"Proud to support a brilliant poet from these lands "
"So excited for this new project of yours! I'll follow the whole way through!"
"Thank you for the story portals you create in every poem!"
We are undoubtedly living through historical times. How will our children learn about the unprecedented events of the past year? They will read about it, no doubt. We'll show them pictures. Movies, even, will get made. The future generations won't be lacking in stories that both inform and entertain. But what did storytelling look like before the diversity of mediums now available to us?
Back when, back then, and always, we had oral history. I am interested in exploring orality's relationship to the mythical. Are those accounts that come from hearsay more likely to get brushed off? What does it mean when we categorize something as an old wives' tale?
This month, I want to retell a selection of Central American legends and stories from my childhood. In giving speech to the subjects of superstition, I hope to reexamine my personal relationship to faith and fear. The public will be privy to my process through Tueplo Press' 30/30 Challenge, in which I will write one poem per day. In fundraising, I want to bring attention and awareness to spaces for poets and hybrid-genre writers who feel like their work doesn't quite fit in. Whether we engage across mediums, languages, or temporal spaces, I want all of us to know that there IS a public interested in the ways we push boundaries.
Cares little for the whereabouts of his mistress.
Spent the night soaked in florida water and rue.
Cured his maladies in a single day, he did. He called
on God, once. Meanwhile the women beat their
breasts, or so, he’d have you hear.
I was there. From behind a colonel’s grave I took
the macho out of him. Frightened men are incurable.
Worthless their cocks and tales. I’d much rather
hear it from Mariana. Marianita, he calls her. And gives
her corn cobs the size of her head. Can’t a woman
ever fetch water in peace? We need no wells where I come from.
She could walk around naked for all I care. Don Felix
would never miss her. He’d find another one. Inmune, this time.
Impotence and citrus make a bad pair. Mariana, do not think
me a worthless beast. Your great-grandmother made a
many like me. Gave us life, she did. You and me. Children of the
tallest tales. These men couldn’t make a story out of the
starriest sky. You’d be better off with the wise ones, Mariana.
Birth Name Unknown
One would think I’m made by men. Conjurers, the devils in their minds. The lusty ones are all the better artists for that. Couldn’t carve a piece of wood if I asked them to. They love to paint pictures no one else will see. Maybe they believe their own tales. They’d have you think the spirits wait for them. As though we have nothing to discuss amongst ourselves. Them, when we’re angry, of course. But I’ve taught my daughters to walk around naked when the moon is full. It’s good for their skin and temperance. I was never very good at holding back. Carved my own wrinkles trying to make myself an ugly thing. A thing that lasts. From the way men speak of me. You’d think me godlike.
Lives in a small adobe house.
Moved all the way from Nicaragua to fish in this small-town port.
His wife is tired of pulling scales from within their pillowcases.
Her biggest solace is making coffee for the seamen at noon.
They come and tell the children about pirates and sea-wolves.
One day the ocean got sick.
Bubbled and bubbled it did with the smell of death.
For six days the whole town starved.
Pancho went to the mountains in search of a miracle.
All he saw was sky.
Kept a cross and handkerchief in his hands.
Thought he’d trap angels with his courtesies.
Meanwhile his wife went into the ocean.
All Sara could smell was salt.
She screamed into the foam and prayed for sustenance.
Come winter, the river rocks grow sad.
Unwilling, they make way for stream and man.
Brave, he sails up, to the Virgin’s grove.
We’re not sure if she’s Mary. Him and his hymns
won’t let us think. Silly, the rain on his back
asking for silence. It’s all ritual when it comes
to the body. From birth to her breath putting
out the last of his candles. It’s always the same.
They leave with a fever, delirious. And when
asked, have no truth to tell.
Woman’s Bible in the Rainy Season
Men love to smoke the color blue. In May, the halls of homes grow damp and wet. When there’s nothing else to do, they pull stories out of their belts. They collect women like one does talismans. Think it’ll help them ward off death. Hope to leave children behind like feeding stock. Did you know hens can be tricked into eating sawdust off the earth? Then they’ll lay little wooden chests. Painted green. Spring. For their secrets. Women grow less trusting every day. I tell them the key is in dismembering. Men and their preachings. The severed ones make good messiahs.
Little boy eating from the ashes of the earth.
Remember what it was like to run
before the directions tangled up?
In your mother’s braids, the last of freshwater
and love. Your father, God to this plane
where men run from women after dark.
I stayed by your father’s side because I dislike the
intuition and the dew. When it dawns everything
tastes like a beginning. The way I’d like to kiss.
You, little boy, on your dirtied knees. Make my way
across the thick of grain against your chest. Where
you still keep he who sailed away from the law. I too,
detest the taste of staying kept against the logic of the roots.
I know you’d light my house
on fire without a second thought.
my father’s will, would be, perhaps
thing with which
through my gut
at the fill
fuck your mania.
Many a woman
you turned into
scared, you were,
of what corpses
you need her shut
between your lips
at bedtime when
I am ridden for
tales. Tell me
all about your
on this thing.
