The worst work of my hands is in English—: I’m a chiral body writing into what I cannot coincide. 

I’ve come to the mountain to bless these hands back. Clay clod & gypsum—: a way my body has been & will become. I rename one hand Occupied Territory, call to the other Amante Verde. & the mountain sobs its hornblende to the surface. 

I am known in this place—: of Creation & cascabel. Mojave Greens are my relatives. I holograph in the ambient heat, green quicked with copper. Don’t play with snakes they say Don’t play with your own power.

Beneath the granite boulders the hibernaculum cools, empty with shed skins—: their spectered shells, curled ribbons of fried light.  

The pressure of molecule & memory—: atmosphere bears touch on loop, apparates everything it has held. The salted swastiks of their bodies, thick, rope-heavy, a scent you have to lift. 

My flesh-light cleaves their old energy eyes, slips each slit of limonite & aperture. In them I am struck—: a fever image. They coil into their handless work of transmutation, into radio sensation, rattling the hair on my forearms. 

She recognizes me not as human but as her own imagination. I am granite reorganized, a formation—: yet forming. I dream with the mountain because I am of the mountain.

Grief for my elemental life respires my body. My snakes lick me from the wind like a chemical, return me to electric signal—: a web of small lightning suturing the mouth to the skull. Pleasure, unlanguaged & noise.

I was dreamed into being—: I was the dreamer. Skin fleshes the world it’s made of, in overwhelm. 

Cloud shadow drifts a gray whale across the salt flats—: a periphery of white halite crust surrounds its slow shade. My lover crystallizes this same way along the ridges of my knuckles & back of my hand, the dorsal side, as we also call a fin—: I surfaced from deep submersion. 

There is no pleasure not earthen or wet. Ancient ocean, we say—: & we mean every body.

Sand’s gentle crust of berm edging the wash—: the desert a hot pie, juiceless yet swelling mirage. The neon red sign of a jackrabbit’s spine eaten to its glow, dropped from the sky, flickers in the bleach-light gushing the open land.

How much love can a desert drink to bone? How many bodies—: pressed beneath this tectonic pie?

A shelled vehicle in landscape—: rust-burning, slow bleed of oxide having laced the chassis, licked the light bucket to chrome edges. 

A ram’s scattered skeleton—: empty lake of pelvis, desert grapevines threading the bone sockets, tugging the jaw vee deeper into the canyon. Its broken horn is a curl of gold telephone I hold to my eye. I am dislocated. Some knowledge is not mine, some is but I haven’t arrived there yet. 

A long time ago the wind licked the coyote’s skull to glass—: this is how we happen. Atom-born, I bend back the atom world. My inheritance is hydrogen. How rain & clouds happen to one another—: wet though risen up from dust, abundant. 

We have no word for God. It is sky because someone said it was. Until then, it was only what was in it: giant fish with pharyngeal teeth, orange sand clouds, & ‘Amo—: the bighorn sheep made of stars & staggered, spear still warm from the warrior’s hand, 

its shattered torso notching the night. The first wound was a clock, our hunger. We ate the mountain sheep—: now our moon is a curve of cold fat congealing on a blued bone & lives in daylight, diurnal leftover.

Over night’s black dunes we follow the trail of ‘Amo’s white face. If I speak of love—: who will believe me? The only poets in this desert are beryl & jasper. 

Thunder is not thunder but the air broken by lighting. My lover backlit like a thunderhead, strapped with night until the softness of her hips disrupts—: her light-wet hands & cock. I am the sound I make breaking in a room. 

We are always becoming—: from somewhere. Desire is a blood-colored worm flexing the sand sea around me. I have a power I am learning to be careful with.

They say When you see Numet, she’s already been watching you. The stroke her long tail drags in the sand disappears where the loose wash turns granite outcrop. Looning & lonely, I thundercat—: stalk myself through wind-flooded canyons, watch myself happen to me in the map of my hand. 

In the beginning we didn’t understand the bullet. It had no head, no arms or legs—: Menamentk we said. It crossed the water. We named it ‘Anya kwa’oorny. We named it Of the Sun. We had no word for shore, except how water touches land.  

They gave us the word shore for their bullet to arrive on. Then said our flesh was also Shore—: so we called the bullet Bullet. We name things for what is done there.

The injuries of becoming human. Tuu’achk—: shoulder blades from turtle shell, hand from wing. The carpus erupting petals of wrist—: bone-flower, flesh.

Bats ripen like fruit in the lava fields, in volcanic caves of basalt. Dusk buds their breathing wings—: flowering angel-beasts. The bats remember when we loved ourselves & called so tenderly into twilight that our words brought us the throbbing world—: mosquito & blood. Kenakenem. 

Even the eye’s small water will evaporate to quench the sun. I search the rain from the tongues of my skin—: it is four months away. 

The horse has been dead in the dunes all summer. Sun-chromed ravens in early devotion opened each bright window along its bloated belly—: unthreaded red curtains. 

Desert as Plutonian shore—: the torso open, a sand-torn sail of hide flapping above the funeral boat. In Mojave a horse is what it does & how it does it, but our word for boat is a wooden box. 

Mesquite pods drip in light from turquoise branches. Coyotes mistake the pool for moon water. If the shepherds don’t poison the coyotes—: the coyotes will eat the pods & scat them out. 

Scarification—: the obligation of breaking, of rock & whelm.

Every scar loses its wound. In the valley of loss I shift shape, an ache—: become one hundred coyotes in the ‘analy grove weeping from every fleshed door of my body.

The land of Death is a duned land. Xeric. Saly’aay. Saly’aat. We burn our dead we say—: because we do. Touch me I say, because it’s a story we become.

Copyright © 2021 by Natalie Diaz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 23, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.