Downstairs via the stairs, the janitor makes a fool of his bride, the broom. For us, imagining
bondage is enough. A red shed. My abdomen hurts, my thorax. Everyone unsure for pain is not
words. A dinner party stained the shed. That’s me. Rusted, rust and I are leaving. The girl turns
to me to say, “Definitely flesh. Flesh ineffable.” Guilt is not like pain. All of us can feel her guilt.
How can one be totally stagnant? Let me show you how. Let me show you how indefinitely
stagnant us birds can be.
mama found you in the alley
a baby owl
at the back entrance.
startled, she gathered stones
convinced of your foul nature,
as if someone sent you
to cast spells
your round eyes
were also terrified
father, delighted, picked you up
held you, to mama’s horror
I don’t want that thing here
And locked you in a cage
Neither with compassion
with desire and with dread
I’m going to sell it to my compadre
How much do you think he’ll give me
and so you were gone
who knows where, who knows
for how much.
did you go and meet
others. raise chicks.
Eat eyes, rodents.
Who knows if you were a woman,
a girl, and ancestor beggar, her brother
his mother, my sister
or just an owl
with perfect vision
Boldly, a Dog Poem
My dog Curfew figured out how
to scale the fence. When our paths
crossed I turned my back, hearing
him trade growls with a mechanic.
I was ashamed. Like when
the neighborhood snuffled over
our stuff in the garage. “That’s
Hibbett’s dog,” someone blabbed,
as if shoving the most secret me
under the school’s flood lamps.
Turns out Jimmy Stewart’s poem,
warbled sweetly on Carson one night, isn’t
bad. His dog didn’t mind, wasn’t
loyal. Just that extra lump
in the bed, soughing
into the blackness.
We know what he’s talking about.
“Oh there you are. And here am I.
This could work out.”
Of Hangers & Horses
learns to button his shirt
by buttoning our father’s flannel
he found in the closet
He hangs it outside
from the aspen’s barest limb
when he pulls
the buttons apart
it’s just like a father’s skull
like reservation skin
breaking open the torso
a hollow person
falling to the grass
Mom was breaking
into something bright
her favorite color
horse she’d say
a snowy appaloosa
breathing whinnying wide
in the field
Ganymede reads her mama’s text
where you at?
messin’ with Ur
partyin’ w/ Pluto?
U cruisin’ in ur
I’m waitin’ on you
U think mama have
nuffin’ better to do
than just be Sat?
waitin’ for u to
show ur lil’ moon
orbit yourself home
Go quietly, or you will disturb the dead.
The mist is so thick here, like a white
Famine is a woman with fragile bones
that cries at night, asking over and over,
“Where is your God now?”
The shovels are muddy, the ditch is dug.
A turtle passes the cemetery, reminding us
that he will outlive us all.
Scene from The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982)
A sheriff. Looking for a man who traded
A horse. A Translator. Tells about a man who
Supposedly denies trading a horse, who
Supposedly refuses to admit a crime, who
Supposedly says no man can arrest him.
A sheriff’s death. Translated as a murder.
When my clothes sat in suitcases, my uncle
Would translate the aches from my stomach
To the corner pharmacist. My haircuts to
Barbers. After the scissors and the pills, my
Hair would sometimes be just as long, and
My stomach would still gurgle its pain.
Now that my clothes are two sizes bigger
He is the one who tosses Spanish words
To me so that I can catch them, turn them
Into English and use them on someone
Else. I treat them as if they had shells
Around them. The time he had me meet
With his boss who had docked him
For having the flu, I dropped the words
On tile and he almost got fired.
Gregorio Cortez was an outlaw. The pistol
In his hand less dangerous than the Spanish
In his mouth. At night I take a dictionary
The size of a brick and use it to load my
English. No horses, sheriffs or wagons
On our roads. But the more words I load,
The more I get the urge to pull a trigger
And shoot aimlessly until the bullets
Sounds like a Spanish word hitting