LITANY WITH WOLFSKIN AND DIFFERENT SOUNDS FOR LONELINESS


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


 

TRAVELLER BUT I SCARCELY EVER LISTENED


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


 

ALL THAT DAZZLING DAWN HAS PUT

ASUNDER : YOU GATHER A LAMB


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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