–see me, making café cubano//Jeni De La O

How lovingly you plant

your sorrow      on my brow,
your joy              between my lips,
your imagination of my spine

         as conch shell, or rose quartz,

where my pounding mineral
bones in fact exist because

i exist.


rise moon, rise stars for inky blackness

for glowing night, for smooth plums,
for eternal mother fingertips, for

the                                   universal plane into which all things expand:



my blackness,

& I cannot touch God


that doesn’t make us any less real.

watch coffeed sugar

spin and whip

grow weightless,

coat bitter and


bright, sweet—
our blood is not               intellectual exercise,
not one flake of salt       rhetorical,
real like                               the list of slits you cannot 

   press into my flesh,

and we

too, expand       like

          lightning            splitting night, like
          wood                   splitting hush, like
          time                     splitting at the seam where

neither one of us can touch God.


still,      you cannot touch me.

Jeni De La O is an Afro-Cuban poet and storyteller living in Detroit. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Obsidian, Gigantic Sequins, Rigorous Magazine, Fifth Wednesday, and others. Jeni founded Relato:Detroit, the nation’s first bilingual community storytelling event, which seeks to bridge linguistics divides through story. She is a Poetry Editor for Rockvale Review and organizes Poems in the Park, an acoustic reading series based in Detroit. You can find her on Twitter at @jenidelao.