Origin of Drowning or Crossing the Rio Bravo


We don’t even remember
what we look like anymore.

Down here, everything is wrapped
in cloth and tied with yarn.

            The light
            inching through the swell—

            our backs glossy
            as a tooth dipped in honey.



Sometimes I want to climb down a tree in secret.
I want to stand in front of a crowd
and whisper a speech in secret.

                         If they can kiss you,
                         they can kill you.




You’re a star, honey,
everyone wants your picture.



             We’ve done this before.

We’ve played every couple in every movie
rubbing makeup on our faces that smears underwater.

                        You keep stuffing my plastic face
             in your plastic mouth
             thinking this will all make it better.

It might.

                                                             What if we rose
                                                above the water
                                                where the moon wraps
                                                             its legs around a man
                                                             too old to care?


I’m only saying what you want to hear.
You’ve heard every variation before.
             Nothing happens twice.




                            There isn’t anything interesting up there.
                            Only young lovers brimming over
                            with extinct longing.

Everything has a shadow and a yawn.
             Twiceness is not a thing of this world.



Be still, our children will come.

                            If you happen to come across someone,
                            and if they ask, say
                            he’s just playing dead.

                                          And then you’ll believe it yourself
                                          and will light a candle for me.

                            Nothing will convince you that prayer is a removal of self—
                                                    a distancing.

            Let’s continue this drowning
to remember what we look like.

                                          Let’s keep waking underwater
                                          until one of us gets it right.

Go ahead, sharpen yourself against these rocks.

                            Dress me in all your wet clothes.


Originally published in Cenzontle (BOA Editions, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo. Used with the permission of the poet.