A Short Tablature of Loss

A funeral home before the funeral.
                       The ghosts it despises.

           Evaporated holy water.
Messiah of satin roses.

                                  The prayer before it becomes a prayer:
in the throat, the machine for lamenting.


                       Musk of kindling after fire.
           Char, as in: these hands are reaching,
but all they can grasp is air.

                                  The road the hearse used to carry the body
to the wormhole.

                       A sling carrying a body with broken clocks.


My mother in her mainframe, captive
                      to pumps, pipes, irrigation tubes.

The spotlessness of her gown,
                                  immaculate hem of nurses’ smocks.

                      Wasping of night hours invading morning,
                                  spreading tick-tock like spilled salt.

           The way they pulled the needles off, as if freeing
a smoker’s lung from its escutcheon.


                                  My grandmother in her wheelchair
           at Good Samaritan Nursing Home, rubbing
                                  a rosary into dust, and flecks of gold leaf


on her lap, and the way she would stare

                      at a space in the wall as if God was speaking
                                  in that language.

Hurricane calm. Before the posts prayed.

           Coven of whistling thorns.

After the relocation of water: blessing and blessed.


           Coming home to that shack on Calle Tulipan.

                                  How the lawn had yellowed as phlegm.


                      How the blocks under the house had worried themselves loose.

           My father, who'd lost his leg in Korea, sprinting
along the fields to save our grapefruit from frost

                      and in his speed two spinnerets playing pat-a-cake.


The mark of the poor: tentativeness.


           A body crimpled into cassocks. The sunflower field
where it was abandoned, and the moon in its resignation.

                                  The dream of all hunters: to justify an absence
                      that requires sacrifice of innocent things.

Pulling petals from a dayflower to form a fence.

                                  Smoothing a rock to make a false eye.

           As if creating the missing of things
                                  could cure the loss of some others.

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.


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.