Joe Amaral


My baby teeth met the brick steps
on my grandpa’s front porch.

I was running to feed the bunnies— or
prevent barn cats from tussling. I hadn’t

learned to headfirst slide palms out. Instead
I timbered: knee-scrape-knuckle-drag-face-

plant. The torn screen door thwapped
its cheap, plastic melody as Papa came

limping in his oil-coated coveralls.
He solemnly assessed me, nodded “Well.”

Worried animals bleated and chuffed.
A blackbird charcoaled the sky.

I lay blubbering, rolling on grass beneath
the riches of a robust orange tree

bleeding gums, incisors and eyebrows;
mucous sludge and saltlick tears.

Ants detoured around my quivering body
as Papa lovingly held me, purging every

injury in the cement tub attached to
the pumphouse where the overfull tank

grooved springwater along corroded
aluminum sheeting. The odor of mint,

tousled carrot, collard green and later,
pumpkin ice cream sprinkled with black-

berry pickings healed my wounds better
than any Band-Aid he could have given me.


Joe Amaral’s first poetry collection, The Street Medic, won the 2018 Palooka Press Chapbook Contest and his poem “Epochal” was a finalist for the 2019 River Heron Review Poetry Prize. His writing has also appeared in 3Elements Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, New Verse News, Panoply, Poets Reading the News, Rise Up Review, and Writers of the Portuguese Diaspora. Joe works 48-hour shifts as a paramedic on the California central coast, spending days off adventuring outdoors with his young family. You can find him at 

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