Time blunts the crooked / to savage pews / Once / on the sibling stumps / of a beat Caribbean pine / my cousins invite me to sit / my legs fold like melted candles / if I’d worn the maracas / -sizzled skirt of my reveries / their beamed liturgy: / ¡Maricón! / ¡Maricón! ¡Maricón! / Fold your hands / boy / walk straight / never graduate your hungers / Befuddlement sloths on their tongues / their eyes chapels of pebbles / We mount the izote tree / Tía Mamá watchtowers from the kitchen / a large pot of soup on the stove / pataste rapunzelled with dollars / Mom’s MoneyGrammed early / in the morning / I heed to my accusers’ orders: / Perch on the boulders our mothers / lay their clothes to mummify / jostle against the lengthy hammock / Abuelo bought en el mercado / They knot my wrists / with hands that have buried only mothers / I become their hummingbird embroidery / the ground on which their marbles rattle / like homemade rockets / hopscotch squares sunrise on the sidewalk / another underage infantry curls over / nameless flowers ambush my scraped knees / I am the lasso / of a small emptiness / that once called me Almighty / I am pushed into the dirt hole / they dig for our G.I. Joes / rows of tanks / artillery / He won’t do it / one cousin remarks / another one shouts / You’re wrong! / Somebody wheedles me to sit / on a jagged set of stairs / For my performance / I smooth out the back pockets of my pants / my heady skirt / any creases might behoove punishment / When I hear a gasp / another gasp / Whose girl am I? / I am losing my part-time voice / of a child / the rock-casters disperse / shoeless / like the sounds of shacks crumpling / under fathers / flowers are plucked from the bushes / strewn on my knees / etiolated honeysuckles / the youngest pulls a chunk of grass / shakes his green-stained hands / unlatches blades from his fingers / I take a sniff of the carnations / I hear a chortle / this is my burial / à la Ana Mendieta / Through the window / Tía Mamá scrutinizes the hubbub / storms outside in her flour-caked apron / hands glistening / water drops penetrating their anticipation into the ground / she pulls me by the hair / in the house she unfastens my belt / strikes me with it / a newborn island on my cheek / the ghost of another body my body / For supper / she serves us bland / cauliflower soup / the scalding dam overfloods my throat / I avoid the white-meridian scalps / when I finish I ask for another ladleful / this appetite is now scratching the muted aqueducts / a folklore of vomit takes residence on my tongue / as my cousins turn to me / the spoons shine on their faces / in this fresh bodygarden / the tangerine trees release their grip / on the children from unforgiving floors / the little palms barely graze the ground / before they crash
IN SERVICE OF SILENCE
_______Between 2004 and 2014, about 3,400 cases of sexual abuse were referred to the Vatican
_______on the grounds of their credibility. As of 2018, hundreds of new cases have been
Children with church-pressed silence slapped
between their hymnals. Patriotic hush to build
character. A boy stoops to cradle donated
pumpkin soup, his spine marionetted through his silky,
lassoed hair—the grip of a locksmith versed in gospel.
Wax gag, stained glass gag, raise-funds-for-the-steeple
gag, elementary gag. Swallowed sundown, the hearts
beat their tin can drums, & all the muddy roads lead
to parochial cul-de-sacs. The boats bow their heads
bayside. Look at his hair! the priest tells reporters,
his smile like a river of blood reflecting a man who rides
his horse towards a maelstrom of unanswered litanies.
Slaves’ backs erected the temples in which we canonize
the spit of despots, pray for the lineage of the tormentor.
Father lent me new skin where there was none. We shout miracle,
wrap our bliss in lexicon. The white perjury speaks in us.
Everywhere in Latin America: robe-engulfed children.
______We are told our angels are not worth grieving
over. A boy wanted to flee his body & became
______a rivulet of eyeless faces. Leftover, dysfunctional
prayer, when did he cease squealing to remember
______appellation? In Pittsburgh, a priest found guilty
of raping Honduran schoolboys. Bells blare mudslides.
______The poor are the last to receive communion.
Archdiocesan smoke rolling in a daze. In his hard drive,
______image after unfamiliar image of bewilderment.
Everywhere is war. Everywhere is war. War in the east. War
______in the west. Once, a child returned to his father,
but there was no father. A mother’s arms sewn to her lap,
______broom heaving on the wall. Piety booms:
It’s a conspiracy against God!—because God sits on His throne
______pondering downfalls He can’t master, conundrums
He can’t crack. The neighbors watch each other’s children
______disappear into unmarked graves, mouths struck
with shoveled sermon. Tours between colonized motherlands.
______Children offered American chocolate, dollars—
what we grew up dubbing freedom & salvation when we were
______not yet honeycombed. A boy brushes his hair
as the alb falls on his black pants like pallid whisper. When
______our waists were firmer than the crosses in their eyes,
we’d shine like newly jeweled candlesticks. They’d say, No one
______understands you. Only we do. There are incalculable
ways to dent a cross upon the body. Hail the hollowed bone.
______Hail the glorified extraction. Repent for missing grace.
______[LITURGY OF THE WORD]
__________________________a cento with lyrics from Sinead O’Connor’s The Lion
__________________________and the Cobra and I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
I wrecked the bedroom closer to the sea— I’ve been dead for twenty years
Too many mouths open The priest just said it (a hawk on his arm)
These are dangerous days We were so young then Nighttime or morning
I am not like I was before— these hands are sticky In the backyard
the worm has laid eggs stolen from our very eyes You tell us not to sing
after Sunday I will carry with me my apple tree We did
what was right Three babies jump in the river in somebody’s office
______[LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST]
If I whisper one of their names the Byzantine ghost
on the window might burst. A mother irons her son’s
white shirt. The creases interminable. Compasses drunk
on direction. Sheep with slaughter trapped in their throats.
She splashes dirty water on deathbeds-to-be, inconsistent
confessional, battleground with burning orthodox doors
to nominate the muted combatant. Oh, sympathetic traitor.
We doom song on Sunday, bury blame under our mattresses
on Wednesday. We keep our savings & the hush-it money
stitched to our cushion covers. No space to bury
his torment. Who am I but a glimpse into avoidance, empty
outline of worship? Congregation of postperturbance.
I find myself pronouncing the scores of names in the torrents.
__________________________with lines from Sylvia Plath
a running absent of movement history for a freshly
______cut curl heaving sky one half for an undernourished
child the other to doggie bag to a sick mother a brother’s
______skin train tracks at the border crows behind their shack
floating in a high-church hush elegy a father won’t care
______to translate little brown arms folded into papier-
mâché mud bricks in the sacristy a man past thirty no beauty
______at all save for the ebullience in his supplication expecting
a child’s sparrow eyes an incredulous belted father sobbing
______like a wind with no intention to halt my mother
once said some things about your life I’d rather not know fruit
______flies of burgundy silk wings on guava trees the tongue
of shame the depth of rumor shrouding the rooftops coiling
______to the ground to plant multi-holed seeds I watch their spilt
tears cloud & dull to pearl midair the fumes of incensed
______innocence from a clay stove in a birth-drowse the wick-
child bodies between their fingers our fingers taken in by their own
______haloes how long until mourning is forgotten like a rock
in the thunderous waters of denial fed & fed to fresh mouths
Material for several of these cases is taken from the following sources: