Welcome, Joshua Garcia!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired over the past twelve months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you Joshua Garcia, whose forthcoming book Pentimento will be published next spring. 

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our June Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies), anthology proposals, and translations from German. 




The Author

Joshua Garcia’s debut collection, Pentimento, is forthcoming with Black Lawrence Press (March 2024). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Georgia ReviewNinth LetterNorth American ReviewPloughshares, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from the College of Charleston and was a 2021-22 Stadler Fellow at Bucknell University. He lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York. 




On Writing Pentimento

I started writing Pentimento before I knew I was writing a book. The first poems trickled in for a few years until eventually there was a flood. These poems started from a need to make sense of my faith and my queerness, which were equally influenced by and at odds with one another. At first, writing was a kind of prayer, but in the end, I think writing became an act of devotion to myself. The whole world changed as I was beginning to question my belief system and how I fit into the world. Many times art helped me make sense of what I couldn’t understand—Pentimento is a term in painting for a visible change or alteration in the artwork—and many of the poems in this collection are inspired by the artworks and artists who have shaped me along the way. I also think my poems are often love letters to friendship. 

Pentimento draws heavily on biblical allusion and my experience as a queer person in the Christian church. This experience was difficult and still haunts me, but it has also imbued in me a nuanced belief in rebirth. Rebirth or renewal is not a demolition of what existed but rather transforms what exists into something else, hopefully something better. Seven to eight years passed between the earliest poem and the last, and I changed many times as I was writing them. More than anything, I think these poems are about transformation—and I think, too, as I write this, that they might also be about what has stayed the same.


Selections from Pentimento


Salvator Mundi

At coffee, a would-be priest tells you the body
is God’s fingerprint in the world, a unique
impression of love pulsing in the grocery,
beating in the uncloaked chest at the pool,
a murmur in the arm raised to catch a cab.
He reads you a Prayer to the Sacred Heart,
& he, in his pink shirt, sfumatos with the heel
of a palm across the face. You imagine
his fingers in your mouth, your flesh twisted
in his hook. I like that you have a sweet tooth.
You tell a friend you want to hold your belief in God
down in the bath like one of those mothers
you read about in the news. The incarnation
is proof that the body matters. In painting,
a pentimento is the echo of an artist’s changed mind,
Italian—to repent—an object or a gesture altered,
replaced. In this way, a painting moves,
the shadow of a body’s I’m sorry. How much
money would it take for you to unthread a man?
Makes you think about the sanctity of life:
$450 million & Christ goes yachting with a Saudi prince,
the cosmos in his left hand & his right, erect,
two fingers held heavenward like the doctor’s
ready to tick inside you like a clock,
the sign of the cross, desiderio desideravi.
You stomach the blame for not knowing—
I wish you would be a little more gracious
& forgiving. Did something happen?
It’s like car problems: you don’t know shit.
A man on a dating app asks if you’re into kink.
You take mushrooms in the woods & ask
the clouds, or your elbow, Are there any reins
on this thing? Jesus reigns with a bit
in the mouth while pleasure bites away
at the pain, slowing the gentle draw of milk.
You practice surrender until there’s nothing left
to control. How many shades of pink come into focus
when you close your eyes? The Lamb’s open, glass & void.
Air empties from the pelt, its tight curls waving
in the bathwater & smiling, too.
I keep waking up in rooms I don’t remember entering,
and each time I am surprised at how much can happen to the body
without its knowing and how much the body holds,
our wounds invisible to us until time does its trick and wraps what hurts
in so much nacre we begin to treasure its iridescence.
I went on a walk the other day and took a new route
because even though I knew I’d end up in the same place, I needed
to get there differently this time. A man ran past me, and I was startled
when I did not hear him coming. I almost averted
my eyes as I usually do when a man’s luminance resembles

the coat on that pearl forever taking shape inside me. But this time I did not.
I watched him as he made his way ahead of me, the thread between us
growing thinner, longer. His back was slick with sweat,
and the way his muscles rebounded from the gravity of each measured step
made me think of God for some reason, how they say
he was man and how we, somehow, are mirrors of that.
A neighbor’s magnolia tree has begun to bloom, and I can’t help
but walk over when no one is home and pull a branch down to my nose.
In my own yard, a dead tree loses pieces of itself after every storm,
but there’s something about the way it grew—almost splitting in two
before turning back to lean on itself—that holds it up.

Poem with Starbucks and Kissing and Trees

My therapist asks me why I always return to lack,
and it may or may not be related, but it’s been on my mind,
so I finally tell him I might have been assaulted by a doctor.
I say might because I still don’t understand what happened
and because it took me eight years, one hour, and ten minutes
to build up to this, which is to say, We are over time.
I tell my therapist thank you, and we schedule an appointment for next week,
and as I wait for my order at Starbucks, I think of how shame
was handed to me like a decaf americano and how I accepted it
like a warmed slice of coffee cake. Thank you, I say to the barista.
Thank you, I say to the doctor, to the pastor, to my father.
Or maybe I say, I’m sorry, for being a door someone else forgot
to shut. Yet I say nothing when I pass a cute guy at a crosswalk,
thankful as I am for choosing this outfit today, which makes me think
maybe someday nothing will happen to me because I will be a happening.
And on that day, I won’t be afraid to kiss whichever guy I met online.
I’ll just do it because I want to, if I want to, and I won’t be afraid of where it might lead
or what he may want from me because my body will be too busy peeling back
the petals of his mouth. None of that he loves me, he loves me not business.
Only he kisses me, he kisses me, he kisses me, and suddenly,
like a memory returned or returning from a memory,
I lift my head in the breeze of a passing truck, and across the street
a line of trees holds to their last leaves like a red mist
released from an exit wound, and I think maybe someday
I will disrobe without counting all the rooms I have left open,
I will not wonder what will grow in that absence or what flora
will burst forth in some new color.