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Oliver de la Paz

Oliver de la Paz’s forthcoming book, The Boy in the Labyrinth, will be published by the University of Akron Press in 2019. His other collections include Post Subject: A Fable (University of Akron Press, 2014), Requiem for the Orchard (University of Akron Press, 2010), Furious Lullaby (Southern Illinois University Press, 2007), and Names Above Houses (Southern Illinois University Press, 2001). A founding member of Kundiman, he teaches at the College of the Holy Cross and the Rainier Writing Workshops at Pacific Lutheran University. He lives near Worcester, Massachusetts.

By This Poet

4

Dear Empire [these are your temples]

Dear Empire,



These are your temples. There are rows of stone countenances, pillar after pillar. As if walking through a forest filled with alabaster heads: here, the frown. The gaze. The luminous stare.

Smoke from the incense curls, shapes itself against the archways, rubs against the grooves of the columns. Only a few men press their heads to their hands.

Outside, archeologists excavate a stone torso. Bound in coils of fraying rope, it rises before us, pulled upwards by a backhoe. Its form momentarily hides the sun, though as it sways, the light strikes our eyes. Saying yes. Saying no.

Diaspora 2

The way is written in the dark:

it has steel in it, something metallic, a gun,

a mallet, a piece of machinery—

something cold like the sea, something,

 

a nervous shudder. If it

were to go on, the next stanza

would snuff out sound.
 
It would stand in a forest

that cannot bring you faith and a woman

carrying a basket of glass jars gives one
 
to you. They carry dying fireflies. No,

they’re dried hands holding lit matches

and she tells you it’s your light, it’s your fucking light.

Solve for X

And in the outer world, the first, something smooth and wet. An
     X
skims across the tops of the crests in a succession of skips. The
     longest
holds its space in the air, pauses, then descends into what is a cool
     sleep.

X and all the faces of backlit animals gaze downward at you. Their
     curious engulfed
silhouettes. A spasm of radio and the accident of understanding
what it means to be X. What it means to be held and kissed and
     gibbered to
as though you were something cast away and suddenly,
     miraculously, returned.