from Xibalba [Outside the water sings]

Outside the water sings 
its tortuous note, 
devoid of the parrot, 
devoid of the quetzal.

A song without ears, 
a dry silk wrapped around the throat, 
neither warm nor cold 
but a vacillation between the two. 

A hammer swinging 
through the aether of the flesh, 

the mind’s red line. 

Tonight a part of me shivers, liking it, 
my whole body in one place, 
where steel drags along. 

I wonder if the body wants more 
to open or to shut. 

Related Poems

An Offering

Animals come down through stars
to reach the valley. A coyote with
its nose pressed in a rabbit hole.
Two Sandhill cranes as tall as rain,
and listening north. And when a cougar
screams its human scream, I’m suddenly
a child again, awake, the parched air
raked by drumfire blasts, window panes
all gleam and vast, animals angling
through ripe alfalfa fields. My grandmother
holding me to the thunder-headed sky
as if I were an offering. Saying, There,
see how meager we are made. How our
bones ring with fury and light.

Vestigial Bones

jaunse tu bhagela ii toke nighalayihe
je andar rahe tohar jahaaj ke nast karihe

The remnant of hind limbs puppets an origin
play that strings baleen to terrestrial

ancestors. Occasionally whales sport hind legs —
as in Vancouver in 1949,

a harpooned humpback bore eighteen inches
of femur breaching its body wall. Disconnected

from the spine, what is their function but to rend
the book of Genesis into two? Why regard

scripture and exegesis as legs and fluke,
sure to fall away, and not eat beef or pork? Why

do I need Hindi in Hawaii as a skeletal
structure, a myth to hook my leviathan jaw?

                                                    What you run from will swallow you,
                                                       what’s inside will splinter your boat

Ritual Object

after Willie Cole
 
Through the artist’s eyes,
we catch this breath of fire,
lifting water up to flight.
This dead weight sinks our histories
back into deep sleep, hidden away
to dream of repair.
 
Waking, we clutch at the real
weight of a movable flood, catching
streams that pour through metal
still cold to the touch. Time
takes little care over us. Current
flowing, its song sighs across weft,
warp, wrinkle, fold. It collars us
in its minutae.
 
Iron, pierced for steam’s escape!
 
Ease across what was once shift,
now skirt, scarf, shirt sleeve, sheet.
Warm what will soon cool.
Stiffen what will turn soft.
Smoothe our way, and drape us
in the dignity
of this new day.