Manhattan is a Lenape Word

It is December and we must be brave.

The ambulance’s rose of light
blooming against the window.
Its single siren-cry: Help me.
A silk-red shadow unbolting like water
through the orchard of her thigh.

Her, come—in the green night, a lion.
I sleep her bees with my mouth of smoke,
dip honey with my hands stung sweet
on the darksome hive.
Out of the eater I eat. Meaning,
She is mine, colony.

The things I know aren’t easy:
I’m the only Native American
on the 8th floor of this hotel or any,
looking out any window
of a turn-of-the-century building
in Manhattan.

Manhattan is a Lenape word.
Even a watch must be wound.
How can a century or a heart turn
if nobody asks, Where have all
the natives gone?

If you are where you are, then where
are those who are not here? Not here.
Which is why in this city I have
many lovers. All my loves
are reparations loves.

What is loneliness if not unimaginable
light and measured in lumens—
an electric bill which must be paid,
a taxi cab floating across three lanes
with its lamp lit, gold in wanting.
At 2 a.m. everyone in New York City
is empty and asking for someone.

Again, the siren’s same wide note:
Help me. Meaning, I have a gift
and it is my body
, made two-handed
of gods and bronze.

She says, You make me feel
like lightning
. I say, I don’t ever
want to make you feel that white
.
It’s too late—I can’t stop seeing
her bones. I’m counting the carpals,
metacarpals of her hand inside me.

One bone, the lunate bone, is named
for its crescent outline. Lunatus. Luna.
Some nights she rises like that in me,
like trouble—a slow luminous flux.

The streetlamp beckons the lonely
coyote wandering West 29th Street
by offering its long wrist of light.
The coyote answers by lifting its head
and crying stars.

Somewhere far from New York City,
an American drone finds then loves
a body—the radiant nectar it seeks
through great darkness—makes
a candle-hour of it, and burns
gently along it, like American touch,
an unbearable heat.

The siren song returns in me,
I sing it across her throat: Am I
what I love? Is this the glittering world
I’ve been begging for?

 

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.