Separation Wall

- 1952-

When the milk is sour,
it separates.

The next time you stop speaking,
ask yourself why you were born.

They say they are scared of us.
The nuclear bomb is scared of the cucumber.

When my mother asks me to slice cucumbers,
I feel like a normal person with fantastic dilemmas:

Do I make rounds or sticks? Shall I trim the seeds?
I ask my grandmother if there was ever a time

she felt like a normal person every day,
not in danger, and she thinks for as long

as it takes a sun to set and says, Yes.
I always feel like a normal person.

They just don’t see me as one.
We would like the babies not to find out about

the failures waiting for them. I would like
them to believe on the other side of the wall

is a circus that just hasn’t opened yet. Our friends,
learning how to juggle, to walk on tall poles.

Two Countries

Skin remembers how long the years grow
when skin is not touched, a gray tunnel
of singleness, feather lost from the tail
of a bird, swirling onto a step,
swept away by someone who never saw
it was a feather. Skin ate, walked,
slept by itself, knew how to raise a 
see-you-later hand. But skin felt
it was never seen, never known as
a land on the map, nose like a city,
hip like a city, gleaming dome of the mosque
and the hundred corridors of cinnamon and rope.

Skin had hope, that's what skin does.
Heals over the scarred place, makes a road.
Love means you breathe in two countries.
And skin remembers--silk, spiny grass,
deep in the pocket that is skin's secret own.
Even now, when skin is not alone,
it remembers being alone and thanks something larger
that there are travelers, that people go places
larger than themselves.

Fuel

Even at this late date, sometimes I have to look up
the word "receive." I received his deep
and interested gaze.

A bean plant flourishes under the rain of sweet words.
Tell what you think—I'm listening.

The story ruffled its twenty leaves.

*

Once my teacher set me on a high stool
for laughing. She thought the eyes
of my classmates would whittle me to size.
But they said otherwise.

We'd laugh too if we knew how.

I pinned my gaze out the window
on a ripe line of sky.

That's where I was going.

The Man Whose Voice Has Been Taken From His Throat

remains all supple hands and gesture

skin of language
fusing its finest seam

in fluent light
with a raised finger

dance of lips
each sentence complete

he speaks to the shadow
of leaves

strung tissue paper
snipped into delicate flags

on which side of the conversation
did anyone begin?

wearing two skins
the brilliant question mark of Mexico
stands on its head
like an answer