At the columbarium dug
by hand, a man points to where rock
doves would be brought to nest, their eggs
tended by priests, and the cave locked
at sundown, guarded by hired
knives. The flock meant meat for the dry
times; saltpeter; yolks needed to bind
portraits to walls, to raise a sky
gilded with violets and myrrh.
Tonight, my mother paints her nails
black—a shade she names, “Dark Matter.”
She numbers what’s left of her cells,
tells us of this burning inside
her knees, laughs a promise to fight.
Copyright © 2016 R. A. Villanueva. Used with permission of the author.
About this Poem
“Consider this, from Carl Phillips’s The Art of Daring: ‘The poem is a form of negotiation with what haunts us…insofar as what haunts us is, in part, who we are.’ To believe that means trusting in echoes and spirits and strange rhymes. And so, I am: secret frescoes and cave churches; the drum loops and distortions of Prince and the Revolution; my mother’s devotionals, her defiance.”
—R. A. Villanueva
R. A. Villanueva
R. A. Villanueva is the author of Reliquaria (University of Nebraska Press, 2014).
Date Published: 2016-03-14
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/when-doves