Back to Issue Forty-Two

Covered Wagon as Spaceship



Standing unseen in the little bluestem,
curious and not quite used to living,
I consider whether it’s aliens
that brought Black folks to the canyons, valley.
Standing in the great evaporation
of a lake, holy dandelion for
eyes, full and white and searching the landscape
for understanding: how do you come
to be where there are no others, except
science fiction? I am a child feeling
extraterrestrial; whose history, untold,
is not enough. Anyway, it begins with abduction






I’m home, you could see me through
the kitchen window washing my daughter’s dishes
my hands are busy but I’m looking at the elk
on the face of the mountain

I know nothing about elk, but here
we are, at any given moment
there must be countless allegories
but I’m only interested in one

am I home or am I only visiting? I am through
with asking, I’m at the center of a cul-de-sac
wind sweeps through the aspen like a hiss
we are in our own snow cup

melted to the summer people we really are
I am answering for myself
Hissssssssssss of the aspen, at the beginning
of which could, I suppose, be anything

cul-de-sac, just as well, a saucer, rising up,
up to the summit, it’s possible I’ve never been
higher, I feel it, I’m really leaving now
moving through the told story


Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Rio Cortez is the New York Times bestselling author of The ABCs of Black History (Workman, 2020) and I Have Learned to Define a Field As a Space Between Mountains, winner of the 2015 Toi Dericotte and Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize. Her honors include a Poets & Writers Amy Award, as well as fellowships from Cave Canem, Canto Mundo, The Jerome Foundation, and Poet’s House. Rio holds an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University.

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