Parable About Changing My Name + An Elegy
The cotton field on fire looks like sunflowers, somehow
caught between praise and persecution. Field of saints
aflame. Horizon gone godless, the sky black
with devotion. The prophets knew the body had to break
to become part of God’s alphabet. How the o
in the middle of devotion looks like a gunshot
through a bird too colorful to be native.
How heat withers the leaves to curled surrender.
When I change my name this time, it’s Abednego—
it’s the boy whose greatest miracle was not needing
an apology from the burner. Abednego the body.
Foreigner to the furnace. If I am too colorful to be native.
If my smoke is sweet. Quémame, inherited name.
Quémame, blood in the restless shape
of my family. Quémame, second tongue
I keep in my mouth.
Come cracked, come crawling cobblestone, come
with enough to drag yourself through this old drought
with its new name. Come alive. Come break
the dishes of the dead. Come, but you can’t stay
because there is no vessel for you to weep into anymore.
Because all day I’ve had to pretend you’re not
the dried-out moth stuck in the hymnal. Come call me
your teacup. Your copper coffee ring left sitting
on the windowsill. Come in the hours my mother
has flowers in her hair. Come watch her pull long-stemmed
miracles from behind her ear, and bring the vase
she needs. Come lilies, lilacs, lifetimes
of petals on the dining room table. Come willing
to look the afternoon in the eyes, the blue shape
of pity. Come cloud.
Come pregnant with rain.
Mostly I’d Like to Be a Spiderweb
because in the rain I’d look like a cracked window
without a church to belong to. You could look
through me and see the world in front of us.
One time, my ex-lovers made a road of tongues for me.
I took my shoes off to feel the song a little better,
and cut a note short with each step.
I want to tell you how many churches
I’ve built to praise little things that deserve
more than their few seconds of existence.
Like the time I opened my door, smelled hibiscus
and knew you were home.
Like the time a child told me there was a god
and because he was smiling, I believed him.
Mostly, I’d like to be a spiderweb to feel you walk through.
To see if you’ll take me with you, despite the spider I bring.
Poem with Three Names of God + A Promise to Myself
-for Jon Wright
And in the beginning, I thought my father’s hands
looked like old countries. I thought the dried rivers
running through his palms were all that remained
of the land he carried with him. I have been making
a list of the promises my favorite things can and can
not keep. A bridge over the river promises you’re not
too heavy. A father promises to eventually be a knot
of electric seconds between synapses called a memory.
Our spines promise to remember their shape, but some
promises break. In the beginning, God promised light
but this might have meant fire. God promised his name
but some names break. Abba means father, Elohim
means something has just been made. A wolf maybe.
A series of rivers to trap it. A group of fathers leaving
because God told them to. My friends are always reminding
me how patient God is. Whether in the form of a sixteenth-
century Mexican church at the bottom of a river
slowly reappearing in the drought season,
or as the diamond my grandmother lost at the edge
of the woods while chopping firewood. How
my mother over and over returned to the tree line
to search on her knees, as if she were trying to unearth
one of YHWH’s misplaced names. Maybe handful of wet soil
despite a month of no rain. Maybe red fungal spores that somehow
smear gold under the fingernails. Maybe God lost his name
and whispered sounds until it flew back to him in the dark,
its feathers chewed to shreds from mothers’ mouths—
lost diamonds shining in its stomach.
One day, strangers will drink water from each other’s
cupped hands. We won’t call this a miracle. One day,
we’ll build a library that lets you borrow birds
instead of books. Don’t call this place heaven,
because you’ll want everyone to feel welcome.
You can be lost. Like the diamond from a wedding
ring lost to the woods, we’ll tell stories about you,
knowing you’re somewhere shining. We just
haven’t found you yet. One day you’ll look
at your open hands and realize how much country
your father gave you. Your rivers. Your dried deltas.
Are you listening? Every bridge you’ve ever crossed
will eventually collapse, heavy with rust.
The miracle here is that you weren’t standing on any
of them despite your rust. Despite their patience every wolf
you’ve ever looked in the eyes will eventually be whittled
down by its own hunger until daisies crack open
its chest, and little lost diamond son there you’ll be:
alive enough to hear your name mouthed by any animal
following your scent across your favorite bridge.
-from This Might Have Meant Fire, Bull City Press, selected by Fall 2020 PoemoftheWeek.com Guest Editor Angela Narcisco Torres
C.T. Salazar is a latinx poet and translator living in Mississippi. He’s the editor-in-chief of Dirty Paws Poetry Review, and the 2017 AWP Intro Journals Poetry Winner. His poems have appeared in 32 Poems, Grist, Tampa Review, Noble Gas QTRLY, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Matador Review, and elsewhere. He’s an MFA candidate and children’s librarian.