Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Girl From Yu Mountain

The Girl From Yu Mountain

Bamboo, slender and lime ripe, shoots straight, hard and up
from cobalt and white hand-painted vases like prison bars
cutting you into halves, fracturing the world until you forget
which side is caged which side is free, you suffocate and breathe,
gasping for answers that hide

like flowers too weed to bloom, leaving you to part the stalks
see see but you never do
in the jeweled box behind your eyes you can,
inside you are a baby, your head a round jade bead,
heavy, smooth you cry when the red egg is rolled on your crown,
you cry when you are hungry
when you are sleepy,

stopping only when your mother folds you to her breasts
where you grow golden
suckling on jasmine and candied ginger,
you learn to speak orange-flavored words that sting your tongue

shi shi your mother says, rocking her body in rhythm
you mistake for heart beat;
pulls of thick skin, shiny scars, remember the German Shepherd
that bit below your ear, shredding your throat like rice paper

the spot on your elbow, a fall you never rose from,
still peppered with asphalt on your twelfth birthday a priest
brought you the purple twelve-speed bike you wanted
for months

the death of your father came the day before,
unwrapped and ribbonless, you accepted
them both with unmoving lips and eyes
trembling inside like a broken-winged bird,
you listened for your mother’s words

instead she fell to the bed, you nodded your head
and pressed your face to her
now flat and empty, yellow and hard like a callous,
you heard no song in either chest—

you shut your eyes for the first time like tiny bronze shields,
lychee blossoms sprouted
filling the garden beyond the stretch of stone wall
yes yes you said, because you knew—

Who is there now to lift their shirt to you? To recognize
the salt in your tired breath
and pluck the leathery fruit from the place where hearts
were meant to grow?
Who will speak the words across your eyelids shh shh?

—I can only write.

Natalie Diaz

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