The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Sarita Hartz

the year I turned twelve
the blood came, copper-spotted and slow as
a long-drip leak from the ceiling
it was what I had waited for
jealously scowling eyes at my sister
who started crimping blond hair and
closing her door
to be a woman
enter an inner sanctum of virgin
temple goddess legs shaven candle-wax
bright and beckoning thighs
antiquated secrets exposing a truth
how to make a man love you
I dreamt bangles and babies
nested firmly sucking breasts—
big ones of course
a sweet dreg of coffee
every tucked-cloudy visage of
poplar-tree weddings, being pinned
open-mouthed for the first time
a ranch in southern Colorado with
sweat-sleek horses
I did not know then what I know now
or I might have clung to my new-born calf
frame a bit longer
or still-moment kept
my expectant window-pane sighs
my unspoiled limbs slack-spread
on hay-salty grass balmy and
brittle under a soft-sun sky
without clouds
when it was easier to believe in God
when I knew what love was
I come from a history of women
who would not lie down
they left islands
oceans between their legs, their skin
undulated with coconut and rum
my mother's white as Spain's washed
walls, her hair the starkness of a night
without moon, the vibrant dark
they buried their men with hunched frames,
buns hung low on their heads like a half-mast
knotted flag, let pain weave the gray
in, a silvery threaded rug, their patchwork of
it was the mother who bore me, the mother
I became
a name I claim now
a monarch's fresh body, or the space between
stars, vacuous and bright—it was she who taught
the word, insatiable
we fear that which we might become
we hate that which we fear
without swallowing the truth in our bellies
that we contain multitudes, the throbbing stars,
the sky's eternal blackness, we are both/
we fuse heaven
I did not become her before
I embraced her, before I became an extension,
not a twin
we did not fear we were inadequate, only
that we were radiant, too much to take in
no one strong enough to contain us
we stuffed the constellations that were our hips
down into our pockets at times
but they rose with wonder
like the curve of the sun displacing the moon
we began to inhabit the glory that was
it was the unexpectancy of
your lips on my shoulder
the kiss that offered to give
me oceans, sand, time
every speck of infinity
in a universe of endings
we sank into the couch
the people were fighting on
the television, destroying their
future with words, but we—
we sat with your arm
adorning me
my hand resting on your
upper thigh with the weight of
an arm floating in water
defying some inevitable decline
into scream-pitched fights
slamming doors, the hollow
silence of dead stares and
words already spoken

we know the gravity towards
disconnection, that the war is
in this room, not in the suicide
bombers flailing their bodies into
amarillo light
we know some moments dance
outside language
pirouetting foreign sounds that
somehow make sense
it was the way you wanted to take
nothing from me
in that kiss
except my last resolve
for an open door, or a compass,
a map with other options
I turned my head with a whisper
te quiero
I did not utter
but in the lines
of my face, a single path
and in your eyes, the endlessness
of sea
on a road in Sommerville she tells the dashboard
there is nothing called return
only a trajectory of moving forward, the artists know
there is no recreation, only creation, light made
once on the first day
everywhere fields are turning yellow
troops are tapering land that never looks the same twice
traversing mud that speaks of murdered children
trampled for no other cause than being born
in a war zone
the red mud sticking to boots
like the suctioned noise of our stomachs
clasped in lovemaking
making us laugh
leathery couch squeaking in farts
a crude juxtaposition
what place does laughter have in war?
when the reasons are gone
is it wrong to take relief in the cave
of an abdomen for a little while
when everywhere the sand makes bland
eyes of different colors
the weather a capricious child
blocking the entrances with boulders
we could have dug our way out but we didn't
you preferred the solid insides
tired of tortured skies
blackened with oil fires
nipple hardening choirs of moaning
Arabic groaning
Gaelic strains of dulcimers
still uncertain what to become
you said I never loved you
but I know that I loved you
through the narrow confines of fists
a past of open wounded wrists
on the arms of widows in a
catatonic glare
you said I never loved you
but I know that I loved you
wildflowers strewn in the road
olive shoots finding a way to grow again
in blood rock copper
if we are an explosion
then I will stand there
let the wind tangle my hair
and risk the blood      mangle     waste
for a taste of midnight drives
with the window down in winter
and for the first time not be afraid
we are not saving each other
but melding our wrists tight
with whispered prayer
the lights blinking layers of gold
along the skyline of bridges we
crossed in Brooklyn to get to this
and face what we already know
we'll take the best of each other
and burn it down slow
to the center of indigo fire
ride the wire
of open mouthed dreamers
gripping each other in the confines
of backseats under an urgent
and it’s true that it never felt so right
to pillow your head on a speeding train
without knowing the ending
or caring whether we end up in
New York or New Orleans
but you can stream the laughter
through me
like rivets in clay you are building
up so high
an altar at the feet of God
we can lie among the believers
who are melting
away the     lime    rock
sand       sulfur 
spoils of yesterday
the glass blowing in a haze
of light
where we fight for the rights
of hopes left unsaid
and fumble through the shedding of
and begin again
you can follow me home
to a land of no mothers
offer what we can
forge the dam
where disease floods the
bodies and no one stops
to bear the 21 grams
of life
but we will
*21 grams is the exact weight we lose at the exact moment of our death.  Some say it could be our soul.

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