lake-loop

            , because there was yet no lake
 
into many nights we made the lake
             a labor, and its necessary laborings
to find the basin not yet opened
in my body, yet my body—any body
wet or water from the start, to fill a clay
, start being what it ever means, a beginning—
the earth’s first hand on a vision-quest
wildering night’s skin fields, for touch
             like a dark horse made of air
, turned downward in the dusk, opaquing
a hand resembles its ancestors—
the war, or the horse who war made
             , what it means to be made
to be ruined before becoming—rift
             glacial, ablation and breaking
lake-hip sloping, fluvial, then spilled—
  
I unzip the lake, walk into what I am—
             the thermocline, and oxygen
, as is with kills, rivers, seas, the water
             is of our own naming 
I am wet we call it because it is
a happening, is happening now
 
imagined light is light’s imagination
a lake shape of it
             , the obligatory body, its dark burning
reminding us back, memory as filter
desire as lagan, a hydrology—
             The lake is alone, we say in Mojave
 
, every story happens because someone’s mouth,
a nature dependent—life, universe
             Here at the lake, say
, she wanted what she said
             to slip down into it
for which a good lake will rise—Lake
which once meant, sacrifice
which once meant, I am devoted
 
             , Here I am, atmosphere
sensation, pressure
, the lake is beneath me, pleasure bounded
a slip space between touch and not
slip of paper, slip of hand
             slip body turning toward slip trouble
, I am who slipped the moorings
             I am so red with lack
 
to loop-knot
or leave the loop beyond the knot
             we won’t say love because it is
a difference between vertex and vertices—
the number of surfaces we break
enough or many to make the lake
             loosened from the rock
one body’s dearth is another body’s ache
             lay it to the earth
 
, all great lakes are meant to take
             sediment, leg, wrist, wrist, the ear
let down and wet with stars, dock lights
distant but wanted deep,
             to be held in the well of the eye
woven like water, through itself, in
and inside, how to sate a depression
if not with darkness—if darkness is not
             fingers brushing a body, shhhh
, she said, I don’t know what the world is
 
I slip for her, or anything
, like language, new each time
             diffusionremade and organized
and because nothing is enough, waves
each an emotional museum of water
 
left light trembles a lake figure on loop    
             a night-loop
, every story is a story of water
             before it is gold and alone
before it is black like a rat snake
I begin at the lake
, clean once, now drained
             I am murkI am not clean
everything has already happened
always the lake is just up ahead in the poem
, my mouth is the moon, I bring it down
lay it over the lake of her thighs
             warm lamping ax
hewing water’s tender shell
slant slip, entering like light, surrounded
into another skin
             where there was yet no lake  
yet we made it, make it still
to drink and clean ourselves on

More by Natalie Diaz

My Brother At 3 AM

He sat cross-legged, weeping on the steps
when Mom unlocked and opened the front door.
     O God, he said, O God.
           He wants to kill me, Mom.

When Mom unlocked and opened the front door
at 3 a.m., she was in her nightgown, Dad was asleep.
     He wants to kill me, he told her,
           looking over his shoulder.

3 a.m. and in her nightgown, Dad asleep,
What's going on? she asked, Who wants to kill you?
     He looked over his shoulder.
           The devil does. Look at him, over there.

She asked, What are you on? Who wants to kill you?
The sky wasn't black or blue but the green of a dying night.
     The devil, look at him, over there.
           He pointed to the corner house.

The sky wasn't black or blue but the dying green of night.
Stars had closed their eyes or sheathed their knives.
     My brother pointed to the corner house.
           His lips flickered with sores.

Stars had closed their eyes or sheathed their knives.
O God, I can see the tail, he said, O God, look.
     Mom winced at the sores on his lips.
           It's sticking out from behind the house.

O God, see the tail, he said, Look at the goddamned tail.
He sat cross-legged, weeping on the front steps.
     Mom finally saw it, a hellish vision, my brother.
           O God, O God, she said.

Grief Work

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.

Why I Don’t Mention Flowers When Conversations with My Brother Reach Uncomfortable Silences

Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing
flowers home.
         —
Wisława Szymborska

In the Kashmir mountains,
my brother shot many men,
blew skulls from brown skins,
dyed white desert sand crimson.

What is there to say to a man
who has traversed such a world,
whose hands and eyes have
betrayed him?

Were there flowers there? I asked.

