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Sasha Pimentel

Sasha Pimentel was born in Manila and raised in the United States and Saudi Arabia. She received an MFA from California State University, Fresno. Pimentel is the author of For Want of Water (Beacon Press, 2017), which was selected for the National Poetry Series by Gregory Pardlo, and Insides She Swallowed (West End Press, 2010), which received the 2011 American Book Award. She is the recipient of a 2019 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She currently teaches in the Bilingual MFA Program at the University of Texas at El Paso. She lives in El Paso, Texas.

By This Poet

4

Golden Shovel: at the Lake’s Shore, I Sit with His Sister, Resting

                       Lost softness softly makes a trap for us.
                                                —Gwendolyn Brooks

Michael’s skin splinters below the water’s line, his navel and all murky and lost
like a city from my old life, or that scarf I’d loved, the softness

with which we sink into what disappears, and the country of his groin and knees so softly
already blackened. His sister snores below my hands. Her mouth makes

tadpoles. Her breath wet from chemotherapy, I’ve massaged her a- 
sleep. Her shoulders swell their small tides. The air burns leaves. I want to want to trap

her sighs, dividing the stillness, in glass, to a Mason jar: breath like smoke against a window—: for
this man halved by water. But we sit in sun and grit, watch the waves which lose us.

Touched by Dusk, We Know Better Ourselves

You map my cheeks in gelatinous dark, your torso  
floating, a forgotten moon, and a violin

crosses the sheets while you kiss me your mouth 
of castanets. I believed once my uncles lived

in trees, from the encyclopedia I’d carried
to my father, The Philippines, the Ilongot hunting

from a branch, my father’s chin in shadows. I try 
to tell you about distance, though my body

unstitches, fruit of your shoulder lit by the patio 
lamp, grass of you sticky with dew, and all

our unlit places folding, one
into another. By dead night: my face in the pillow,

your knuckles in my hair, my father whipping my 
back. How to lift pain from desire, the word

safety from safe, me, and the wind 
chatters down gutters, rumoring

rain. I graze your stubble, lose my edges mouthing your 
name. To love what we can no longer

distinguish, we paddle the other’s darkness, whisper 
the bed, cry the dying violet hour; you twist

your hands of hard birches, and we peel into 
our shadows, the losing of our names.

My Father’s Family Fasts the Slaughter to Feast the Arrival of His Bride

Ilocos, Phillippines

What did she permit him to see, my mother, the first time
he brought her to the ocean—the goat, hungry—mewling
in the distance while my mother shrugged her shirtsleeve 
down, her shoulder fragile in new day? Or was it her wrist 
which implied the unfreckling of her forearm? The susurrus 
of flycatchers . . . softened bleats of starving. A hawk is circling 
closer. What do we see when we see? I can see my mother,
but never my father. His shadow darkens her arm. Her breast

sinks to a curve we three know—, and there’s enough time 
for hair to come loose, the popping of a button. A rat reveals 
himself in the corner the way a woman tenses in and out
of light—: and my mother is coming to that point of breath- 
lessness, humidity speckling her birdwing clavicles—
and the goat’s hooves rustle—: above mud, before harm.