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Juan Morales
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In the foreground, we happened before,
off-camera, and after newscasters ran out of air.
We are the nightmare props,
the jump scares that remind survivors
not everyone succeeds.
We’re still buckled up and desiccated
traffic jams fleeing to nowhere,
embraced in kissing suicide pacts
found in the reek of a house
gripping bottles of pills, and wearing nooses
to hang on the scraps of civilization.
We danced our bodies thick in flames
until falling charred
in the smoldering forecast calling for more gloom.

We are the tangled skeletons
holed up in a room
for the failed last stand,
a few bullets short and one entry point
forced ajar, testifying
we took out some,
but still got swarmed.
We are the majority that never had time
to contemplate survival,
leaving our skulls draped open
in muted screams.

Let our strewn carcasses do the talking.
Let their hearts harden and their eyes look past us.
Let survivors become scavengers.
Let them inherit our weapons and hunger.
We don’t need anything from the living
and we don’t need to envy them anymore.


We grow into the massing undead, bite by bite,
infected by voodoo, viruses, and raw cravings for flesh.

In the beginning, you will be slow to know we’re all dead,
giving no resistance to our teeth punctured red into flesh.

We sleepwalk through our jobs and haunts, watching the world
rot by, until we smell your sweaty, glistening flesh.

With adrenaline switched off, we keep marching
against guns and knives defending your fragile flesh.

Hobble us. Parse us. Pulverize us to meat until you learn
brains must die. We won’t stop thinking about your flesh.

We are slower than you expect until you trip yourself up,
cornered into offering up your supple flesh.

When you’re wounded or expired, we will welcome you, zombie,
once you’ve turned to rotting away into your undead flesh.


Rusted and stripped,
thank you
for eating hours
instead of
for getting me
past “fuck it,” for
hacksaw blade and
drill bits,
for ignoring WD40,
for turning,
round and round
forever, for holding
it all together
when I
don’t know how to.

Juan J. Morales is the son of an Ecuadorian mother and Puerto Rican father. He is the author of three poetry collections, including Friday and the Year That Followed, The Siren World, and The Handyman’s Guide to End Times (UNM Press). His poetry has appeared on/in CSPAN2, Copper Nickel, Pleiades, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and others. He is a CantoMundo Fellow, a Macondista, the Editor/Publisher of Pilgrimage Press, and Department Chair of English & World Languages at Colorado State University-Pueblo. Follow him on Twitter @ChairmanJuan.

Artwork from “Graveyard Shift” by Zandria Ann Sturgill.

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