Poetry | September 01, 2001

Featuring the poems:

  • Romantic
  • Valentine’s ay
  • The Sound of Doves
  • On the Wing



A bull snake’s six-foot coil muscles the soil

in curls and messes. His tail is narrow,

pointed and taut.

I’m relieved he’s not a rattler.


I stand still over him,

ok, no problem, you be here,

I’ll move down the path,

his length woven around

limbs of September’s last Roprecos,

the remaining tomatoes dark, moist,

cool, near the earth where a sweet scent

implies everything is rotting: romantic.

The phosphorescent trunks swelling like throats

that spew green beads of nightshade dew.


The lizard, beneath the vitex’s blooms

of violet skirts, has a throat

in between birth and contraction.

Swirling like scrotum,

stirring S’s, the arched waves

above and below rippled flesh.

The lizard’s hazel eyes are horizontal slants

like a secret in my head,

the lizard I see in my husband’s face.


Is this the last monsoon

or is this autumn? I don’t know

when a season, a moment,

a breath

is anything different

than what it is. Change

is just change.


Valentine’s Day

Here, the dark sky

and the city between us.

A few classes of English

will hold us over again.

You on the farm everyday.

The cries of our babies

behind your head. You recite the list,

make sure I get it over their cranky voices.

Your calmness a rope I will hold

through all the errands—

heater pump for the truck, frozen juice,

diaper pins, Darjeeling. Until I am in the dark

of our bed, your thighs folding mine

under warm blankets,

your nose finding its place

in the crease behind my ear;

Milpa nuzzling for the nipple,

tiny fingers on her free hand strum

the lobe of skin over my ribs.


Again the memory

that you brought chiles for me to preserve.

A coffee can in your rough hands,

you brought your body. In no good condition,

made me feel that I should learn

to be useful.

You came afflicted,

a thrashed old suit.

I gave you the key to the front door,

not saying anything.

I handed you other entries, ones without keys,

fists of flowers. You breathe,

dive, open everything in me,

push to the surface, go in again.

Daily the wounds are closing. Smooth, pink blossoms.

You find the parts, fix yourself,

the feared dream.

I see how you put things together.

Compare. Say nothing.

Begin the quiet. It is new.

I am new at this attempt at grace.


The Sound of Doves

I felt your body approach and pause

between the door and the hallway. I am in the bath,

the length of my body folded to fit

and parts of me submerged. I watch a delicate form,

thin layers of bubbles attach themselves

to the fine hairs of my body.


My hand glides in an arc, a deep fine furrow

around my stomach, a tree of veins.


I see as if outside the body.

Beneath frayed cuticles, unshaven legs,

this crescent mound. The tiny streams breaking, layering.

Skin like rough terrain and

water not enough to cover all the stretches

from pregnancy and births.


You ask me to show myself.

Layered folds of skin from the births

of our children, this scar above my brow

that points to the sky,

fine hairs from the navel forming a passage

to dark magentas in the center of my womb.


I hear doves through the crumbling ceiling

flutter their wings

like sprays of water.


I hear their muffled cries in my shivering body

letting forth

like an uncertain chorus.


I listen to your breath

moving over my skin

like tiny wings.


On the Wing

The blue martins snatch

damselflies and stinkbugs

as they drift an evening thermal.

The largest of swallows, their size

is all in the tail.


I’m hanging laundry in autumn,

late in the day,

the stiff shadows of clothespins,

their oblique angle to earth,

and their large v-forms

oddly like martins

dipping and braiding for food.


With the blue martins’ return,

I surrender all my fear

to a past I can’t dismiss.

I won’t speak, nor forecast,

nor ask for a thing,

but just watch them

as they pull lavender-plum threads of evening

through the fiery kiln of sundown.


Tonight I’m praying for the buffalo

trailing that aurora,

a sky where night is day

and day is night and

what we say is dust

and what we can never say

goes into a prayer,

where I am you

and you are me

and we move this

into a spirit of the herd.


And when the herd returns

we’ll be hanging laundry on the line

we’ll be watching sparrows and doves

we’ll be listening to the children

when the herd returns

we’ll be painting the ancestors

we’ll be teaching under ironwoods in blossom

we’ll be suckling on our mothers’ soft breasts

when the herd returns

we’ll be asking for peace

we’ll be asking for a blessing

we’ll be making peace with our mothers

when the herd returns

we’ll make bread for our fathers and learn to plant corn

we’ll share our bounty with those who didn’t plant

we’ll eliminate poverty and hunger

when the herd returns

we’ll live with less

we’ll birth babies at home

we’ll sing them welcome songs when they crown

when the herd returns

we’ll be singing to bring rain

singing to heal our grief

singing to the moon.


I make a prayer for us.

That we’ll be singing like Inca doves

that we’ll be watching swallows on a thermal flow

that we’ll be the swallows eating dragonflies on the wing

when the herd returns.


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