on holding rose water

My family never stopped migrating. We fight
so hard. With each other and ourselves. Don’t
talk about that. Not now. There is never
a good time and I learn that songs are the only
moments that last forever. But my mother
always brings me the instant coffee my
dede drank before he died. She wraps it
so carefully in a plastic bag from the market
that we go to when Caddebostan feels unreachable.
We don’t talk about that. Or the grief.
Or my short hair. I want to know what
dede would have said. I want to know that he
can feel the warm wind too if he tried.
We fight so hard. We open the tops of
each other’s heads and watch the birds
fly out. We still don’t talk about my dede.

Related Poems

Lullaby (with Exit Sign)

I slept with all four hooves
                       in the air or I slept like a snail

            in my broken shell.

The periphery of the world
                       dissolved. A giant exit sign

            blinking above my head.

My family sings
                       its death march.

            They are the size of the moon.

No, they are the size
                       of thumbtacks punched

            through the sky’s eyelid.

What beauty, what bruise.

                       What strange lullaby is this
            that sings from its wound?)

Here, my dead father knocks

                       on a little paper door. Here,
            my family knocks, waits.

Come through me, my darlings,

                       whatever you are: flame,
            lampshade, soap.

Leave your shattered shadows

                       behind. I’ll be the doorway
            that watches you go.

The Widower

Five winters in a row, my father knuckles

the trunk of his backyard pine

like he’s testing a watermelon.

He scolds smooth patches

where bark won’t grow,

breaks branches

to find them hollow.

He inhales deeply

and the pine tree has lost

even its scent. He grieves

in trees— my father, the backyard

forest king, the humble

king. The dragging his scepter

through the darkness king.

The wind splits him into shivers.

Rivers of stars

don him like a crown. My king

who won’t lay his tenderness down

trembles into the black

unable to stop

his kingdom from dying.

I have failed to quiet

the animal inside him.

If only I would

take his hand.

This man weeping

in the cold,

how quickly I turn

from him.

Patsy Cline

She’s in the desert
releasing the ashes of her father,
the ashes of her child,
or the ashes of the world. She is not

what she observes. The rare spinystar.
It does not belong to her. Bright needle threading
a cloud through the sky. There’s sun enough,
there’s afterlife. Her own body, a pillar of ash.
I fall to pieces, she says. Faithless

nimbus, faithless thought. In my life,
I have lost two men. One by death,
inevitable. One

by error: a waste. He wept
from a northern state,
hunger too cold
for human knowledge.

Once I was a woman with nothing to say. 

Never did I say ash to ash.
Never has the desert woken me up.
I said
who releases whom?

Inevitably, all have known
what the desert knows. No one
will count the lupine when I’m gone.

No one looks to the sun
for meaning. For meat
I’ve done so much less.

Cattle in the far basin, sagebrush, sage. 

I live in the city where I loved that man.
The ash of him, the self’s argument.

Now and then, I think of his weeping,
how my body betrays me:
I am not done with releasing.