You Are a Dark Body

of water with a bed of rock barely visible
from your surface. You are the only dark body

of water in a desert littered with bleeding cactus.
At your collarbones you carry a gulch, held up by a thread

of hair. You travel days drinking only from yourself,
because you are this land’s only dark body

of water. At the crease of horizon you find a woman
in bed, her chest wet with saliva, you kick her

off the bed, and take her place among its sheets. A man
lies down in bed next to you. He swallows your dark body

of water and gives you a woman’s body, a body you’ve
never known. As a woman he gives you sores, and through

the sores you breathe, and despite the sores you give birth
to a child stillborn for lack of water. You kick the child off

the bed, but it returns in the arms of the woman whose bed
you stole. You cry to be made again into a dark body

of water. The man kicks you off the bed, covers you
with dirt, and turns you desert. You cry for a bed he will never

let you sleep in again. You cry for your body’s bed
of rock turned desert for lack of water.
 

For My Son Born in La Mariscal

Ciudad Juárez

You bob & spit & bite
     at my breast. You are my private
colony of sharp stones. I burn
     your umbilical cord to ash.
Come, meet the spirits. Before
     your birth I thought you an eyeball
bruised purple. I have no crib
     to leave you in, but a maizena cardboard box
& a blanket of my thick dark hair.
     I have done many things to feed your body—
open-legged, dark-thumbed
     things. Things for the price of what I
can endure in thirty minutes before
     breaking. I know I can’t keep you,
but even stillborn I used the blood
     I gave you to wash my legs clean.

Paper Cuts

While crossing the river of shorn paper,
I forget my name. My body,
a please leave. I want a patron saint

that will hush the dog growling
at trimmed hedges it sees in the night.
I want the world to be without language,

but write my thoughts down just in case.
Send help, the dog’s growling
won’t let me sleep. I haven’t slept in days.

I am looking for a patron saint, but none
will let me pray for guidance. There is a buzz
in my right ear that never goes away, no matter

how hard I hit the side of my head
for loose change. Most mornings I wonder
who I can pray to that will make sure I never

have to survive waking again. Most nights
I forget to pray the rosary, though I sleep with it
by the bed. I’ve never owned a TV because

I’ll replay this conversation in my head.
My dead lovers are hungry in the kitchen,
so I fix them food they cannot eat. I make toast

of vellum paper, fry an egg made of crepe.
I only want a patron saint to protect me.
I only want someone else to bleed.

Pledge Allegiance

I tap-tap-tap the window, while my mother smiles and mouths,
Tranquila. I tap-tap the glass, my mother a fish I’m trying to summon.

I tap until a border agent says: Stop. Until a border agent
shows me the gun on her belt. My childhood was caught

on video border agents deleted every three months.
I thought myself a movie star blowing kisses at the children

selling chiclets on the bridge. My cruelty from the backseat window
caught on video—proof I am an American. The drug sniffing

dogs snap their teeth at my mother detained for her thick accent,
a warp in her green card. My mother who mouths, Tranquila.

My mother’s fingers dark towers on a screen for the Bioten scan.
Isn’t it fun? says the border agent. The state takes a picture

of my mother’s left ear. Isn’t it fun? I tap-tap-tap the glass
and imagine it shatters into shiny marbles. A marble like the one

I have in my pocket, the one I squeeze so hard I hope to reach
its blue swirls. Blue swirls I wish were water I could bring to my mother

in a glass to be near her. Friends, Americans, countrymen lend me your ears!
But only the border agent replies, Do you know the pledge of allegiance?

She points to a flag pinned on a wall. I do, so I stand and pledge to the country
that says it loves me so much, it loves me so much it wants to take

my mother far away from me. Far away, to the place they keep
all the other mothers to sleep on rubber mats and drink from rubber hoses.

Don’t worry, says the border agent, we will take good care of your mommy.
My mother mouths, Tranquila. Her teeth, two rows of gold I could pawn

for something shiny, something shiny like the border agent’s gun.
Friends, Americans, countrymen lend me your ears, so I can hear

my mother through bulletproof glass, so I can hear her over the roar
of American cars crossing this dead river by the wave of an agent’s pale hand.

Related Poems

Perhaps the World Ends Here

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.