This is how he breaks you down: He assures you every woman has thought about it at least once, like suicide and same-sex sex. Like fire retardants, you keep your soul inside a glass box to break in case of emergencies. He is the hammer that strikes the blow.


He never smiles in public, but alone with you he shows his teeth. Alone with you he traces his fingers over your body like a wax that never cools. This thing, more monster than man—he speaks in a tongue as old as the world, a patois forged in a crucible of violence, of slavery.


This is what he tells you: He tells you that you’re people of the night, by all accounts allergic to the sun. He raises high his strong hand, pimp, and beats straight paths through the dark, the moon on his back so he can slap box with stars. He likes to speak in riddles.


This is what he does: He folds bills. He covets power. He crushes pills into powder. He feeds you bumps straight from the hand until you’re living off the meat of his fist. He playing Pavlov, you the dog.


There is a mathematics to all of this, algorithms for broken people: one boy plus one girl equals two orphans, carrying over zero prospects, divided by a world that hates them, and powered by a god that feels much the same. These are the variables that never change.


He really thinks he’s here to save you all. Toothy girls, diva-eyed and desperate—he’s got eyes for you. He trolls the playgrounds, casting his black line from a panel van. Like perverts with Percocet, do not fall asleep; he will hook you! In all those places you should never be but always are—the greasy-spoon diners and motel lobbies; in the streets, on concrete islands where corners converge—he sees you. He’s clocking your alabaster strides. He remembers your tattoos. The diaspora of blacks and unblacks that marks your limbs, the borealis of greens and blues—he was at that christening. Armed to the teeth with teeth that always bite, a bite that’s less bite than thunder strike. He is hungry!


You should be scared. You should be scared to be pretty. But really, fuck that, you should be scared to be you.

Oh Look! There’s a man. You should probably run now.






Daniel Riddle RodriguezDaniel Riddle Rodriguez‘s real name is Daniel Riddle Rodriguez. He is a full-time student and a father from San Lorenzo, California, where he lives with his son. Previous publications include Juked, Prairie Schooner, Gulf Stream Magazine, Fourteen Hills, and others. Grand Prize Winner of the University of Montana’s 2015 Chapbook Contest, his book Low Village is forthcoming. He is thrilled to be here.

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