Migrant Workers Refurbish a House
They lean on a gable of quicksand, squinting
like schoolboys measuring their descent
in the playground. Their crocodile hands
wheezing. On the windowsills,
boleros stamped like wasps
unaware of what hand has crushed them.
The rest of the neighborhood, a pregnant needle.
Threading identity, loosening.
We are not welcome in the Lawn of the Free.
Where June bugs abuzz. Where the sun is a jester
rhyming underpaid & overworked
with oranges fuzzed green.
For these workers the remembrance of a child
is like the horror that makes a man wet
his bed—imbibe every puddle clean.
Paint runs down their inner thighs. Polka-dotted
sweat. Amigo frontier. In May, blond
hair squeezed into tangerine juice. At night,
my body in a brown paper bag
to puff & burst. Shooting stars stone
the inconsolable. In my sleep,
I run from these men, scrape my knees on bed
frames of rock. One drills the ground
around me. Two lose their legs
in the garden cement. Nailed afternoon,
flesh petunias. Molten fingers,
fringe. The ropes on my head at their mercy,
my teeth locked in their hammers. We bathe
one another in dry rivers the next day.
And whatever they usher with their trowels,
a sparrow cheeps into the morning fog
with the soft mouth of a cherub on fire.
Atonement in the Key of Padre
In one corner, the emptiness
they call Father. In every other:
How do you feel standing next to me, son?
I hold out a torch to the man
who crawls from my caverns
every evening. Everyone in my family holds their breath.
Father watches me wear a dress
of April showers in the kitchen.
Black orchids—He takes
a sip from his cerveza,
avoiding my gaze, wrapping one arm
around my brittle waist, his legs spread open
like a giver—
black orchids sprout from my mouth
as Mother walks in with her version of the house keys:
three mute voices hanging
by the throat
of the tree of shame. From the tree of a thousand remorses.
Father is hunger. Nothing, I tell him. Father
is obsidian knife. Nothing.
Mother can tell which visitor I am hiding in the bathtub.
Broom in hand,
she is ready to sweep the cinders
back to the furnace.
I lie to him so I can live.
Echoes of the Soft Fruit
A strawberry grows from the palm of a child.
The tenth Lord’s Prayer in a row
in his mouth. Throat is where the lost gospels
wander in a landscape of fallen bolides. What, then,
from under our skins, still disturbs us
when agony, at last, leaves? And memory:
mildew of the unspeakable, laying earthworm
eggs at the root. The cuff of the pastor’s shirt
emerges from his cassock like a white opossum
to ruffle the fowls. Outside: a culpable sun
bounces off knobby knees—a cloud
of hysteric pale powder, conspirator. Even the earth
below us wants to savor our most unvarnished traumas.
Crack them open. Nibble on what makes their yolk
glimmer with apathy. The bruises on the child are two
clogged waterfalls, at first; but, afterward, they yield
copious fruit, drawing in
our hollow interiors; then sing!