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darling it’s true anywhere I venture someone wiser
has died / knowing this does not keep me alive / but at least

I can place my heel in another traveler’s footprint
and imagine what their next step / felt like / like the story

of the monk in the desert who lived twelve miles from
the nearest water / one morning he looked back and an angel

was counting his steps / tallying up his reward to come
the monk moved his home five miles further from the spring

this part is not written / but I have heard wolves killed him
saw him for what he was / a gourd full of water and ripped

open his stomach / I taste sweet / to whatever is starving
knowing this / the ear stays sharp / the ear knows best

loneliness / have you heard / oceanographers recorded
a sound fifteen seconds long / devastating / they called it

like a moan / scientists named the sound / Julia
Julia was lost / some animal like me / with a shorter song

there are lonelier sounds still / the hermit without a fire
the river running for a deaf hemisphere / the holy ghost

sipping water from the cattle’s hoof prints
maybe the Rio Grande and the Mississippi / are cracks

in the palm of God / maybe those cracks will be the safest
place to hide when God closes his fist / Julia was only

a large iceberg run aground in Antarctica
I used to call wolves lobos / but now I call them

by the names of anyone they’ve devoured / darling
maybe to keep some small speck of a loved one

alive / my beloved century / my beloved beast into what
stomach will I arrive / when my flashlight flickers out

wolfskin for warmth says the hermit / once / while
hiking through the woods I found four trees / into their bark

another traveler had carved / NORTH SOUTH EAST WEST
and I moved north / towards a distant beast

called a city / point to whatever you please and name it
a beast / this only means you’re not surprised to be bitten

wolfskin says the hermit / who traversed the Mexican desert
on a series of freight trains called La Bestia or

The Beast / a fourteen-hundred-mile journey / a switchblade
in one pocket / and his mother’s medallion of Santo Domingo

he says when we remember our hatred for each other
we can’t remember the best parts of the Lord
/ says

both my brothers died of thirst on La Bestia and
the angels in my dreams don’t speak

their names anymore / I taste like a celebration to any tongue
dry as river rock in a decade of drought / knowing this /

I put my arm to his mouth and darling / he bit down /
and a song came after / I don’t remember which one

but I have not forgotten the red smear
his lips left across that harmonica



Shoot me and I’ll explode           into feathers         my mother says

I’m soft but the truth is                   when I say I’m sorry I mean

I’m sinking       sorry  sir              did you know

the Liberty Bell weighs 2,080 pounds                      so heavy

it cracked itself               have you ever dreamed

of that kind of freedom                the sacrifice of sound

say to yourself                 it’s an honor to break

for my song       my pioneer         I have been on the bad side

of every priest I’ve ever known               so says the Lord anyone

with a forked tongue is trespassing this garden            some moons

are made entirely of dust particles                       floating together

this is how I talk about my family           how you

could reach a hand straight through us               a ghost

you could wave away             my pioneer              it’s cold in America

& no one taught me the names of your constellations

so I named them after mi familia          & what they did

to survive           look above us there’s                  Abuela Ojos Estrellados

& Tio Mario       his crown of shooting stars        the constellation

guiding me         America             is a pile of glimmering shovels




Our mouths open despite another day
of no rain. This is the way a dog prays.

All the saints buried their hearts with the turnips,
so if you believe this season and all its hunger

has a father, you must forgive yourself for having
his resemblance. Forgive me: I have been trying

to reduce the world down to a single sentence.
One with your name in it. Your head is heavy,

a little moon on my shoulder. The laws of absence
say empty space begins where the object ends. This means

the teeth around your door are destined to gnaw you
down. If you open your eyes and find yourself held

in the mouth of your own feral name, be gone.
Hand me a scythe if you mean the blood

of a past season stains this present one. If you mean
to keep your hands empty, let go of my shirt. Somewhere

tonight, an abandoned mechanical bull is being coddled
by a calf, because the ending of every story is about wanting

to be touched. You said finally the field is opening
its palm for us. Shadows pulling themselves together

like the redeemed in Christ reassembling their bodies.
And the stars? The stars are doing what they always do.


"Of Such Heart" - Ellen Langford 


C.T. Salazar is a Latinx poet and children's librarian in Mississippi. He's the author of a micro-chapbook This Might Have Meant Fire forthcoming from Bull City Press. He's the editor-in-chief of Dirty Paws Poetry Review. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, 32 Poems, RHINO, Grist, Tampa Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Noble Gas QTRLY, and elsewhere. 

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