(after Ana Mendieta's Silueta series, earth-body works, 1973-80)
This body always compost--
hair a plot of thin green stems
snowing a shroud of petals,
skin mud-sucked to bark,
trunk only timber isthmusing
river banks, each finger
a dirty uprooting.
How many stones did I have
to swallow before my legs
believed their own weight?
Dropped into silhouette
of thigh and hip, a ridge
of ossicles crushed to fine
white whispers. Offering Cuilapán
their orphaned pleas, one
twin lingers outside the nave, one
cloistered in a vaulted niche,
its ledge of red roses edging
her blood-soaked robes.
Meat, bone-a deer's skitter
and bolt from the arrow,
an iguana's severed tail, spiny tracks.
They say we dig our own graves.
I have laid me down
in a Yagul tomb, outlined
our island arms with twig, rock,
blossom, mud. Our pulse with fire,
glass and blood. I've raised
myself in the earth's beds, left
this map, this exiled breath.
Used by permission.
*An earlier version of this poem was published in Cuadernos de ALDEEU, Fall, 2013 and as part of Mind the Gap, a portfolio of poem-print translations, Eds. Tim Abel and Sara Parr, 2013*
Brenda Cárdenas has authored Boomerang and From the Tongues of Brick and Stone. She also co-edited Between the Heart and the Land: Latina Poets in the Midwest. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Mind the Gap: A Portfolio of Poem-Print Translations, City Creatures: Animal Encounters in Chicago's Urban Wilderness, The Golden Shovel Anthology: Honoring the Continuing Legacy and Influence of Gwendolyn Brooks, The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century, Prairie Schooner, RATTLE, Pilgrimage, Cream City Review, and elsewhere. She has given readings widely, including at the Art Institute of Chicago, The Tempe Center for the Arts, Brooklyn College, The Milwaukee Repertory Theater, the Chazen Museum of Art, and the Bryant Park Reading Room. An Associate Professor in the Creative Writing program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Cárdenas served as the Milwaukee Poet Laureate from 2010-2012. Brenda co-created and co-taught the PINTURA : PALABRA workshop at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.
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