It's no curse
dragging my belly across
the steaming sand all day.
I'm as thick as a callus
that has shorn off its leg.
If you find me I can explain
the trail made by a single limb.
I am not a ghost.
Do not be afraid.
Though there are ghosts here—
they strip down to wind
or slump against rock to evaporate.
Sometimes I crawl beneath the shedding,
backing up into the flesh pit for shade.
Praise the final moisture of the mouth, its crown
of teeth that sparkles with silver or gold.
I make a throne of the body
until it begins to decay.
And then I'll toss the frock—
death by hunger, death by heat—
off the pimples of my skin.
Don't you dare come into my kingdom,
peasant, without paying respect on your knees!
What generous act did I commit
in my previous life, that I should be
rewarded with this paradise:
a garden in which every tree that takes root here
drops its fruit eye-level to me.
from "Apocalipsixtlán" [12. A Second Crack in the Earth]
The pond of bones begins to rattle. Even Mother’s
throne collapses, her body disassembles. The ground
turns to quicksand as it trembles and swallows
every socket, every thorn, every pebble. In a single
gulp the bed beneath the Smaller Ones swirls down
a funnel. The earth has groaned like this before.
We know what to expect though it doesn’t help
us guess which plate will lift its crust and which
will crumble. The dust is blinding. It separates us
as we scramble. Unknowingly, some of us run
right into the opening and plummet. We hear
no screams. We hear no cough though we see us
spitting ink—the gas unleashed has cooked our
lungs. Slowly the collective gathers in the shadow
of the clouds. We must guide our shattered spirits
to a shelter before the mists release their acid.
In our ears the ringing doesn’t stop. It will take
a week and some of us will get the sickness—that
rabid urge to kill and tear apart what’s whole.
We fear no second crack. We fear another purge.
We wrap our arms around our bodies, swaying back
and forth—we’re motherless cradles, candle stubs
whose flames have melted down to callus. We are
silent but for the piercing shrill inside our heads.
Cocooned in misery, we might have missed this
spark of light entirely, but there it is, lifting heavy
chins from chests: a firefly—an actual firefly,
beautiful bug from our fantasy game, a reality
here among the detritus of the world, rising from
its dregs, a flicker, a flash, a wink of vital breath.
We try to catch the little star but it eludes our grasp.
We let it be, it comes to rest upon a knee. Dare we
ask if this means the planet now spins in opposite
direction? Does it begin to mend its ruptures, unclog
its river paths? The firefly fades but its ghost remains.
No more dreams, no more questions. Sleep, tiny hope,
we do not know what threats or sorrows we’ll
encounter next. Tomorrow is a story for those who
make it through the present chronicle—uncertainty,
scarcity—we the ephemeral have inherited this earth.