Let’s thus shine these myths
to make apparent the spots
where arson is craved.
            —Ted Rees, Thanksgiving

origin myth: 
much before a further future elsewhere,
you met in a drawing class 

*

another legend is 
you were 
in labor 

almost twenty-four hours 
with me (who is 
indecisive) 

seven years later 
myth of a two-year visa 
tourist migration 

my grandmother’s house 
was waiting room, until we 
three joined my father 

              the door was always 
              open, overhead windows 
              cleared of everything

              but sun for hanging, 
              spilling leaves never yellowed
              here, the neighbor who 

              came for lunch every 
              afternoon is still alive, 
              so’s my grandmother 

              all her plants thriving 
              on soil always watered, 
              never fought over 

connecticut 
first winter 
hands in snow 

mythic 

legend was 
i didn’t even spend a year 
in esl 

              learned 
              the words 
              easy 

              drank 
              cold english 
              fast 

later, i’m living 
in the city, working to 
dissolve its myths on

trains and walks, where some
surroundings dull like nations
others shine, transform 

              look: our kitchen and 
              its table, legend has it 
              food is never cold 

              water boils quick 
              all our records flip themselves
              always enough chairs 

glasses always full 
with water or wine, 
just last night, photo 

              -graph of a hand 
              -written spell conjured layers 
              of potato, eggs, 

              sour cream for all 
              and, just this morning, our new
              one-eyed pup got scared 

bolted from the park 
crossed avenue traffic, still 
saw his way back home 

some myths are borders 
are administrations and 
for now return, too 

they just bought land in medellín 
soil to build new, for when 
(empty is myth—when is, too)

you stumbled into them 
mid video call one visit, 
blueprints on the table 

walking through the plot

*

Related Poems

My Great-Grandmother’s Egg Thief

was never officially charged           though she considered her son’s
         wife prime suspect                Rita            my great-grandmother’s
name         never trusted her daughter-in-law                    & maybe
rightfully so          Mamachela’s hazel eyes & light skin       as myth goes
         two reasons a man would let his            Trojan horse loose
         though in this case      after the third child died        she left
my grandfather Jorge         to raise four more            found another
home with a soldier       a newfound pariah status               which is why
         when I took a drama class at the University of Chicago
         & we were studying Ibsen’s A Doll’s House      the renowned
British actor who co-taught the course           was appalled when I said
         Nora still had a future to look forward to                  even in the 19th
century         surely white feminism               never met the Latinas in my family

                                                                                                             & few
things match the warmth of an egg                right after it’s been laid
         During summer        eggshells babble                    on the ground
         the evidence of a predator’s mischief                     a branch-buttressed
nest’s disposal      or a bird content with gravity’s assignment                 A man  
was jailed four times          for stealing 700 rare wild bird eggs:
         osprey               golden eagle            red kites            peregrine falcons               merlins  
         redwings  avocet In his residence / maps climbing
equipment    camouflage clothes   miniscule holes drilled
on the shells Thou shalt not steal Thou shalt not covet
         thy neighbor’s wife    Not the contents        but the collectible casings
         How do you return  everything you’ve stolen
from us?

Control the thing      you most love      at the root of your addiction
         Folks camped outside Rita’s house           to have their tarot cards
read     before she aged & forgot      who she was        forgot how to bathe
         reeked of piss        chicken manure       eau de cologne               To schedule
a consultation           men rolled from under cars           stars in their own
Cantinflas films       greasy hair         crème fraiche in the corners
of their mouths   the women gossiped incredulously        after flattening
corn on clay ovens for their patrones                     matriarching all the ways
         we’d outlast the policies of the rich

                                                              The thefts of Rita’s
favorite hen’s brown eggs   the source of fantastical tales
         populated by ghostly       headless horsemen          who abducted
children if they ran            away from home       or women
         pregnant with black-magicked frogs         or that man with a limp
deemed hideous        from false accruement           During sessions
         I’d climb the long vines                of Rita’s backyard tree
         swing eight feet from the ground                with the visitors’ children
         one of us would plunge        rip a new skirt           a striped shirt
passed down three generations     Our mothers would scare us
by paying my great-grandmother handsomely       for a remedy
         to exile our demons       once and for all               Leave them alone 
she'd yell at them               They're just kids! 

                                                        Years later I think about
Rita’s backyard       the trees that once swiveled      their branches
near the ground        It’s none of your business what I do with my life
         I hear Rita say— daughter of an indigenous woman
         & a man who          like most men in my family          left his breath
on everything        we call mirror     or past            a man who tried
to rape Mamachela his         daughter-in-law         some say he did
         Rita—        who bought land           with her own savings           a rare feat
for a woman in those days      in a country where women
         with the simple dyeing of their hair can get mistaken
with a gang’s affiliation     lose their heads          Rita—   who lost
most of that land to the government            on which Tegucigalpa’s
airport was built

                              which means that in the lines          of my wide
nose      my plump ears        my dense lips          i bear the burden
         of every arrival             every departure             my great-grandmother
         who resisted losing her memory                but lost it anyway
         as her son lost his       kicked in the bath        spat out the spoon
concocted spells so potent       indigenous secrets      mixed
with loss           which sojourn parallel            the strength of a thousand
stolen acres in her         the rest of us are still trying            to figure out
why she shakes our houses at night           when we all stood there
         in silence       watching her track the bandit’s clues          not knowing
         all of us were stealing her eggs          all of us hungering for love 

 

Bright Felon DVD Extra/Alternate Ending

In the convicted evening I am a victor struck loose and restless,
creeping for the unlocked window.

The family inside at the dinner table is mine.

Listening to the escape story on the radio, my mother's hand freezes
in the air halfway to her mouth.

She realizes it's me they're talking about.

Lightning by lightning the minute before thunder.

Streets as empty as a beach before rain.

My hand on the cold glass.

Car alarm, tornado warning, catastrophe.

Who remembers the criminal son, free of the labyrinth and still
unsought, unthought of.

Oh when will the streetlamps blink out so my father can appear furtive
at the door and beckon me furiously in.

Bildungsroman

i never wanted to grow up to be anything horrible
as a man.  my biggest fear  was the hair  they said
would    snake    from  my   chest,   swamp    trees
breathing  as  i  ran.  i prayed for a  different  kind
of  puberty:  skin  transforming  into  floor boards
muscles  into  cobwebs, growing  pains  sounding
like an  attic  groaning  under  the  weight  of  old
photo  albums.  as a  kid  i  knew  that  there  was
a car burning above water before this life,  i woke
here  to  find  fire   scorched   my  hair  clean  off
until i shined like glass—my eyes,  two acetylene
headlamps. in my family we have a story for this:
my brother holding me in his hairless arms.  says

dad it will be a monster            we should bury it.