Ode To My Abuelo’s Lungs or Every Country Sits Atop a Lake of Tar

that it will not be this cough
that claims him   after these
90-something years
it is the South   that will end
him   and I say South
meaning that I come from
where a nation is only a translation
for what had to be abandoned
in the jaw of a pistol
beneath my Abuelo’s chest
shriveled patches of land
threaded with gunpowder
Abuelo argues to return to Santo Domingo
and we remind him that it was an argument
that brought us here in the first place
it was the journey to Washington Heights
that begged him to shred his lungs
and now the dust of his ingles
swirls a soft storm    and he is old
too old for anything   that does not promise
wings and a good burial
an airplane will kill him   but so will the staying
he mumbles my name   and home
in a language we inherited   from a pistol
he uses our hands to deny the disease
and I know he has used my fingers to cradle
a cigarette and kiss it like an exile
he does not care if he dies
if he is home for the dying
speaks only   What he would give   to mount the sky
carrying only two little bags full of sulfur
if you could hear him cough   you would
swear it sounds like somebody he loved
fumbling desperately for the exit
Julian Randall

Julian Randall is a Living Queer Black poet from Chicago. A Pushcart Prize nominee, he has received fellowships from Callaloo, BOAAT and the Watering Hole and was the 2015 National College Slam (CUPSI) Best Poet. Julian is the curator of Winter Tangerine Review’s Lineage of Mirrors and a poetry editor for Freezeray Magazine. He is also a cofounder of the Afrolatinx poetry collective Piel Cafe. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Nepantla, Rattle Poets Respond, Ninth Letter, Vinyl, Puerto del Sol and African Voices among others. He is a candidate for his MFA in Poetry at Ole Miss.