I. Self Diagnosis: A Planet of Pain
It is an ancient pain. The weight in you,
pulls and pulls.
Planet: From Ancient Greek, a wandering star.
In you it becomes a burn, a solar ache.
Ask if there is another
word for the persistent
thrum–blame you choke up
a gooey witness
Sleep is play by play. Knock on door, open
door. Scent of blue-black………..rain,………..dampen………..arrow
of fear. Get Brother.…………Blue………….door.…………Spot………..his weathered
hand.……………..Catch the low…………….of his voice.…………..Final words before:
Bullet. Bullet.Bullet.Bullet.Bullet.Bullet.Go Go Go red breath of danger teeth chatter squawks dread is a rogue wave sink further and further into the salt wet of it only come up for breath when Doctor returns reach for the terrestrial, that hidden root, a coarse promise. Dig your fingers and toes into the earth searching for the organs Brother needs.
In shadows live:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . men who are no longer human.
to bark. You are a tree
trunk settling into
a loss, into the wait.
Wait on police. Wait on autopsy. Wait to make
sense of it all. Needle the hurt. Show Doctor the hurt. Offer
up arm–a rough branch, then thick
thigh or traitor throat speaking
code, signaling red: Emergency. Days dull it
to a drizzle. But the fever heart throbs
Think maybe you need
someone to analyze your ringed
grief, someone to calibrate your thin
lined pain, circling and circling–
Get used to carrying
it, tell yourself it’s just another sore
tooth, or a too tight bra strap pressing
into shoulder. You are not surprised
when it returns as a force–a bone blast, spiraling.
Plead to Doctor: Carve the tender out, I must
make room for a weight that never leaves.
Helix of pain,
then dull haze,
a dozen or so soft black t-shirts
Distrust of the night, muscled voices,
dark SUVS, the unknown. Sheets
of paper work, faxes, phone numbers,
account statements, business cards,
to-do lists: feed yourself–
for a month of his last meal.
Break down when the bowl
empties. Break bowl, skin to get at
the hunger–an arterial pull that thrums
and thrums through the spine.
write it until you think
you are writing Diseased.
Start to imagine this your truth.
A few striped collard shirts,
Size 13 shoes.
One pigtailed crying child,
who wants to be a man,
and refuses to cry.
Second Son, Bright Star
We teach your son to say Daddy. Kiss
your portrait face, the lightest air brushed strokes.
White canvas and black paint is what we can offer
little baby, now toddler. I want to stop–
time for you. Let you see him now,
your third child, second son. A late star
you once cupped in your arms with tired
eyes. How unfair life is that we grow
older and you stay the same, changing only
in memory, perhaps becoming softer,
a dry brush swirl. But I want none of that.
I want to give Second Son all–of you. Scalpel
each memory from my brain, placing it
on silver tray for him to examine. I will point
to that piece with your pyromaniac
tendencies, and tell of the rush of joy
on your face when you lit fireworks off
illegally into the sky, how bright we were
against the dull of night. You were always our light
shining into our darkness, even as we burn for you.
When you speak of love, I think of conquest,
. . . . . . . . . . cottonwood trees and years of river,
chiseling away at time. Show me how the bold
. . . . . . . . . . believe. Because all I can think about is
what you will take and what I can give.
. . . . . . . . . . Sometimes I want to bend–to the distance,
those great states–lines we draw on maps,
. . . . . . . . . . and between us. I would like to tell you,
how you make me feel darker–without making you feel–whiter.
. . . . . . . . . . A simple statement from my trumpet
heart. Maybe I should cup your mouth with my hands, showing
. . . . . . . . . . you how to purse your lips to play ancient
instrument. Then I will ask: Did you hear that thrum
. . . . . . . . . . of desert, the way it steals the moon from the night?
Listen again, to the way brass valves rise in my chest, between
. . . . . . . . . . the rattle of gourds, such an old cadence. That part
of me always singing about the dead–little ghost songs
. . . . . . . . . . of longing. I used to think it was about showing you
where I am from, but now I think I must make
. . . . . . . . . . you feel it–the prick of green succulents, and how
Mother’s house shakes from Brother’s bass,
. . . . . . . . . . that thump of stereo that echos through our teeth.
Casandra Lopez is a Chicana, Cahuilla, Luiseño and Tongva writer raised in Southern California. She has an MFA from the University of New Mexico and has been selected for residencies with the Santa Fe Art Institute as well as the School of Advanced Research where she was the Indigenous writer in residence for 2013. She is the winner of the 2013 Native Writers Chapbook Award from the Sequoyah National Research Center. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in various literary journals such as Potomac Review, Hobart, Weber, CURA, McNeese Review and Unmanned Press. She is a CantoMundo Fellow and is a founding editor of As/Us: A Space For Women Of The World.
–Foreground art by Brent Bluehouse
–Background art by Winoka Begay