Sea Change

Sasha Pimentel
Morning, and light seams
through Juárez, its homes like pearls, El Paso

rippling in the dark. Today I understand 
the fact of my separate body, how it tides

to its own center, my skin crumbling from thirst 
and touch. The sun hangs

like a bulb in corridor: one city opening 
to another. When did my heart

become a boat, this desert the moving
chart of my palm? And when did pain invert

the sky to glaucous sea, each home on each hill 
rocking? I would give my lips

to a soldier if only he would take them 
as sextant, our mouths an arc, my tongue

the telescoping sight between. Below 
such light, the measure of boys

swimming cobbles, their stomachs 
dripping wild stamen. See

how they are clutching to their guns
like lovers, as if the metal could bear them.

Morning, and still in umbra, my dog
and I walk, her tongue a swinging rudder.

More by Sasha Pimentel

Golden Shovel: at the Lake’s Shore, I Sit with His Sister, Resting

                       Lost softness softly makes a trap for us.
                                                —Gwendolyn Brooks

Michael’s skin splinters below the water’s line, his navel and all murky and lost
like a city from my old life, or that scarf I’d loved, the softness

with which we sink into what disappears, and the country of his groin and knees so softly
already blackened. His sister snores below my hands. Her mouth makes

tadpoles. Her breath wet from chemotherapy, I’ve massaged her a- 
sleep. Her shoulders swell their small tides. The air burns leaves. I want to want to trap

her sighs, dividing the stillness, in glass, to a Mason jar: breath like smoke against a window—: for
this man halved by water. But we sit in sun and grit, watch the waves which lose us.

Touched by Dusk, We Know Better Ourselves

You map my cheeks in gelatinous dark, your torso  
floating, a forgotten moon, and a violin

crosses the sheets while you kiss me your mouth 
of castanets. I believed once my uncles lived

in trees, from the encyclopedia I’d carried
to my father, The Philippines, the Ilongot hunting

from a branch, my father’s chin in shadows. I try 
to tell you about distance, though my body

unstitches, fruit of your shoulder lit by the patio 
lamp, grass of you sticky with dew, and all

our unlit places folding, one
into another. By dead night: my face in the pillow,

your knuckles in my hair, my father whipping my 
back. How to lift pain from desire, the word

safety from safe, me, and the wind 
chatters down gutters, rumoring

rain. I graze your stubble, lose my edges mouthing your 
name. To love what we can no longer

distinguish, we paddle the other’s darkness, whisper 
the bed, cry the dying violet hour; you twist

your hands of hard birches, and we peel into 
our shadows, the losing of our names.

My Father’s Family Fasts the Slaughter to Feast the Arrival of His Bride

Ilocos, Phillippines

What did she permit him to see, my mother, the first time
he brought her to the ocean—the goat, hungry—mewling
in the distance while my mother shrugged her shirtsleeve 
down, her shoulder fragile in new day? Or was it her wrist 
which implied the unfreckling of her forearm? The susurrus 
of flycatchers . . . softened bleats of starving. A hawk is circling 
closer. What do we see when we see? I can see my mother,
but never my father. His shadow darkens her arm. Her breast

sinks to a curve we three know—, and there’s enough time 
for hair to come loose, the popping of a button. A rat reveals 
himself in the corner the way a woman tenses in and out
of light—: and my mother is coming to that point of breath- 
lessness, humidity speckling her birdwing clavicles—
and the goat’s hooves rustle—: above mud, before harm.