FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS
Your hand, which
sprouted in air
to carry what was dropped of water
banks in the face of your absence,
waves from a distance
in order for me not to see it.
I didn’t sleep near your neutrality
for the mirrors to dream
within us, I didn’t hide
trees in my blood
for me to resemble you
Why is it then when void illumines
what has leaked out of us
I diminish by one stone?
The wind amputates
my hands that are sails
in your shadow, and I walk
toward what the directions forgot
in me, the way a boat tugs
its remains toward a wave
that drowns it
in a candle’s light.
in the blue of sorrow,
on a wall
that has collided with my leap
then discarded what remained of me
in metaphor’s wideness.
I pass within you without
being touched by what
has flooded from you,
just as the smell of grass
over a cold grave
grasps the unknown
with severed fingers and forgets
the rest of its hand
in the vanishing
This wideness is
No exiting leads to it
and no trees
sprout for the prophets
ERIKA L. SÁNCHEZ
Love, remove your fingers
It’s true; I cup the grief
as if it were milk, as if it were the last of water
Quiet, you whistle in my brain
like a balloon.
What religion is this? Boredom
Look at me.
The burn you’ve left
on my arm: wet orchids.
Tomorrow, I will braid you
an awful necklace
made of hair.
And when the meaning is all gutted
from the day,
I will delight
in the sticky mess, in a swirl
so deep I forget myself.
carve up your favorite parts.
The ship is growing ash.
It slides into the dock’s artery.
Dragging a blanket of light,
the sun leans into water.
Your mitten empties
from my hand. Under a lattice
of wind, my hair lashes out.
scrapes the bumps from my skin.
I breathe in what you’ve left
behind. My own exhale
spills to my chin and into
the visible cold.
Your footsteps hammer out
some pulse. The ship is no longer
on fire. The ship is home.
Strips of black tire
push it back at the sea.
Taking the Leap
My faith had gone to the dogs.
Dogs will eat their own vomit
if you let them. That’s faith.
They swallowed my faith,
and I’m not sure they kept it down.
Fifteen, drunk, I fell back through the plaster
to avoid my mother’s kiss. She’d jumped
off a chair in front of me.
She’s eighty now, and blind.
My son, fifteen, forgot to take out
the garbage last night. I’d offered
to help him earlier, but he declined.
Declining is the slant here.
I’d tap dance through hell
to get a smile out of him.
Is he drinking yet?
I can still jump off chairs.
I’d jump off a chair to surprise my mother
if she could see me, if I could be sure
she would not fall.
Fragile and faith get rewound, refined,
redefined. My dog Prince once chewed
Jesus off the cross. Oh, we all had a laugh
over that. Helluva way to get resurrected.
We never gave my son faith in God
so he has not lost it. Just his faith
in us. He smiles a little when he’s lying
but he’ll cure that tick soon.
I edited that part out—about me being drunk—
for the family oral history. Just a cute little tale
of a man-boy not wanting to kiss his mother.
Last time we embraced was after he ran away
then came home. I’ve told him to run away
many times since. Even though that night
the porch light glowed and I sat there waiting
for him to leap back into our lives
and may have even prayed.
She pulled me out of the wall.
My ass covered in plaster dust.
Everyone admired the empty tomb
except my father who stuck his fingers in
to assess the damage.
My mother got another shot
in her hip last week so she can keep
that wheelchair in the garage.
It was hard throwing Jesus away,
even a chewed-up Jesus. No way
was he going back up on that cross.
My son, fifteen, forgot to take out the garbage.
Last week, a girl sprayed him with perfume
as a joke. He wouldn’t come near me. Sat alone
in the back seat as I drove him home.
We’re in freefall here. We’re tearing the walls
back to the studs. We’re excavating for relics.
We have no evidence. We’ve stopped taking pictures.
What did my mother see then? Why wouldn’t
I let her kiss me goodbye?
I’ve got enough sight left. The dogs
bark outside in the cold. Their breathe rises
in the street light and disappears.
He tells me he’s heard all my stories,
though I know that’s not true. He broke a chair
last week just sitting down.
My father sealed up the hole, though you could still see
the faint outline of where I fell.
He barges into my room without knocking, but won’t open
his door to talk, tries to shut it on me.
We fight about the basics—sleep, food, time—
we stick with what we know. My father hit me
for the last time when I was fifteen
and I’m sure I deserved it. Just an open hand
to the cheek. My son jolted away from my hand
on his shoulder on Christmas day
but opened all the gifts. We’ve got baby Jesus here
in the house of unbelievers. All I can say is
sometimes a good story can keep you going
a long time. I tap danced through hell
and even Satan applauded. I lifted
my guardian angel’s robe
and saw nothing underneath. Jesus escaped
out of a hole in the wall. My mother
got her sight back. She threw away her walker,
she sang, dancing with me like back
when I was little and laughed, thrilled
to be in her arms.
We lost our wings a long time ago, my son,
so take me in your arms, catch me
as I fall.
all from Pleiades 31.2 (2011), Eds Wayne Miller and Phong Nguyen