I’ve avoided opening my throat in fear the dead would rise, walk out of me, leave me emptier after their fleeting, and still get deported back into the abyss they climbed from. I don’t think they hunger me. They want to abandon and find a soft rock to lay their head on, a voice, an empty water jug, a song, the striking pain of a windless and deserted desert or a revolver or drugs or gang affiliations. Instead I hoax them to sit perched, their black wings all slick and crow-like while I drag the weight of Mexican unsung mourning in choir. Now I have someone to blame. My brother isn’t coming back from the dead and I won’t fix my scale. The tone will always be off, a crooked meteor slicing what’s left of the sky. Songs will remain unsung, the diaphragm, a cheap staircase, not even lullabies can squeeze out, my voice box sealed, a better state line than the Mexican-American border. This time mami won’t become one million doves in the driver seat while she sings to Jenni Rivera as we drive through the sandstorm. Instead she hardens, tells me of the desert roses tumbling across the desert, how just like us they have razor sharp petals as armor on their body from tumbling aimlessly for years. Memory still doesn’t strike a guitar string, the tíos are turning in their grave, while abuelita twists her mouth so we don’t see her teethless. We all have this disease, a black dove chewing on its feathers inside of a country inside us, trapped in the cave of us, we rage or corridos Chihuahuenses or a dying ensemble, but even if the song kills me I won’t set it free. It’s obvious I must avoid the eulogy that comes after talking about my brother’s death because it’ll haunt me, his death, it will follow me and take me too, and I want to sleep tonight.

Copyright © 2022 by féi hernandez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 18, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

what i want
from you can
you give? what
i give to
you do you
want? hey? hey?

From Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums.  Copyright © 1998 by Sonia Sanchez. Used with the permission of Beacon Press.