Nothing feels as empty as the trails of the earth. Where once, me and you, now runs a serpent. Bodied thing I am jealous of. With no arms to reach for you. No legs to keep me put. I love standing on puddles until the rain stops. There comes the sun and I find myself in a hole. Never had to carve myself out of the present. I stay, always. One day I’ll drown myself. I’ve heard all about this soil and its precariousness. No doubt the terracotta will outlive me. I am porous. Meant for permeability. My output is my weakness. Everything inside me is either wet or dry. Old things. Uncared for. Left behind in floods. Found drying in the sand. Nothing has ever restored its composition. Chemistry, I know. Nothing ever dies. But the sun and the salt will eat away at me. You have to believe me. I am withered. Meant to serve in the afterlife. There is none.
Persephone and Demeter Take a Vacation
at the yolk of it, once,
yanked away from the moon.
Leaps and lactates
like an antelope, jackrabbit,
jointed at its skull. Looks at
me with eyes of gold
and muck. Buried treasure,
perhaps, my mother’s pleasure
for eating tomatoes at
breakfast. Cult of domesticity
as we pull hyacinths from the
ground. Sip on beer and
laugh on papa’s deathbed. God,
forgive us, we didn’t go to church
today. We laid on the steps
of our home. Played poker and
gambled away our secret names.
Trifles, truly. You know the
things men and women call
each other. That’s why we make
ourselves hares and leopards.
Once a year we roam the earth
like animals. This Sunday we brought
the wilderness to our home.
North of Jordan
And what should I say to the clay in the oven?
Baking, red, yellow, and blue —chipped bronze
statue from when you were a goddess. Token
of the crescent moon from when she ripped the
foam off the men and their beers.
Valley of everything that is hot and old. Filled
to the brim with leather sandals and the longing for
I know white linens still make you cry.
Memories of when we dozed-off in between the marigolds.
I wish I could hold your name in my mouth the way I
swish and swoosh Georgian wine when speaking of rivers. Be it that
we longed for eternity —like sunsets that refuse
to set. But maybe the lonely archaeologist
of a thousand years will find all the coins
we spent on paints and paper.
Maybe one man or the other will remember the
color of your eyes in the light of the milk
and the coffee. Mornings of prophetic vegetables.
Walking to the edge of the world for the
iconography and the pomegranates.
I know I will always have the sight of stars
netted in your hair. Once upon a purple
light. Once upon a rainy afternoon and
songs for Marianne. I know I will always have
the time you showed me how to sort through
the secrets of the dirt.
How could I forget coming home to rose water or
the communion of the omelettes. But I know
this —we built a temple on our shoulder blades.
And we will settle wherever the numbers know of dance.
If you leave a jug out in the open
for long enough, it will either
crack or fill to the brim
Do you think that by virtue
of the earth, clay should be more
or less resistant to moisture?
After all these years, I still don’t understand
what it means to be porous of feeling.
Are holes in your skin good
or bad things? At one point,
God must have thought we needed
to be guarded from the elements.
At one point, men made Adam
out of the menstruating soil.
If my mother had died in
childbirth I would have broken
my spine before the flowers
had a chance to grow
from my fingertips.
I still remember what it’s like to
fall asleep looking at the stars.
A part of me longs to have the
the sky fall over me.
The oldest part of me resents the earth
for being so far from the
Do you think if I crawled into a cove
I would wake up underwater?
My curtains are red—
I wonder why, desert rose,
she rose. Deserted I chose
the sandalwood. Scrappy
thing against my skin.
Thing. Thing. Thing.
I’ve made myself
from all my feelings of
red. The way men rub
themselves on me at
summer fling. Whoops!
Abyss of nothing ever
is blue. Today,
Pacific, Central, West
everything tastes red.
I find stars at the end of every barrel.
They’re the wooden nightboats where
my dreams elope. Night after night when
the shellfish stroll with mermaids.
and the stroll of the mermaid, lonely
when the fishermen go to sleep. Back
home with their wives and little, plump
children. I am left hungry. Feed on the
aftertaste of salt and sex. I
swallow fish whole just to keep myself
from singing. The last man I
loved taught me how to crawl in
between stones. Handy trick
for when the waves wash away roughness
—the way I stay still when
kissed. I save my sounds for beneath
the water. When the jellyfish
sting I orgasm. Women like me are like
corals. We open up our stomachs to
Tell me about the time
you caught the crickets in between
the soundtrack of the universe
For how envious you’ve been of
glass bottles in the sand
getting picked up
by dreamers and bloodied feet.
The billowing of childhood
to cracker jacks and blue jeans.
But I love the way your
waist dents after
Makes me hungry for
stories and silhouettes of
naked nothing. Expired
plastic with your dreams.
The way you hold your mother’s hand
makes me think of the way I hold my
mother’s hand. When we read off each
other’s menus we’re psychics. Picnic
table telepaths. Betting on the strings
of life to hold, at least ourselves, the
two of us, against the tetrarchy of last
names. I want my daughter to have a
daughter. I don’t want to know a spouse
the way my parents did. Reproduction
is a thing of artists and their works.
Delicacy is unknown to my hands.
My touch is big and brass. If I were
a man I would always pee on the
snow. But I am a woman of the sand.
I’ve always been bad at writing my
own name. I want my grave to be
indiscernible from the earth. Tell
me you’ll sit on it and hold your
child’s hand the way we both
hold our mother’s hands.