I Ask the Questions Around Here

Chloe Martinez
| poetry


I ask my students, What’s at stake in this poem?
I ask my daughters, Did you do your schoolwork?

I ask my husband, Did you remember
to cover the drains, so cockroaches don’t

emerge at night, walk the hallways as we sleep,
hide out in our unused fireplace, and terrify me

early in the morning? I ask the cockroaches,
Why come here? When the yard is cool and damp

and full of good things for you and here for you is
only death? I ask New York City, Are you still full

of cockroaches, and will I ever see you again?
I ask the orangey lipstick, Are you still right for me?

I ask my daughters, What do you think
of this orangey lipstick? I ask my best friend,

in texts, Why is exercising so much
harder now than it was in March? Am I maybe

shrinking? Are we going to be okay? I ask everyone,
How are you?, then apologize for asking.

I ask my body, Why do you ache
in this spot right here? What does that mean?

What can I do for you, old friend,
old stranger? I ask the newspaper, God,

some other gods, my neighbor, my sister,
and Billie Holiday on the cover of the LP

Lover Man, Will it get any better?
I don’t need to know when, I tell them. Just if.

Chloe Martinez is a poet and scholar of South Asian religions. The author of Corner Shrine (Backbone Press, 2020) and Ten Thousand Selves (The Word Works, September 2021), her poems are published/forthcoming in Ploughshares, Shenandoah, The Common, and elsewhere.

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