This is what he told me:

In a village, many men
wrapped a woman in a sheet.
She didn't struggle.
Her bare feet dragged in the dirt.

They laid her in the road
and stoned her.

The first man was her father.
He threw two stones in a row.
Her brother had filled his pockets
with stones on the way there.

The crowd was a hive
of disturbed bees. The volley
of stones against her body
drowned out her moans.

Blood burst through the sheet
like a patch of violets,
a hundred roses in bloom.

Related Poems

Iva's Pantoum

We pace each other for a long time.
I packed my anger with the beef jerky.
You are the baby on the mountain. I am 
in a cold stream where I led you.

I packed my anger with the beef jerky.
You are the woman sticking her tongue out 
in a cold stream where I led you.
You are the woman with spring water palms.

You are the woman sticking her tongue out.
I am the woman who matches sounds.
You are the woman with spring water palms.
I am the woman who copies.

You are the woman who matches sounds.
You are the woman who makes up words. 
You are the woman who copies
her cupped palm with her fist in clay.

I am the woman who makes up words.
You are the woman who shapes
a drinking bowl with her fist in clay.
I am the woman with rocks in her pockets.

I am the woman who shapes.
I was a baby who knew names.
You are the child with rocks in her pockets.
You are the girl in a plaid dress.

You are the woman who knows names.
You are the baby who could fly.
You are the girl in a plaid dress
upside-down on the monkey bars.

You are the baby who could fly
over the moon from a swinging perch
upside-down on the monkey bars.
You are the baby who eats meat.

Over the moon from a swinging perch
the feathery goblin calls her sister.
You are the baby who eats meat
the bitch wolf hunts and chews for you.

The feathery goblin calls her sister:
"You are braver than your mother.
The bitch wolf hunts and chews for you.
What are you whining about now?"

You are braver than your mother
and I am not a timid woman:
what are you whining about now?
My palms itch with slick anger,

and I'm not a timid woman.
You are the woman I can't mention;
my palms itch with slick anger.
You are the heiress of scraped knees.

You are the woman I can't mention
to a woman I want to love.
You are the heiress of scraped knees:
scrub them in mountain water.

To a woman, I want to love
women you could turn into,
scrub them in mountain water,
stroke their astonishing faces.

Women you could turn into
the scare mask of Bad Mother
stroke their astonishing faces
in the silver-scratched sink mirror.

The scare mask of Bad Mother
crumbles to chunked, pinched clay,
sinks in the silver-scratched mirror.
You are the Little Robber Girl, who

crumbles the clay chunks, pinches
her friend, givers her a sharp knife.
You are the Little Robber Girl, who
was any witch's youngest daughter.

Our friend gives you a sharp knife,
shows how the useful blades open.
Was any witch's youngest daughter
golden and bold as you? You run and

show how the useful blades open.
You are the baby on the mountain. I am 
golden and bold as you. You run and 
we pace each other for a long time.

How to Triumph Like a Girl

I like the lady horses best,
how they make it all look easy,
like running 40 miles per hour
is as fun as taking a nap, or grass.
I like their lady horse swagger,
after winning. Ears up, girls, ears up!
But mainly, let's be honest, I like
that they're ladies. As if this big
dangerous animal is also a part of me,
that somewhere inside the delicate
skin of my body, there pumps
an 8-pound female horse heart,
giant with power, heavy with blood.
Don't you want to believe it?
Don't you want to lift my shirt and see
the huge beating genius machine
that thinks, no, it knows,
it's going to come in first.

I Have Never Been Anything Like Pink

I have never been anything like pink
a child becomes a girl     and finally     when she heads for the dawn
there is one long road to M.     from Y.     a bus goes by every thirty
minutes
when she missed the bus     the girl
walked with a large brown bag     in the dark daytime
on a road lined with black woods on both sides
when a raven     flew over
she called out, "Poe"
Poe's "The Raven"     and Prison without Bars     were her only partners
to talk to
even now     she can dream     of that long road     sometimes the
characteristic whizzing
wind of Musashino     carried off the girl's black bobbed hair
childlike human beings      go walking on it like black specks

even though I call out     come here     I will put you on my palm
the girl     can't hear me
because she is walking in
the gray cloudy weather     where time's rain     of tens of years ago is
about to fall
the road     where the child became a girl     and finally
heads for dawn     is broken