At Hobby Lobby

She tosses a bolt of fabric into the air. Hill country, prairie, a horse trots there. I say three yards, and her eyes say more: What you need is guidance, a hand that can zip a scissor through cloth. What you need is a picture of what you've lost. To double the width against the window for the gathering, consider where you sit in the morning. Transparency's appealing, except it blinds us before day's begun. How I long to captain that table, to return in a beautiful accent a customer's request. My mother kneeled down against her client and cut threads from buttons with her teeth, inquiring with a finger in the band if it cut into the waist. Or pulled a hem down to a calf to cool a husband's collar. I can see this in my sleep and among notions. My bed was inches from the sewing machine, a dress on the chair forever weeping its luminescent frays. Sleep was the sound of insinuation, a zigzag to keep holes receptive. Or awakened by a backstitch balling under the foot. A needle cracking? Blood on a white suit? When my baby's asleep I write to no one and cannot expect a response. The fit's poor, always. No one wears it out the door. But fashions continue to fly out of magazines like girls out of windows. Sure, they are my sisters. Their machines, my own. The office from which I wave to them in their descent has uneven curtains, made with my own pink and fragile hands.

More by Rosa Alcalá

Fushigi na Chicharron

(for Sergio Mondragón)
1.

The body's hidden face
removed of its excesses
is cooked into a codex
that reads:          
this little piggy went to market            
this little piggy piled high
illuminates
what's meant by surface.
 
Everywhere a nation awaits, 
a cardboard raft
soaks through. Everywhere is
a drink of water                                                                            
swimming with the dead:
 
Leagues that can't be reached 
or spoken.
 
2.

A man in the plaza 
sweats beneath
the synthetic hide 
of historical sacrifice
and does a dance
making tourists 
in t-shirts
feel
so alive.
 
 
Far north 
an altar will be built
for the seamstress
forgotten in piecing
such garments.

3.

The question, as we sit 
by the grill, becomes:
What is the real animal 
between us?
 
What skin do we stretch,
scrape and tension with
our desire 
for expansion? For books
that leap like bodies
not our own?
 
So we can never end
with more or less
than this:   What
does it mean to start here, 
with a taco de chicharrón,
as if to say "fushigi na en"
the encounter and consumption of skin
launches every ship?

"Fushigi na en" is related to the Japanese concept of fate or destiny—i.e., when two people are bound to meet or feel a connection upon meeting. Chicharrón is fried pork rind.

You & the Raw Bullets

Why the image just now of a bullet entering the mouth? Why call it raw, when it isn’t sticky and pink like a turkey meatball, just the usual: gold, and shiny, and cylindrical? What about this bullet is uncooked? Why does it multiply with you in parka or short skirt, versions of the you that you were, swallowing raw bullets as you walked? The images come without assailant, without gun, just the holes the bullets opened, the holes through which they went. And now at the age in which you ride enclosed in glass like the Pope or President you are spitting up the bullets slow-simmered in your own juices. You are shitting them out, feeling them drop from you in clumps of blood, in the days of bleeding left. But you cannot expel all of them. Some, raw as the day they entered, have expanded their mushroom heads into the flesh, or lodged their hot tip into the taste center of the brain. Will the tongue’s first encounter with pomegranate seeds be forever a lost Eden, that fruit of your girlhood, which, also meaning grenade, was perhaps never innocent? Do your own raw bullets come back to you, my friends? Let us legislate the active voice, instead. Not, “Many bodies have been used as blanks, aluminum cans.” But, “Here are the men who pulled the trigger, look at them.”

You Rode a Loop

You rode your bike from your house on the corner to the dead end of the street, and turned it around at the factory, back to the corner again. This was the loop your mother let you ride, not along the avenue with its cavalcade of trucks, or up the block where Drac the Dropout waited to plunge his pointy incisors into virginal necks. You can't remember exactly your age, but you probably had a bike with a banana seat, and wore cutoff jeans and sweat socks to the knees. You are trying to be precise but everything is a carbon-like surface that scrolls by with pinpricks emitting memory’s wavy threads. One is blindingly bright and lasts only seconds: You are riding your bike and the shadowy blots behind the factory windows’ steel grates emit sounds that reach and wrap around you like a type of gravity that pulls down the face. You can’t see them but what they say is what men say all day long, to women who are trying to get somewhere. It’s not something you hadn’t heard before. But until then, you only had your ass grabbed by boys your own age—boys you knew, who you could name—in a daily playground game in which teachers looked away. In another pin prick, you loop back to your house, where your mother is standing on the corner talking to neighbors. You tell her what the men said, and ask, does this mean I’m beautiful? What did she say? Try remembering: You are standing on the corner with your mother. You are standing on the corner. This pinprick emits no light; it is dark, it is her silence. Someday you will have a daughter and the dead end will become a cul de sac and all the factories will be shut down or at the edges of town, and the men behind screens will be monitored, blocked. And when things seem safe, and everything is green and historic and homey, you will let her walk from school to park, where you’ll wait for her, thanks to a flexible schedule, on the corner. And when she walks daydreaming along the way and takes too long to reach you, the words they said will hang from the tree you wait under.

Related Poems

Thread

I lack the rigor of a lightning bolt,
the weight of an anchor. I am
frayed where it would be highly useful—
and this I feel perpetually—to make a point.
 
I think if I can concentrate I might turn sharp.
Only, I don't know how to concentrate—
I know only the look of someone concentrating,
indistinguishable from nearsightedness.

It is hard for you to be near me,
my silly intensity shuffling
all the insignia of interiority.
Knowing me never made anyone a needle.