The first thing we admit to ourselves as human beings
is that we have no idea how the world is going to end.
And, in order to rectify that, we each indulge
strange quotidian habits that make it seem like things
can somehow slip into some sort of organization.
For Prince,
this meant making a six minute and fifteen second song
using syncopated beats in which the end of the world
is the reason to throw a party set to funk.
For Jessy Lanza,
it meant transforming her home into a greenhouse
by stuffing it with aloe veras and palms
and conifers and dandelions so that the air
wouldn’t suffocate her.
I was recently fired.
And on that day, a giant sinkhole opened up
in front of the Harrah’s Casino on Canal Street.
I put my head on the ground
and listened to my pulse.
It fell successively out of sync
with whatever beat the Earth was making.


Floodgates necessitate human operation.

I can’t stop thinking about Katrina.
She’s written more poems for me

than I have for myself.
But, for some reason, the cities’ engineers
never thought about how the back-up pumps
would turn on
Sometimes I drive through Lakeview.
It’s populated with little Lutheran and Catholic churches

and, at minimum, three school zones.
You’d be so amazed at how far it’s come
that you’d overlook the ground.
You’d drive at 40 mph only to have your car
burst into a pothole and then violently recoil upward.
if there was no one there to operate them.

On the day I was fired,
I went out with my sister and hung out
by the Bayou.
I had pizza and then ice cream
and walked a few blocks Uptown.
I drove into a train station-turned-Whole Foods
and bought a $4 bottle of wine.
We walked past a fancy bar
and saw a scowling woman.
There was no noticeable entrance
to the place,
but inside were hanging lanterns and ivy.
People dressed to the nines,
sipping on Tom Collins and Tequila Sunrises.
We walked back to the car
as my sister told me about her realization
that as a hostess she only makes $5 an hour.
As we drove down Valence,
a resident told us to watch out
for the giant pothole that had filled up
with rainwater and seemed to have no bottom.

He knew the snow was coming.
Biggest blizzard in decades,
he was told.
So, he watched and waited.
He waited for the power to go out.
He waited for the clouds to scintillate.
He waited for the mice to run out
of the floorboards and huddle
in his shoes.
When he woke up in the morning,
he walked outside
to notice that everything had
been decorated in what he dubbed “hats”.
The bench had a hat,
the grill had a hat,
the tree had several hats
and each fence post had an individual hat.
He made his way out
to the center of the yard.
And even without anyone to join in,
he gave the ground
the biggest hug he could possible give
because he had fallen in love
with winter.

It was our first time working with
the sewing machine.
And I had insisted that none of us
were trained in how to rethread it.
But, she tried anyway
and lost the piece that grips the bobbin
to the machine.
“Am I going to get fired for this?”
“No, girl, you’re so good.”
So, I plunged my finger underneath
the needle to keep good on my promise.
Subsequently, the needle ripped a fissure
into my finger.
As if the machine wanted to remind
me that I’m a slovenly bastard.
That, as my boss reminded me one day,
I liked bananas because I’m Latino;
coded language for you are
tree people who jibber-jabber.
That penetration can be as unfeeling
as the time I slept with that
one smoker who kept a doberman.
That some people live on ground
so low-lying their neighborhoods
are submerged
while the rest of the city
goes about its business.
“I’m so fired for this.”
“No, you’re so fine,”
I said as I pulled the missing piece
out of the sewing machine.

I didn’t want to be narrative.
I think language needs to be
in its barest elements,
words = sounds.
Made musical,
made organic,
made post-coital
and sweat-embrace
felt in tandem
with them.
Made inorganic,
made dissonant,
sandboard, PVC,
pebble in your checkerboard vans,
ground-in-Voronoi patterns,
oblique, guillotine-like.

I found out a few days ago
that the city of New Orleans
experimented with subterranean development
with a tunnel that goes between
Canal and Poydras Streets.
Intended to funnel traffic from the proposed
Riverfront Expressway,
the city ended the project
when Preservationists argued
the Expressway would harm
the French Quarter.
So, the tunnel, while completed,
fell into disuse and obscurity.
Municipal officials asserted
that the ground above wouldn’t collapse.
But, the day I got fired,
the sinkhole finally appeared.
I wanted to take a streetcar down
and get a glimpse into it
and live in it.
In Io non ho paura,
a ten-year old boy from Northern Italy
is kidnapped by residents
of the Southern Italian town
of Acqua Traverse.
He lives in a hole; is chained up and blind;
a vero Lazaro in tempo contemporaneo.
When a boy from town
comes to rescue him, the blind boy insists,
“sono morto! Sono morto!”
Two days before the sinkhole,
my sister and I visited the Riverwalk.
The Steamboat Natchez pulled up
and if you looked at the roof,
a man played a calliope live.
And while everyone watched and smiled,
another man rolled around on the ground
and yelled,
“kill me! Kill me!”

Asdrubal Quintero is a queer Latinx poet currently serving with AmeriCorps in NOLA. His work has previously appeared in Crab Fat Magazine and Birds Piled Loosely. Find more work and thoughts on twitter: @asdrubalaq.