The Small Claim of Bones

Cindy Williams Gutiérrez

what my body knows
is not a lie     it’s not
a lie i tell you     it is not
it’s nothing short of truth
and nothing larger
my past lodges
in my marrow     and if
i wanted a transplant
there’d be no match
others’ sorrows dwarf
my petty traumas     still
these bones are mine
when they creak
when they moan
when they whine
there’s only one thing
i can claim     these bones
are mine i tell you
they are mine     and kind
to abandon no thing
that makes this pulse
no one but me

More by Cindy Williams Gutiérrez

Father’s Memory of a Mexican Mining Camp

Softly, it always began softly.
Then slowly swelled to a wail.
Men’s voices. Maybe seven of them
up on the hill behind the house.

A breeze through the window
stirred the curtains like clouds.
I was five, or six. Around midnight
it would start—such a doleful sound.

They were drinking. It was Saturday
and the mines were closed. Their song
would wake me—their longing.
It was a language I knew,

though I couldn’t make out the words.
But the music—that was theirs.
Some ancient secret. A string of notes
piecing together who they once were.

My twin brother slept soundly.
I was alone with this mystery.
It haunts me even now, this lament
to their gods. If flowers were songs—

if the marigold sang, it would mourn
like this. I imagine them still
sitting on a dark hill chanting
their dirge. Some nights I wake—

I hear them. I don’t remember
my dreams, so I dutifully make
my way to the window.
All I see are clouds and mist.

Ritual for Ash

We will smudge
our shoulder blades with wings of ash.

We will sow
your remaining ash in an untilled field.

We’ll toss
red carnations, red dahlias, red hibiscus.

We’ll release
white doves and flutter white handkerchiefs.

We’ll return
to the field to watch brave bulls roam.

We will wait
for the grass to catch fire.

The Persistence of Scent

                    Mother, you will persist in fragrances—
the nectar-scent of carrots, pineapple, pecans
baking in a two-layer cake. I will shorten
my mornings into hours of praise.

                    More than alchemy, fresh cilantro—
in pungent handfuls—will be sautéed with garlic,
onions, tomatoes. And like magic, beans
will turn into savories in my ordinary kitchen.

                    And the aroma of lilies will not be resisted.
I will plant tigers, stars, Easters, cannas, callas.
The rain on their talcum will conjure you—
your skin this satiny scent—

                    here, on the porch swing, just after a bath.
I will sprinkle lily petals on my pond,
dip my hand in this holy water,
rub your silk into my fingers.

                    But it is the tang of the sea that will return
your salt to soothe my wound. Here in this watery
womb of the earth—this place you love only
from a distance since you never learned to swim—
here I will stop holding my breath, inhale the sting.