I've never given birth.

Please forgive me
for mistaking
long walks
for children.

I find soldiers, rattles,
teething rings.

I wear bonnets
on rainy days

when river mud
is indistinguishable
from water.

If I drown unexpectedly
send bibs
in lieu of flowers.

Please forgive me
the strays. Animals
are often the warmest
friends.

But if I had a child
I'd run with the same
wild indifference
as a boxer.

And when the children cross
with pets in their arms
I think of how quickly
we become muzzles
in this belligerent world.

Forgive my decision
to leave the swaddling
for stitched bellies,
frizzled hair.

Whenever I look
into a mirror I look
into absence, how the fullness

and brightness of a bed
or saucer necessitates
the transparency

of things that cannot
give life.

If I were a branch, I would be
mesquite without leaves.

Why is there no word
for the male equivalent
of 'spinster'?

Sometimes, fresh from the levee
they ask for water.
I remember how I bathed you
with two quaking hands.

In a way, I was doing the math
for your eventual flight.

I used to think there was nothing
more cruel
than the transposition
of parent and child.

But what of the childless?

What of baskets
filled with painted eggs?

What of funerals
where the only light
sprays from grieving mouths?

The river abandons its banks.

We become strangers
to each other or brothers
who have never shared a meal.

We are pregnant with something
but it is not life.

More by Rodney Gomez

Story About a Glacier

What I won’t tell you is how I became a flute
and brushed against lips but there was no music.
When the blows came furious as juniper.

There were days when I was a parachute
and the wind was free but kind. I won’t lie
and say there were no such days. There were days

when I curled into hailstone and pretended
it was only breezing outside. Another man’s music.
Eventually the need to unfurl overcame the need

to stay anchored. Tsunami greeted me in its maw.
I have his smell all about me but it dwindles every day.
What I won’t tell you is how I escaped. One day

I met a map at a bar. It pointed to a gash on its head
and said I could get there by becoming someone else.
Most of me was still scrawled on a carpet under a belt.

What was there to lose that I hadn’t already lost?
Alone, in the middle of the night, the road smelled
like freshly sawed mesquite. I wormed my way out.

A buckle still loomed in the background.
And I told myself, there is no gleam.

The Knife

What can you say about the knife that hasn't already been said? It is the same knife today as it was yesterday. Even if the law decided to melt it down, it would still be a knife tomorrow. You can travel back through the history of the knife & discover the America-like violence of its birth, how it carved yokes into brown bodies & how it chose night as its uniform. The knife very quickly discovered skin, blood, & the poor. The knife is an instrument & so takes its identity from the purpose of the hand that uses it. The knife can glide gracefully down a backbone in mimicry of a feather. Or it can leap from one carved island of bone to another. When I was given the knife I pretended to be a survivalist even though I lived in the inner city. The knife melted into milk in my hands & I poured it into the wailing mouth of my baby. It was redelivered into the world & made its way to an open sewer. A woodpecker used the knife to cut down the lone acacia on the block. The tree tumbled & soon it was as if nothing had ever grown there. Except the knife. From a sandy oval in concrete, the knife jutted like a mouse tail. It waited for someone who believed in dynamite.

Loss

Lately I have been a gap.
Moth clouds follow me to bed.
I counted them: twenty, fifty, block, choke.

In the room where I used to sleep
a breath hangs low on the bed
and hoarsens the room.
No one knows where the air is
charged and released into the world,
but it thistles.

This is how breathing fills a house
with family: breathing to draw
the buzzing to its source
and breathing to lacquer a plugged maze.

How a house fully beamed and walled
is not a house, but a husk.
How a life in the span of a few breaths
becomes a clockless thing.