FIRST BOOKS ISSUE
BUYING BACK MY VOICE
"A pearl goes up for auction. No one has enough, so
the pearl buys itelf."
To sell my throat:
decorated with ribbon,
hung in a window
for the highest bid.
Knotted muscles that long for a drink
surround a voicebox shriveled pink,
emptied of words such as yes, no,
not so much.
Saturday night shoppers stupified
into believing a throat they see
to be better than their own
imagine what they would say
with a new larynx,
free of phrases they’ve been fed
an entire life such as
Whatever you want.
This throat is not for sale
I hear my mind form this thought
and move to the counter,
quietly place a debit card
next to the salesperson’s hand.
I swallow the solstice moon
and fill my neck with strength.
I buy my voicebox back and lift it
off its sterling silver hook.
DRIVING MIGUEL'S LOW RIDER ACROSS THE BORDER TO HEAVEN
Rancheras coat my throat
as I ride the starlit highway,
shop for a shimmering lane.
Before logic presses my chest,
I make a quick choice that
causes the car to careen.
I crawl in one of the four directions,
far from the grief that staggers
behind me and the mountain range.
The desert stills my body.
Mariposas circle the crash site,
as though I were strewn across Michoacán.
Buried sentimientos rise like hungry beggars.
My eternity swallowed and held.
México, your river is in front of me.
The exhalation of pain disappears.
Mariachis sing, pluck each note con cariño.
A trumpet so bright my insides smile.
Silver buttons on a black jacket blind me.
I release my seat belt.
Mi cielo, I’m finally home.
TALE FROM CHIAPASIn this country, we count the trees, then count again.
We lift the streets by mixing paint.
Nine guardians live upstairs and we sing with them.
There’s a slit in the sky and we reach through to pull down the sun.
We weave bluegreen patterns as we have dreamed them.
At times, tricky spirits swallow our eyes.
They bring bad news like the black moths.
We open the coffin, smell el alma during the wind.
We wait for angels in the cave.
Little stones line the path that measures nothing.
Trotting donkeys knock on doors to whisper the tale.
This voice is our constant companion.
We point to the northern sky before sleep smokes our limbs.
Fig trees spin into ash, and we wash our soil with milk.
We write on walls, on floors,
IN THE COMPANY OF SPIRITS
on stained façades: the elders’ wishes
and the visions of cousins still to be born.
Inside our heads, rain thunders
its way through the sky of grey matter,
signals the storm of wet, sparkling stars.
We scrawl letters into heavy words.
This primal language drips from our lips
while eagles screech near the door.
Spirits appear on the steps above.
Marigolds sprout from their hips that glide down the stairs.
They unfurl the path, restore the family flesh.
We move outside to listen to birds, and see
tricksters wind their way toward our tribe.
Witness the wolves who create a chain around us.
Olive trees tell us to settle down, there
is nothing to be done. A thousand clouds
cry inside my chest.
A guardian takes my hand and moistens it with soil:
This is the land you came from. There is no worry in this dirt.
You are the harvest of our desert trance.
Carmen Calatayud is the author
of In the Company of Spirits
(Press 53, 2012),
chosen by Pamela Uschuk and William Pitt Root for the Silver Concho
Poetry Series. The book was a runner-up for the Academy of
American Poets Walt Whitman Award. Calatayud is a Larry Neal
Poetry Award winner and the
recipient of a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellowship.
Born to a Spanish father and an Irish mother in the US, she is a
poet moderator for Poets Responding to SB1070, a Facebook group created
by Francisco X. Alaracón that features poetry and news about the
Arizona immigration law, racial profiling, and copycat legislation in
other states. Calatayud works as a psychotherapist and additions
counselor in DC.
founded in 2005 in Winston-Salem NC, publishes 8 to 10 poetry books
annually, as well as short story collections, anthologies, Press 53
classics, and Prime Number magazine. Reprinted by
in Volume 14:1, Winter 2013.
To read more by this author:
Carmen Calatayud: Floricanto Issue