Hunger vs. Hunger
By Carlos Andrés Gómez

Survival is a punch line for anyone who has
never gone asleep hungry. I have never gone
asleep hungry. There have been times I wanted
more to eat, but that is not hunger. I don’t know
what is, only certain what is not. I saw a man on 14th street
holding a sign that read: Too white to be broke and hungry.
He didn’t notice me because he was too busy texting.
I thought about punching him in the face. Instead,
I took a picture and put it on my blog. That’s what
people who don’t know hunger do: blog. I have never
had to fight someone over dinner. If I did I would
have punched that dude and then probably gone
to jail where I would have gotten a hard cot,
steel toilet, and a long-awaited meal.

By Carlos Andrés Gómez

I keep hearing it, over
and over again: homeboy.
I assume it’s some West Coast refrain
like earthquakes, avocados, and silicone,
what’s left of the L.A. dusk betraying
our slow-creeping city bus,
his chiseled, smooth calf
brushing against mine. He talks
about his homeboy in the Valley,
the homeboys he just left
in West Hollywood,
at church: the homeboys,
how homeboys have sleepovers
on Thursdays—

Yo, you wanna be homeboys?
Lemme getcha math.

Before I can respond, a phone
appears from his hip, his face
narrows into focus like he is getting
his mouth ready to blow
glass. He moistens his lips,
tries to steady the slight tremor
that starts to rattle his lower jaw.
His glance unlocks, palms soft
as a fresh offer for this ancient
and familiar dance.

I no longer notice the neck tattoos,
biceps the size of small sandbags,
the Kobe high school throwback
that left me in awe when he got on,
only his eyes, now delicate
as orchids.

We cool? He checks in.
You cool…right?

Yeah. And I’m not sure how to answer
and not answer the same question.
How to carve out the top layer
of cool without the hot breath,
tune this frequency to the right tenor
of skin being slapped, how to hold
a damp palm, without being back to
chest, sweat-laced in embrace, our skin
is touching

and I’m trying to map out the rules
of what cool means, his bright teeth
barely holding a single word that I am
trying to outrun, right hip spilling
sideways into my seat. And everyone
on this bus is pretending to be reading
by this point, waiting to see what I will say.

I want to say I have a girlfriend waiting,
that I have no friends here.
I want say this is the first compliment
this city has offered me.
I want to say I get so lonely here I might
fuck anyone tonight.

I tell him it is my stop. Give a nod and turn.
He is still waiting for my answer. I don’t know
which one of us is trying to escape.

The bus vomits me from its doors, peels off
into the night, but his eyelids still clutch me
from the window until the air swallows hard.

Carlos Andrés Gómez is pursuing his MFA at Warren Wilson College. A Pushcart Prize nominee, his work has appeared in Rattle, Beloit Poetry Journal, Timeout New York, Muzzle, The Acentos Review, We Will Be Shelter: Poems for Survival, Me No Habla With Acento: Contemporary Latino Poetry, CHORUS: A Literary Mixtape and elsewhere. He lives in New York City.