blackbirdonline journalSpring 2010  Vol. 9  No. 1
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When What Is Lost Is Said

Eloy lost his finger to a friend’s
mobile home piling, the crane creaking
like a pine bearing frost.
Eloy tells the story,
cigar in his glove, as if loss were
the fact of hydraulics, the severing
of dough in his wife’s hands
above the woodstove. He laughs,
praises God, and flips off the world,
only it’s half so, knowing he’ll receive
half the penance from the Father
on Sunday. But his insult is already
half dream. At night, when the ice
bears the air back to its bone,
his lost finger stirs. It flits out
to his sleeping wife’s hair to brush out
flour, then lifts a tortilla in the dark,
the instinct of a man when the woodstove
is settled, the lights are done for,
the fence posts are stacked near the old barrels
for carrying to someone else’s farm.
It fondles the flask secreted in his coat,
then leaves by the chimney
to the Senior Center to get his best friend’s
attention, to touch his lips as if to say,
not so much drink mi amigo,
not too much. And then free
of its duty, Eloy’s finger jolts for heaven,
for the swirl of spirit, tapping the knee
of God to a mariachi solo, touching
angels’ nipples. It flicks a few meteors more
over the Cumbres, the Brazos Cliffs,
heavy shoulders over which a thin waterfall
pitches into wind. It pokes the dead eye of the moon,
and coming down to earth, gives the fairy-tale
boy at the dyke a spell to straighten his hair,
shake the cramps out, before descending
to pick a scab on the Devil’s knee.
Like Eloy, it believes that even the worst
need relief. And like Eloy, it is restless
to remember the dead of his neighbors,
my wife’s grandmother, my mother and father,
and so it touches a pond lightly
and holds itself up to the breeze. With a tailwind,
it streaks to them to stroke their cheeks
with its back, the rough knuckle tender
as cottonwood seed, sweet as new snow, and
it lingers with them awhile, respectfully,
until, like the living, it is tired of grief.
It looks for a body to cross
and finds the one in the stars, touching each
limb of the swan before tumbling home.
It falls without burning, without weight,
through the few mare’s tails
making the moon’s broad halo.
It drifts over Tierra Amarilla,
past the jail with the full-bodied loneliness
huddled inside, past the quiet houses
frozen white, past the little acequias
cutting the pastures, and slowing
so as not to wake his beloved, it descends
the chimney and into the adobe expanded
over the years with the rest of Eloy’s hand,
and it drops into his sleeping chest, sliding
delicately past his ribs and into his heart,
flowing through one chamber
to another, not caring whether it’s outgoing
or incoming, for it’s not body, but the thing
Eloy praises as he sleeps,
not settling for the ugly word heart
but for the rhythmic corazon, the kind
of word shouted for courage
or whispered, the r rolling to the delicate z,
the fuller Spanish oath when one syllable
won’t cut it, when what’s needed
is a little more time to gather the tongue
to what’s left of the body’s wiles,
which is why Eloy rasped, corazon!,
when his finger was lost,
when what was needed fell to what was said.  end

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