9-28-2020

CT Slazar

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.