FERAL, UNTOLD GRACE
[ As read by my partner, Jordan D. Finlay]
Vultures clean the coast,
what we couldn’t sing underwater,
we brought back in the throat
of our afternoon. The shore shaped
by the constant carol of waves,
like a mammal’s heart. Beached,
the baby Great White, a belly
gray as a singing knife,
kisses each of her hissing fins
to the sand. Recovering some altitude,
flashing her wings of cheek. Worn out
eyes gelled with kindness.
Hurt as a cavity, stalactites
of her teeth, some still moonset,
let out their dark light:
I’ve done enough, it is over.
Cupping my hands
in the geometry of a prayer,
a bedouin by by a desert spring,
holding all of the ocean I can
to wet her breath as you find
a bucket abandoned by a fallen castle.
You get behind and carve the sand, too.
The back fin fanning, your feet
coiled with the same energy
as a birth. The waves open
and the mossy slip of her tucks
bravely into your arms, the only way
I know you know how to hold.
Fins start to coast into
swim and she bursts into
a glide: so common and sweet as air.
Blue rags in my hands. We eat
shooed seconds of half-gods—
under each plate, quarter moons
hide before glow. In the parking lot
after tables bleached, we stare over
rainbows: ripe oil-plumes, swimming
upstream from the gas station. Holding small fires
to hilled, purple mouths— a strike of momentary beauty.
And with tired hands, generous still
to rub heads—we hold each other’s
tangled hair in nets. In tight embrace
of no embers: no control over light.
He undoes my unlovely ponytail, caught dark hair
in pins, freeing into directions of unfastened air—
where there are no borders, and an exit
visa in my soul is stamped only by his name.
In Dead Horse Point, We Are Alone
and you are telling me your new father
is being deported. Riding past
rivers unrushed by summer. Stopping to drink
vodka and orange juice. There, sober and brilliant,
crayfish you swallowed starving as a futbal boy in Mazatlán.
Break open pinchers: tender parenthesis. Let out
how our world has been this fragile,
how we are cut from the navel and scattered. Desert water
evaporates before it ever wets Lahori lines
of orange trees, the fruit that taught how to slice
our world. Naranja or Naarangi is a tart tautology. Rhyming
with nothing in America. Vibrating echo
in both Spanish and Hindi. Naarangi
travels from India to Spain, gets handed
in ravished fists like the Earth itself
to hungry monarchs. Crystallized and jeweled
arancia in Sicily. Carried in sweetened braids
of a small bride, or dead-eyed
glint of guns, as tangy naranja
into the New World. Silently
“j” is left out there hanging
from its hook. It was half- night. Whispering
midnight is aadhi-raat. We leaned again on
silverbeams of a motorcycle sweetly christened,
El Burro. Circling darkened eyes, tying
hammocks from Aspen trees, sewn out and in
air eddies of hummingbirds.
Covered in pine needles, we pointed
singing names back in English. In Spanish.
In Hindi. How can we say Father? Walls?
Together? Escape? Sloughed skin
of a rattlesnake breaks through
and under darkchains. So bleached
white in silverhurry of moon’s or chandini’s
reflection. A spiral worn soft as the hand-
me-downs of our starving brown
grandmothers: Abuela and Nani across
latitudes who once ate orange
out of oranges, down to smiles
of slithering pulp and rind.
Rinsing my hands under metallic tips
of common stars —
if we were to do it again, ride and die again
with you, El Burro out there at half-night, this time
ride and die again, in the warm breath
of our tent, I’d say
salam and hold you so
with the American choreography
of a pigskin flying
to be caught
by a son, whose real father,
like yours, rode and died
and only returned
In Brave Slowness of Life
Now, a skeleton swings—
from a tree — laundry on fishing line, a false horizon —
so invisible, it can only belong to phantoms. I’ve held out
for the dead each year to become less dead. What axis
would the earth have if love was an unkillable
art? I’ve never wanted fortune or its friends. Just time
to not be a woman dressed in a copper cage searching
for perfect swans. It never does last. I find wasps
disguised as angels—no one is making honey.
It was a clefted apple with worms’ cursive
into fruit soft as sky. Unavailing and alluring
as holding a child that is not yours,
imagining an alternative name— a deliberate process
for nothing. Still, I check the rearview mirror— I do
idle choreography around yard sales. I hold relics
like hands, yet hesitate because they might have been warm
between someone else’s thighs. What we find in love
we write in yellow—as if dandelion wine was true. In a dream
I had your hands; I knew carpentry. I understood how to whittle the sun
into a pastel—line by line—I composed color theory as admissions of love
I’ve never possessed. In another dream about birth—
I wasn’t an agile Venus. All of earth was without
sound, without virtue. Softened to dustbloom from rising
sea tides and sour experimentations; I’ve told no one.