Brandon Melendez


my mother’s blood is a kennel
filled with feral dogs
in each of their mouths, a hand
that once fed them & now
feeds them, only different,
bloodsick, they mistake
their own legs for prey, pitter
pat of rabbit paw or fox
between burrows. when a body
attacks itself, it’s a miracle
there’s anything left but pelt.
but you should see my mother,
hounds & all, she walks barefoot
right out into the forest carrying
lavender & coltsfoot & the hunters
hush, fearing the muzzle.


Taphophobia, The Morning After I Learn Chester Bennington Committed Suicide

In the 18th century, cholera flooded Europe
& all the faucets

in people’s bodies opened. They leaked
& leaked until the coma set in. This yawning

sleep was so often mistaken for quietus
that the fear of live burial

bloomed like bacterium, mania wet
& septic. To prevent more

accidental entombment,
a German doctor mechanized a coffin

with bells the dead could rattle
if they found themselves gasping,

lungs filled with muddy oxygen
& an urge towards resurrection.


The human body can lose twenty percent
of its water before the coma sets in,

before sleep is a box nailed shut. Afterward,
we exist only in endings, in dirge

& dirt. I’ve been to enough funerals
to know that at the heart

of every cathedral, there is an organ
gasping for air. The tune pushes

through a depressed cavity into a sick,
sick sadness. I’ve learned what I can

& cannot handle, what body I have left
when I am no longer water.

I can lose twenty percent of myself
before depression sets in, before all the songs

in my head go silent. & after,
I can only talk about myself

as ending. My throat, a carillon tower
flooding with the musician still inside.


I’ve learned depression
is the name we give to gravity

when we demand a diagnosis.
It is both the casket & the cavity waiting

with its eager mouth.
I am afraid that someday

I will catch myself sleeping
& reach for a spade. This morning,

before I could open my eyes
I pushed my ear toward my chest

& waited
hoping to hear bells.


Brandon Melendez is a Mexican-American poet from California. He is the author of home/land (Write Bloody 2019). He is a National Poetry Slam finalist and two-time Berkeley Grand Slam Champion. He was awarded 'Best Poem' at the collegiate national poetry competition (CUPSI). His poems are in or forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Muzzle Magazine, the minnesota review, Sixth Finch, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Boston & is an MFA candidate at Emerson College.