
                                     or simply —
            have her body back.

where is                God
            when you need
                 a body to have
                     so badly?         before
            your own body
                          betrays you,         it will
                                      perform its
             childhood play of

                                               dismembering
             and this       remembering:
                  a toy doll     hibernating in a cave,
                            folding into its weight         as it shrinks
                                     into mold
                                                   beside
                            mother’s old clothes. 


while the drool dropping in my mouth is tapping morse code

I watch midnight        walking on tiptoe
around the fountain 
in Washington Square Park.

I watch the piano player     sing Sinatra
through my camera.       I filmed her
earlier that day

While a child       gave birth
through his mouth
an archipelago of bubbles

And these bubbles     know well how
  to live     in a moment:
their brief life, a total view of the park,

But once they exhale, they      expire.
Tonight, evening     is the enclosed fence
surrounding the park.

Dead silence exhausting the air —
each breath and swollen red-eyed bronchiole
vacuumed out from my wing-torn lungs.

What should I feel but I sat on a bench
beside a mcdonald’s burger and a plastic soft drink cup
left for ghost pigeons     to peck.

The straw    points to the direction
of light flickering in one of the buildings
outside the park.

I am reading morse code,
each blink in the eye a dot, a dash, then pause
but it turns out to contain —           a

tap, tap, tap
inside my ears shares
the same             beat                    of lullaby

my      mother
sang    to     me 
before she was     lost.


hope is another brooklyn poem 

that is broken
and unbroken,

a pair of old 
reeboks   brokers 

a deal with the pave-
ment for a square foot 

of space. each step, a
root gripping, stamping

dashes of rubber ants
burning and crease is 

a personal history of 
mud, tissue paper, 

and shit. red brick
walls —the brooklyn

of brooklyns —have
broken windows 

and have broken
windows. the

fountain pen piss
on doorstep is a

signed autograph:
the name of hope:

meaning, refusal
of erasure, meaning,

the smell bites back.
the trail will skunk

the whole block,
and not even for a

blocked sinus or 
strong old spice

can drag a body
out from its graffiti, 

this portrait of dust
zoomed in by a 

periscope is a
pimpled whirlpool 

pimping on the
east river, sucking

boats en route
to staten island

and all frustrations
cussing in it contained 

inside a cold january 
face. but ambition

is not a grain of rice
easily surrendering to

the kitchen sink. it’s
strands of green hair 

spooled into furball,
clogging the piping,

until the tap will tap 
out and say uncle. say

what are you swearing:
winter coat covers a

a song, a body rub
strumming muscle

into warm mulled
wine over a burning

garbage can, fueled by
time capsule letters,

each word on paper
is hot coal of tears 

jumping from magma,
coalescing into the 

streets as tumble-
weed, knocking out

every brick building
and tooth. centripetal

force from a tumbler
pulls together the

dust, dirt, shit, fall 
leaf, lost penny 

into a collective
echo, a shattering

of every glass office
and eyeglass, pores

sweating a scream,
the unpaid bills, the

screeching customer,
the scamming boss, the

scab-crusted alleys,
the gross excess of

money, the glass sky-
scraper a border wall 

fencing the borough,
and grass        exhumes 

the skull of hope, 
hope,    her name, 

beautiful to invoke,
but hope’s a dead name, 

spray-painted on pavements 
and benches by pigeon

excrement, urban legend,
prison sentence is 

fear from the children
after combing hope’s

hair claw and rib cage 
from a sandbox while

a pigeon takes hope’s eye-
ball off her smile.

here in brooklyn, hope
was any other new

yorker: riding the sub-
way every day to work

after snoozing the alarm
for the nth time. even

after waiting tables,
evening acting classes, the

auditions, the unpaid off-
off broadway roles, the

side hustles, and extra
shifts to cover rent and

diapers, hope throws bricks 
until broken windows

reflect the image of
repetition, breaking, crying,

shaking milk formula with
raised fist. what else could

hope break but
hope: her skin, her

muscle, organ, brain,
her bone, mother, 

broken until there is 
nothing left to break.


Miguel Barretto Garcia is a decision neuroscientist, studying the nexus of perception and psychophysics in everyday decision making. Their work has appeared in wildness, Rattle, harana, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Cordite Poetry Review, among others. Miguel is also a spoken word performer and competes in poetry slams in Switzerland. Currently living between Zurich and London, Miguel is of mixed Filipino, Spanish, and Chinese heritage, and their work largely explores and meditates how the resonance of mishearing provides an opportunity for ideas, narratives, and traumas to discuss and collide, and how that may affect our perception of self, of the body, our relationship with others, the world at large, our past and futures.