Juan J. Morales

Smallpox


Ten days straight, the slave
has longed to steady the sea, hammock,
fever's spike. Another holds

his head, sponges his body.
Blisters swell from his mouth,
torso, legs, settling like dust.

When his eyesight fails, the slave
complains of the fuming sweet scent,
water throbbing against pores.

Every day, the disease mingles.
It chains between all the slaves.
He became a vessel

from across the sea, carried
to islands, ports, and the mainland
where he will taint

runners, generals, and kings,
bodies sapped by twinges
of fever, torsos

writhing on woven mats. 
When it no longer
needs him, the disease

will leech onto everything
without thought, poison
the mother's caress, and suffocate

the air of town meetings.
It will sprawl southward, northward
like an unseen army with no compass.

             

                              Previously published in Copper Nickel, Issue 9

 

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Juan J. Morales was born in the U.S. to an Ecuadorian mother and a Puerto Rican father. He grew up in Colorado hearing family stories that inspired much of the poems in Friday and the Year that Followed, his first collection of poetry (Bedbug Press, 2006).  His poetry has appeared in Acentos Review, Border Senses, PALABRA, Poet Lore, Washington Square, Zone 3, and other journals.  He is the Director of Creative Writing and an Assistant Professor at Colorado State University-Pueblo, where he also curates the Southern Colorado Reading Series and is the faculty sponsor for the student literary magazine Tempered Steel.  

 
 

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