blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1




I. Devil's Cup

The devil drinking horchata
from the clay-glazed cups in my kitchen.
He wraps his claws around
them lightly pausing before he raises
rice-drink boiling to his lips.

He stirs the tattered white sip
with his finger looking over to me for a word.

I am thinking milk's breath, a memory,
of sitting in my grandmother's soft lap
fingering her wool-knit shawl, hooking
the needle through the top layer of my skin

until I bleed. Something more painful
than her funeral, how my grandfather drank
whiskey until he fell over her cold
body weeping. They pulled him
from her stunned. I am thinking

of memory's warm neck
breaking to cradle the cold
body of the world, the way
you clip the hard stem
of a flower in two. Lactiferous.
Yes, he says, this
this is your devious
heart's word.

II. Bougainvillea

Before I knew it waved its head like a mane
through someone's summer,
I would read it in a poem and think
brown like small unnamed birds
tucking twice about its bushel

for shade, the day my sister ran from home
leaving the rest of us to walk our circles
for an answer. No one in the family spoke. This word
was hot days catching
tumbleweed dead in its throat,

brown. I wanted to hit her
with my fist and decided I would not speak
to her even if she held me, even if she came home
and held me. I wouldn't have stopped

pulling the plants in her garden,
rabbitbrush, goldenrod, firewheel,
the owl's clove brimming with accusation, except
my mother asked me, please
save the boganvílias. I was surprised

when I saw what they were.
I wanted to be the wind blowing dark
their royal blooms the way a bruise is beautiful—
the red sunset, a blue watermark soaking
its skin. Blue as alegria, azul as the night's cushion
from space, its clumsy twilight

running over the jagged floating world.

III. Not a Red Planet

The night owl's talon has caught its brown mouse
whose one thought is a clover-tipped star

sinking into the night that is a loneliness
before its death. Blue rain washes

the world like a plastic. Dripping, the owl
snaps bones into the small cacophonic fuss of TV's

and my brother is yelling fucking Mars' not a red
planet at all. He throws his scotch glass

and cries. I open the windows to rain,
to the heavy shucking wind outside.

I am waiting for him to pass into his small
brown dreams. For the rain to stop drumming

light like star-glass over streets.

IV. Widow Music

The trumpet has the soft brass tongue of a hummingbird
                  deviant in the flower as it drapes
                              slenderly over the dark
                  curves of A-minor
                                        melodic. I practice late until

the heavy golden light becomes a voice—
                  my sad mother singing
                              me for a husband
                  while he is away. I am worried
                                        she will never be with anyone
but me. I hear her low-glowing carom
                  against the scale and decide

                              if music is made from solitude
                  like the night—its cello trunks moaning
                                        through wooden throats, the hot bow-light
                  as it plays every sorrow from the body—
                              then nothing will draw it from us
                  because nothing music summons ever dies,
                              its notes like fevers rising

slow as a mouthpiece over the world.  

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