I am better when I am dead
or when I am
dreaming.

Having finally entered
the carboned pistons
of your machinery.

You, as a boy,
racing through
the warm excess
of night’s soft decline.

When I rise
I kerosene 
my fingers

place my hands flat
on its weeping
branches.

The music is smashed
Wurlitzer, trashed and drug
up from a landfill
in Tazewell.

Earth mixed with quell
and the bright peal
of a mangled glockenspiel.

In the winter hills
of summer, a sick
foal in the barn,

and an old farmhouse
with all its clocks
pulled out.

Its cold room
filling miraculously
with the slow sediment
of forget.

More by Cynthia Cruz

Final Performance

I crawl along the wet floor
Of my mother's childhood,

A serpent, or a long-buried secret,
In my mother's bisque
Chiffon gown with small stars

Stitched in silver, a crown
Of tinsel pinned into the dark
Blonde knots and dreads of my hair.

I follow a sequin thread of dead
Things, stop when the moon clocks out,
Polish my long nails in the sun.

Hotel Berlin

In the rooms of a rundown palace
You said, Ruined. You said, Princess.

You said nothing to me
For three long weeks.

The color of that room
Is eel-black.

When I was a girl and still
German, I stood alone

At the end of the sea.
You may have loved me then

I sent a message through the cages
Of a great whale’s teeth.

For three weeks, I did not sleep.
I set jars of sweet milk and baskets

Of bright berries and red
Marmalade outside your door

In the dream
Where you come to me

I kiss your mouth
Tasting the secret

Letters of your history.
I swear

Somewhere in Siberia
A godly ocean of bison

Still roam free.
You, kneeling before me,

In this,
The last and final room.

Guidebooks for the Dead

Mother’s crimson leather bags
Crammed with saint cards
And tiny glass bottles of liquor.

The bright stitch
Of God’s final coming.

Dirt and dregs, silt and stars.

The sweet song
Of poverty

Rinsing through me
Like the memory
Of a dream.

Related Poems

I Cannot Be Quiet an Hour

I begin
to talk to violets.
Tears fall into my soup
and I drink them.
Sooner or later
everyone donates something.
I carry wood, stone, and
hay in my head.
The eyes of the violets
grow very wide.
At the end of the day
I reglue the broken foot
of the china shepherd
who has put up with me.
Next door, in the house
of the clock-repairer,
a hundred clocks tick
at once. He and his wife
go about their business
sleeping peacefully at night.

Jeju Island

Everything in the beginning is the same.
Clouds let us look at the sun.

Words let us watch a man about to be killed.
The eye-hollows of his skull see home.

When they stone him,
he knows what a stone is—each word, a stone:

The hole of his nose
as dark as the door I pass through.

I wander the halls numerously.
He’s no longer my grandfather in weight.

Among old bodies piled high, they aim.
Living can tranquilize you.

A Memory

When they finished burying me, what was left of me
sent up a demand like a hand blooming in the fresh dirt:

When I’m back, I want a body like a slash of lightning.
If they heard me, I couldn’t hear their answers.

But silence has never stopped me from praying.
Alive, how many nights did I spend knelt between

the knees of gods and men begging for rain, rent,
and reasons to remain? A body like the sky seeking

justice. A body like light reaching right down into the field
where you thought you could hide from me.

They’ve taken their bald rose stems and black umbrellas
home now. They’ve cooked for one another, sung hymns

as if they didn’t prefer jazz. I’m just a memory now.
But history has never stopped me from praying.