This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features two poems by Roberto Montes. 


The Estate Taxed

I should have taken the amaranth soap

From the rich prick’s bathroom

Should have mothered the fault

Line in my skull     Fit to burst

The blood brain barrier

Bean counter   beans that jump

As if thrilled by the prospect

Of an open palm

The lives we bury

When the season turns

Make themselves known

The feeling is mutual

In the street of the poem

O’Hara saw my Puerto Rican chest

But all I could make out was his head

Nursing a darling

I would one day be asked to  kill

In this manner

Our means pass on

The first language

Was a want

For language


Is the native tongue


This World is Not Yours to Ignore

Abuela died of dehydration

Abuelo, complications of the heart

There is no evolutionary pressure

To live forever

I have been told

After sex

One mantis

Chews the head off the other

But this has never been observed

In the wild

Where I’m from

We have little use

For poetry

The old man on the train

Said after asking

What I do for a living and

I told him I worked stock

After a pause

He no longer wanted

To talk

It is some comfort

That a relationship could

Grow so quickly


Sharing our silence

Each one

Particular to the person

Who holds it

A stray note or glance

That can be picked up

From across the room

An itch in the brain

That signals a

Failure to thrive

A phrase

I have always found


As if to have a chance

A pea plant

Must enjoy life

Though the benefits of singing

To your garden

Have proven

Hard to discount

A sympathetic voice

The fragile likelihood

Of an afternoon

A root

So exposed

The thought of it stumbles

It was seven days

Before she died

The only thing

They couldn’t turn off

Rock salt

In a bed of flowers

The song grew dryer

As the tongue

Boiled in the throat

It is sick to remember

It is cruel to forget

Our body

On the white stone

Our body

Until it’s not our body anymore



Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).