the street over the curb, over
slick blades of grass and broke
our chain link fence.
She was a smash of anger and drink.
I think a part of her was
broken, the way we have been broken since
Brother died. It's a part that hurts
on a night hushed
dull except for a woman screaming.
The woman tries
to run over
a man, someone who did her wrong.
A different man did us wrong.
Ordered you dead
on a different night.
But I know this feeling–
A wide –open–gash of gut
that causes this woman to
crash into cars,
crash into fence,
crash into our playground,
and into our sleep.
Planks of wood topple, a small child's
playhouse ready to tumble. We have
already been left
No quick fix
for the broken. Hinges unscrewed,
wood chopped and
Father asks: What can we salvage?
He sits here, beneath the sun,
tear hunched, canyon calling
Brother's name, waiting for a response.
Father says: The fence needs mending,
dirt dug. His shovel breaks
On the night my lover leaves I'm awakened
by a woman screaming for Lucas. I think I’ve been waiting
to be awakened for hours, maybe years. I don’t know
Lucas or this woman. I peek
through the blinds wanting to see her face, but there is only
her voice crashing through
a settled night.
These days it doesn’t get dark until late. The sun is doing it’s best
to mark us. My lover and I wait for
night to lay close to the skin more
gently than the way we grab at each other. He always washes
his hands carefully before reaching into my
depths. He finds where I am stained numb and arch
into a question mark.
Sometimes he feels too much and I too little. He likes
me best when I’m demanding and
–speak clearly of my wanting ways.
His fingers find their way into my mouth, tangle
with tongue–insistent like his own tongue.
–What is he searching for?
Maybe he wants to drown here in my country.
Our bodies the last refuge before
I can’t promise there will be no damage, that I will leave
no marks. I seem to always be on the verge
of becoming a body
of water and the weather forecaster can’t predict
what we want to know. There is a table between us
and he says,
the moon is almost full. The moon’s edge teases
the window’s blinds.
There is always something in my way.
He says, I’ve been meaning to tell you.
Knowing what comes next I sip my wine
wanting something to coat
my mouth clean. I am so slow in this moment.
Nod my head in understanding and wait
for him to leave.
There should be a woman screaming here,
a woman filled with more than minor annoyance.
So why do I feel so muted–
so unpained, but still barely afloat? Perhaps, it will rain again
when the memory of old lovers evaporate and I will begin
to grow prickly aloe
in my hair. A crown of succulents thick and fleshy, leaves marked
by tiny teeth. A salve within my reach reminding me
I can thrive even in a desert’s mist.
Recipe For Shame
When I was almost adult,
family house was disrupted.
We, already in mourning, near liquid
grief. We, ready to spill
out into pews
of memory for Grandfather.
Newscasters did not
us of this kind of destruction.
Even the streets had been silent
that bright Saturday. Or maybe
we should have guessed
by the way insects
nestled in our ear.
Doors would be broken
even though we were
Soon there was a swat
of green and blue,
swat of shame.
Color us brown;
color us red.
Order us to split
ourselves open–raise our hands.
Demand receipt for every secret. We alternate,
between hanging of heads
and huffs and spurts of anger.
See the caution tape.
Do not Cross.
See Other Brother on his knees
through the front door. Hands on his head.
See him: Bow before gun and badge.
Occupy this body.
Occupy this house.
a grandfather’s unloaded shotgun &
One marijuana plant.
If you had asked we might have
explained this remedy: How to soak it in alcohol.
How to rub it against the
where the body feels most hurt.
Your war on drugs reveals–
house is only house.
There is a pot cooking on the stove and they opened that too.
A man ladled a spoon in
and tasted our salted meat and spice.
It warmed his tongue.
He said, you seem like good people.
He asked for the recipe
and received no answer.
Casandra Lopez is a Chicana, Cahuilla, Tongva and Luiseño writer and educator who has received fellowships from CantoMundo and Jackstraw. She has been selected for residencies with the Santa Fe Art Institute, School of Advanced Research and Hedgebrook. Her poetry chapbook Where Bullet Breaks was published by the Sequoyah National Research Center and her hybrid chapbook, After Bullet, is forthcoming from Yellow Chair Press. She is the managing editor of As Us: A Space For Writers Of The World.