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Eduardo C. Corral

Eduardo C. Corral is the author of Guillotine (Graywolf Press, 2020) and Slow Lightning (Yale Series of Younger Poets, 2012), selected by Carl Phillips as the winner of the 2011 Yale Series of Younger Poets. His honors include a Whiting Writers’ Award, a 92Y Discovery Prize, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, as well as the Holmes National Poetry Prize and the Hodder Fellowship, both from Princeton University. A CantoMundo fellow, Corral was the Guest Editor for Poem-a-Day in September 2019. He teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at North Carolina State University and lives in North Carolina.

By This Poet

4

Ceremonial

                         Delirious,
touch-starved,
             I pinch a mole
                          on my skin, pull it
off, like a bead—
             I pinch & pull until
                          I am holding
a black rosary. Prayer
             will not cool
                          my fever.
Prayer will not
             melt my belly fat,
                         will not thin
my thighs.

                         A copper-
faced man once
             called me beautiful.
                         Stupid,
stupid man.
             I am obese. I am
                         worthless.
I can still feel
             his thumb—
                          warm,
burled—moving
             in my mouth.
                          His thumbnail
a flake

                          of sugar
he would not
             allow me to swallow.
                          Desperate
for the sting of snow
             on my skin,
                          rosary
tight in my fist,
              I walk into
                          a closet, crawl
into a wedding dress.
                         Oh Lord,
here I am.

To Francisco X. Alarcón (1954–2016)

You made tomatoes laugh
& warned me
some words die in cages.                                          

I met you first in the desert.

You burned sage, greeted,
each of the four directions
with plumed syllables.

The ritual embarrassed me—
your stout body, your
mischievous smile did not.                

You were familial.                               

The first poem I wrote
that sounded like me
echoed your work.                 

Copal, popote, tocayo, cacahuate:
you taught me Spanish
is a colonial tongue.

Some Mesoamerican elders
believed there’s a fifth direction.

Not the sky or the ground
but the person right next to you.

I’m turning to face you, maestro.
I’m greeting you.
Tahui.

All the Trees of the Field Shall Clap Their Hands

Josefa Segovia was tried, convicted & hanged on July 5, 1851, in Downieville, California, for killing an Anglo miner, a man who the day before had assaulted her.

Are the knees & elbows 

     the first knots  
 
                     the dead untie?
 
       I swing from a rope
 
                     lashed
 
       to a beam. Some men
 
along the Yuba river
 
               toss coins
 
         into the doubling water.
 
                   Visible skin.
 
            Memorable hair.
 
     Imagine: coal, plow,
 
                     rust, century.
 
                 All layers
 
         of the same palabra.
 
                                       Once
I mistook a peach pit
 
               on a white dish
 
         for a thumbprint.
 
   Wolf counselor.
 
                       Reaper.
 
             Small rock.
 
   The knot just under
 
       my right ear
 
whispers God is gracious,
 
             God will

increase. The soul,
 
                   like semen,

       escapes
 
the body
 
         swiftly.