Often people ask me how I am doing. Perhaps as a courtesy, perhaps sincerely, perhaps to know a different reality than their own. Sometimes it’s a friend. Sometimes it’s Joann at the vet’s office. Other times it’s a family member I haven’t spoken to in a while. But we simply can’t keep passing rocks between our mouths. If I say that I am dragging the bottom of the ocean in search of an entrance to the underworld  , and I live in a collapsing universe  , where I purchase both a HEPA air purifier and an ultraviolet lamp to filter faith, not just what I breathe, it is because masks are not actually what isolate us.
I say I’m just fine, turn forty in a plague year, and forget about poems. I care for my pod and drive west in June, more than a year and a half after the pandemic arrived, to stand in the shallow of the Rio Grande along Paseo del Bosque. I feel fish brush my feet. They could be the disappearing silver minnow, only found in this region, or they might be stones in this basin, splitting directions of flow. Below cottonwoods I think about what these waters have witnessed, lives its chilly hands have carried. Many never reach land again, hearts sleeping inside the river. Will I find disappeared populations in the depths of this water that reaches south to the place where my father was born?
Thousands of people, many of them Haitians, have been deported from the very same river I wade in, from the same waters I played in as a child, visiting family in Del Rio nearly thirty years ago. The state invokes Title 42 and uses coronavirus to deny people their rights. Police patrol land and water as if it were property. Shores disguised as murky borders by governments that collect dirt, dig deeper holes, and demand documentation. Even after a summer where people spilled into the streets across countries in protest, police departments remain militarized and brutal; demands that began as abolish the police became defund the police. Grief and rage become practices of endurance.
Under these conditions, I wear a mask and try not to dissociate, attend wakes where a woman sings a funeral song through Zoom. No one says the word alienation, but it echoes in arroyos between us. The number of deaths from COVID-19 ticks up higher and higher, but by now the news reports on how low everyday cases are becoming. I scroll through people across social media traveling abroad as if more than 4.5 million people haven’t died globally from the virus or aren’t still waiting for a chance to get a vaccine, as if the world was the same as it ever was. The same as it ever was. I don’t believe in miracles, only that there is no economy without extraction. Hope was marketed to us, but turns out it is just an NFT, a token we can copy but that doesn’t belong to us. Somehow, even hope is the property of someone else.
Still, I try not to forget the splendor of constellations. I crave nebulous pleasure from stars and beneath full moons. I search the sky for Ursa Major and wonder what Sun Ra would have said about the myth of Callisto. To watch the sea, stirred into motion by his music and not set ablaze by Petroleus Mexico. To sing under that melody, not hypnotized by water on fire. Not worrying about the ways that air poisons us, if haze from feed yards will pollute our throats, if smoke from wildfires destroys our lungs, if a virus we cannot see will make us a statistic.
Will grief follow me into the hollow earth?
Should I finally tell people the truth when they ask me how I am?
I wash my hands and remain unemployed, wondering if this is finally the year my hair will turn white.
 I desire one more conversation with my dead; instead of the ones in which someone asks me, “What are you up to these days?” I look for one of the many portals into the kingdom of Death, several are located in caves, underwater.
 We live in a universe in which hundreds of thousands die from lack of accessible healthcare, while three men build rockets and race to leave our stratosphere, to colonize space. I hope somewhere in the multiverse, capitalism does not exist.
Combining elements of the architectural and the memorial, landscapes and burials, mónica teresa ortiz imbues poetics with memory and haunting in order to move individual experience closer to the collective. They explore the relationships between necropolitics, geopolitics, and history. Born and raised in Texas, ortiz is the author of muted blood and autobiography of a semiromantic anarchist.