…we are the children of bridges, bridges made from our backs, our tears, our sacrifices,
and from all the ones who never made it across with us…. Junot Díaz
low tones solid as her father’s sweet bread
high notes sing the vibrato of son jarocho
of a woman near tears but speaking still
words deep within the memory of cells
the cells are theirs
the lengua is theirs not mine
I can’t presume to speak their truth
yet their indomitable vigor lifts me up
fills with me with a sense of solidarity
a feeling of common purpose
and feelings need not be truth
but are still facts
the strength of la gente bears me up
out of the inundation of hate
their strength through persecution
through the suppression of truth
their unbroken backs carry me
across the chasm seen between us
a bridge between fear and resolution
inspiring me to be a revolution
this bridge called their backs
when I slip and fall I see shoulders and arms
rise up from where knocked to the ground
and those hands reach out to steady me
stand me on my own feet and take my hand
the gift of strength from one heart to another
a kind word from one tongue to another
the gift of memories not mine but shared
like the voice of a cane flute
calling out to the stars
Read at the Librotraficantes event in El Paso, Texas on June 22, 2017
The Yellow Chair Review Rock the Chair challenge
She gazes at the flame between her eyes, holds her breath until she is nothing but heart, the world’s pulse between her ears. She finds black feathers at her doorstep, unsure if the augury is good or ill. Each night she folds her legs and disappears into the sacred fire. She greets the sunrise with a sigh.
Voices echo conversations on eschatology and doom. She hides from them behind guitars’ excruciating sweet. Words repeat themselves perpetually in silence. She sees pictures on the wall where there are none.
She knows little of souls but talks to the dead, visits them in their tombs inside her body. Somewhere outside her head, the smell of palo santo smolders. Somewhere, the sounds of hard wind through metal and water dripping. Floorboards creak and a door closes, of their own accord. She never knows whether her ghosts linger, or if she binds them to her, refusing to let them go.
In her sleep, she wraps herself in sheets like Lazarus. When she wakes, she arises from the grave into a world of dust and blinding sun, the desert heat a shroud. There are no dreams here, just her third eye ablaze. She dresses in the memory of rain. Her hair a burning nimbus, her reflection falls into the caves beneath her eyes.
Everything is bleached as coyote bones in this landscape she wanders, and every living thing has thorns. The path is full of rock, forlorn scat, and sorrow. Everyday she trips and falls.
When the flame fades she returns to now, along with ordinary sight. The flicker of candles glows on the other side of her eyelids. The sound of heartbeat subsides and that of barking dogs and sirens resume. She realizes the music had been inside her head, as had the desert, the thorns, and the talking dead.
Someone said Anne Sexton wrote poetry so Kurt Vonnegut could conquer fear
coerced confessions never the most reliable
you want truth then look at Botero’s art
stick my head in a latrine and call me Rover
leash me beat me send photos to your friends
I’ll tell you every truth that never existed
shackle my hands to the dungeon wall
fetter my ankles and dress me in a red bra
be sure to match the panties painted on me
show my hairy arm pits my hairy knees
my face and belly and disgusting arms
what you want me to be what you’re afraid I am
soon I’ll confess both my sin and your own
I am a spy who bears incendiary thought
the hand of an angry god ready for retribution
put a collar on my throat sing cantatas of jeers
I call Lowell mama and Plath was my daddy
Sexton became my lover on the asylum path
I got no poppa and momma doesn’t want me
I’m not a normal woman I have needs
she breathed into my ear I want it all the time
at least I did before these new little pills
Dear Abby got it all wrong at least about me
she says women think about sex only rarely
while she claims men do every other minute
she’s wrong or I’m not natural the votes are in
It’s not that I see people as walking dicks or cunts
I’m no kvetching Portnoy either I don’t complain
it’s not like I’m even very good anymore I fear
the way they all leave I must have lost my touch
but still I have my needs my needs my needs
I hear your rhythms in words inside my head
put your hands around my neck inhale my breath
she confessed my madness in lie after naked lie
she chronicled my strife in every precise detail
torturous connections described everyone’s fear
her breath in my ear made me want to be her poppa
hold her in my arms and carry her to a sturdy bed
listen to her prayers and lick her throat with kisses
hide my excitement behind a mask of care
but I knew exactly how it would all turn out
standing on the path behind a cold stone wall
she’d forget me as soon as she found another
that’s if she’s ever able to forget me at all
she was running for the streets when she found me
I was running from the streets when I moved in
she told me stories about family but nothing real
she sang Jim Carroll lullabies throughout the night
a song about people he knew who died so young
she let me sleep by day against the doctor’s order
she didn’t like how wet I get didn’t like my smell
I left her to be Edward Hopper’s waiting redhead
and now live on the always lonely side of the pain
condensation on glass my paper and flesh my pen
blood for ink scrawled across a threatening wall
a rhyme on my lips I’ll jump into my own grave
and I shall die sullen no one knowing my name
split me in threes with your spite part poppa part
meat-hook part the me that lurks in sordid glass
since I’ve already been to Brooklyn as she said
there’s nothing more to expect from this life
but it’s not her I want now that she’s left me
it was the thrill of meeting her on that path
I gaze into the mirror like a Botero beauty
I always hear her rhythms inside my head
I’ll forget about her as soon as I find another
that is if I’m ever able to forget her at all
I don’t think about her now except sometimes
those random dark hours when I call her name
So she took a lover. (Or did the lover take her?)
So many years have passed between then
and now. It’s hard to sort it out.
The painting in the attic old and oozing.
The two of them are strangers now. She’s
grown a beard in solidarity with a dying dog.
Sandblast wind straight to the eye of god.
No more moisture, neither kind is welcome.
And isn’t the truth overrated anyway?
The universe sucked into its own black hole.
Nothingness and nowhere somewhere
on the other side of somethingness. Let us
give thanks for gravity, despite the bags
and sags and drooping downs. It’s not
the end of the universe after all. Gravity,
in the end, is our salvation. There on the lip
of nowhere, there where Gravity dons leotards,
a jock strap, and cape and saves the day. That is,
saves the universe. Some version of something
returns as we bounce higher, farther than the
reach of energy and matter. Begin again.
There was an old man named Michael
Finnegan. Dead so long ago, but the wake
continues. The infinite return of death.
Lust will resume after this break for station
identification. Only the shadow knows for sure.
The dying daddy wanted to know, what is love,
anyway? And she wonders as she wanders
through time and space if he ever knew the answer
before that last breath or at any time when young.
She wonders when will the widows ever learn, pity
is not love. Aid is not commitment. Lust dies.
The first question being answered,
there is nothing more to say.