Arsenal with Praise Song

Rodney Gómez

My doula taught me

          that certain herbs elevate:

                    albahaca tied with palm frond

to loosen the slingshot

     of the windpipe.

                    Manzanilla for days

          when the ghost demands a dirge

and submersion.

                    Some also burn

          though she never gave them names.

Instead, she pointed to a dark

          shed and warned me to look

                    for the same absence in others

then hold firmly to the spade.




There was no beginning

          and no end.

                    A field hand

          stood sentry

                    at the river’s pulse,

half his nerve shaved off

          the bone,

          his family dangling

from the notch of his collar.

There was no need

          to pose his limbs

into a rail tie.

          He was already dusking.

                    But he roared

and the cavalcade




There was no wall

          raised to behead

escaping animals,

          those in the brush

                    and those pleading

for rest.

There was no end

          and no beginning.

The same insistence

          carved the delta

less elegant

          than the river.

The same willingness

          to stamp a hierarchy

into the river bed.



My father was born

          with bombardment in his mouth,

jailed and beaten in Mexico

          for calling the Virgin a whore.

He arrived and was promptly broken in

          by a sheriff’s pistol. His body serape

protecting us from all harm.

When he left, cicadas wept.

When the jeep wheels trampled

          his grave, he woke with a siren so loud

the river unfurled its ears.

Who knew the weather

          would surrender its fists?



Someone in a uniform

lit a match

          forced it down

a gravity

of throats.

And there was no congratulatory

fire when the wall rose.

And there was no light

          when butterflies cracked

against steel teeth

          their bodies graffiti

of warning.

There was no beginning

          and no end.

Wherever there is fire

there is mourning.



The river’s twin:

          a giant coppery stag.

                    To build it

fingers were pried

          from their daily devotion

forced to read

                    the manual

          of their own maiming.

          The dead in their festoons

dotting the highway.

                    My mother rising

like a monstrance

          baking pan de muerto

crushing pepper and cumin

                              on her headstone

as if she had never disappeared.

          She said the wind

would vole into a voice

                    plant its bugle

in every ear.

          My father rolled

                    another cigarillo

in his grave.

          He told us the water

would still be there

                    when we disappeared.

There is no beginning

          and no end.

And who will feed

                    the new monstrosity?

And who will raise

          the offspring

of tickseed and steel?



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