Our Mother Who Loved Strangers More

by Jessica Cuello

didn’t want strangers in her house.
Strangers were separate and pure.

Omens for an unknown guest:
hair floating in a cup

excrescence on a candlewick.
Strangers kept their hearts preserved. 

Ours were shrivelled quince 
shrinking from their child skins.

They came from her interior—
messy, weepy, without warning. 

She always took the stranger’s side, 
the stranger’s word. In her obituary 

she wrote: To remember me, 
be kind to a stranger. An utter, 

a total, a perfect. No bloody cord
to them, no hurting likeness there.


Jessica Cuello is the author of Liar, selected by Dorianne Laux for the 2020 Barrow Street Book Prize and forthcoming in 2021. She is also the author of Hunt (The Word Works, 2017) and Pricking (Tiger Bark Press, 2016). She has been awarded The 2017 CNY Book Award, The 2016 Washington Prize, The New Letters Poetry Prize, a Saltonstall Fellowship, and The New Ohio Review Poetry Prize. She is a poetry editor at Tahoma Literary Review. Read more of Jessica’s work at https://jessicacuello.com/.