I don’t call it sleep anymore.
I’ll risk losing something new instead—
like you lost your rosen moon, shook it loose.
But sometimes when I get my horns in a thing—
a wonder, a grief or a line of her—it is a sticky and ruined
fruit to unfasten from,
despite my trembling.
Let me call my anxiety, desire, then.
Let me call it, a garden.
Maybe this is what Lorca meant
when he said, verde que te quiero verde—
because when the shade of night comes,
I am a field of it, of any worry ready to flower in my chest.
My mind in the dark is una bestia, unfocused,
hot. And if not yoked to exhaustion
beneath the hip and plow of my lover,
then I am another night wandering the desire field—
bewildered in its low green glow,
belling the meadow between midnight and morning.
Insomnia is like Spring that way—surprising
and many petaled,
the kick and leap of gold grasshoppers at my brow.
I am struck in the witched hours of want—
I want her green life. Her inside me
in a green hour I can’t stop.
Green vein in her throat green wing in my mouth
green thorn in my eye. I want her like a river goes, bending.
Green moving green, moving.
Fast as that, this is how it happens—
soy una sonámbula.
And even though you said today you felt better,
and it is so late in this poem, is it okay to be clear,
to say, I don’t feel good,
to ask you to tell me a story
about the sweet grass you planted—and tell it again
until I can smell its sweet smoke,
leave this thrashed field, and be smooth.
My mother said this to me
long before Beyoncé lifted the lyrics
from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs,
and what my mother meant by
Don’t stray was that she knew
all about it—the way it feels to need
someone to love you, someone
not your kind, someone white,
some one some many who live
because so many of mine
have not, and further, live on top of
those of ours who don’t.
I’ll say, say, say,
I’ll say, say, say,
What is the United States if not a clot
of clouds? If not spilled milk? Or blood?
If not the place we once were
in the millions? America is Maps—
Maps are ghosts: white and
layered with people and places I see through.
My mother has always known best,
knew that I’d been begging for them,
to lay my face against their white
laps, to be held in something more
than the loud light of their projectors
of themselves they flicker—sepia
or blue—all over my body.
All this time,
I thought my mother said, Wait,
as in, Give them a little more time
to know your worth,
when really, she said, Weight,
meaning heft, preparing me
for the yoke of myself,
the beast of my country’s burdens,
which is less worse than
my country’s plow. Yes,
when my mother said,
They don’t love you like I love you,
Natalie, that doesn’t mean
you aren’t good.
*The italicized words, with the exception of the final stanza, come from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs song "Maps."
I have gazed the black flower blooming
her animal eye. Gacela oscura. Negra llorona.
Along the clayen banks I follow her-astonished,
gathering grief’s petals she lets fall like horns.
Why not now go toward the things I love?
Like Jacob’s angel, I touched the garnet of her wrist,
and she knew my name. And I knew hers—
it was Auxocromo, it was Cromóforo, it was Eliza.
It hurtled through me like honeyed-rum.
When the eyes and lips are touched with honey
what is seen and said will never be the same.
Eve took the apple in that ache-opened mouth,
on fire and in pieces, from the knife’s sharp edge.
In the photo her fist presses against the red-gold
geometry of her thigh. Black nylon, black garter,
unsolvable mysterium—I have to close my eyes to see.
Achilles chasing Hektor round the walls of Ilium
three times. How long must I circle
the high gate above her knees?
Again the gods put their large hands in me,
move me, break my heart like a clay jar of wine,
loosen a beast from some darklong depth—
my melancholy is hoofed. I, the terrible beautiful
Lampon, a shining devour-horse tethered
at the bronze manger of her collarbones.
I do my grief work with her body—labor
to make the emerald tigers in her hips leap,
lead them burning green
to drink from the violet jetting her.
We go where there is love, to the river,
on our knees beneath the sweet water.
I pull her under four times
until we are rivered. We are rearranged.
I wash the silk and silt of her from my hands—
now who I come to, I come clean to, I come good to.
My river was once unseparated. Was Colorado. Red-
fast flood. Able to take
anything it could wet—in a wild rush—
all the way to Mexico.
Now it is shattered by fifteen dams
over one-thousand four-hundred and fifty miles,
pipes and pumps filling
swimming pools and sprinklers
in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
To save our fish, we lifted them from our skeletoned river beds,
loosed them in our heavens, set them aster —
‘Achii ‘ahan, Mojave salmon,
Up there they glide, gilled with stars.
You see them now—
god-large, gold-green sides,
moon-white belly and breast—
making their great speeded way across the darkest hours,
rippling the sapphired sky-water into a galaxy road.
The blurred wake they drag as they make their path
through the night sky is called
‘Achii ‘ahan nyuunye—
our words for Milky Way.
Coyote too is up there, crouched in the moon,
after his failed attempt to leap it, fishing net wet
and empty, slung over his back—
a prisoner blue and dreaming
of unzipping the salmon’s silked skins with his teeth.
O, the weakness of any mouth
as it gives itself away to the universe
of a sweet-milk body.
Just as my own mouth is dreamed to thirst
the long desire-ways, the hundred-thousand light year roads
of your throat and thighs.