From “The Henna Poems” published in The Southwestern Review

1. Faithful Woman

La henna, tattooed in red clay—
his hand prints on my nalgas

while he eats chicharones with chile
and licks the lemon juice from his fingers.

I am his undesired bride of fast times, bringing
big pots of albondigas to feed his whole
family—love utterly unasked for, a belly
filled up with sticky red rice and embryonic fluid.

Desert nights! Hot, angry earth.

I dig into my wicked bag and find
ageless soil. Though my innards have festered
and my rinds have wrinkled—
nopales left to soak too long in salted water—

my mother-bag recreates itself
from somewhere underneath,

lower than my skirts,
brown and tattered, where women hold
the old ones and the babies,
where women squat to wash armpits
and backs of knees
with their own spit, if need be,
if they’ve no water, no luxury of soap:
mother is the invention of necessity.

At the edge of the valley,
sea salt and pungent sugar beets—
dunes of sand and towering thunder heads—

Here is the truth I know, the wanting that aches wildly.

What do I know of the ancients?

Father, your Jesus failed me—
could he fly, could he wail,
could he scrub the blood stained trail?

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