Cover: “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”

Dear Michael,

Todo mi amor eres tú. I just can’t stop loving you.

Dear Michael,

While papi sang his Conjunto Clásico songs

I was in my room trying to levitate,

Find a new world that didn’t clown my name and skin—

Octavio, this Mark of Cain, curse of blood

Always singing on skin—maybe that’s why I never

Made fun of yours when everyone else did.

Only thing I clowned you for was that wack mierda

When you sang “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” in Spanish.

Anglos don’t even know that version exists.

And why imagine a tongue thick enough

To push a rolled ‘r’ out plumped lips?

Why imagine me fucking around

During late-night recording sessions,

plugging my nose as I sang it with Romeo and Henry?

For the echo of papi singing Conjunto Clásico in it?

Romeo and Henry no longer making fun of me

For these oil-soaked veins, this pelo malo, this fist

A dirt-caked bunch of bones tightening to hold back tears?

I had to sing it back to you. Take a requinto,

Fashion it into crowbar, prop open

Your tomb and cradle you.

Malcolm Friend is a poet and CantoMundo fellow originally from the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, and an MFA candidate at the University of Pittsburgh. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including La RespuestaVinyl, Word RiotThe Acentos Review, and Pretty Owl Poetry.