How the Landlord Taught Me

He faced my mother
at the front door
with the heat turned off.

She wanted heat, like
wanting water. The metals
in the cellar didn’t clatter.

We lived those years
in borrowed rooms: his.
The grates whispered

when the warmth blew.
I sided against my own
because my body

was wrought by her—
heatless, stranger
to her comfort.

I grew despite.
Cold tuned my ear
and I worshipped what

he was, with his car
and his gold lighter.
For years after,

I moved aside
to give up space,
repulsed by my own

have-not. Even God’s
first breath sparkled
in the dry straw.

Jessica Cuello is the author of Pricking (Tiger Bark Press, 2016), Hunt (The Word Works, 2017), and several chapbooks. She has been awarded The 2017 CNY Book Award (for Pricking), The 2016 Washington Prize (for Hunt), The New Letters Poetry Prize, and a Saltonstall Fellowship. Her newest poems can be found or are forthcoming in Passages North, Crab Orchard Review, Transom, Foundry, The Missouri Review, The American Poetry Journal, and Red Paint Hill.