Swap an Aztec maiden for a cask of mezcal
or a swine for a boy. For compass follow the ship ahead
scanning the water for slaves fed to the sea.
Night divides between star and snake
to feed the sun its blood on the hill.
Clay pipe music sails white parakeets through the jungle.
The god of wind blows away his own lower face.
Corn, sleep tight in your green crib
while the warrior kills the rabbit, the deer, the moon.
What is family? A big conch shell carved of stone.
For sacrifice what will I use in place of my heart?
There’s sap for my heart in the cottonwood tree,
make an exchange. The men will want to take it
in their hands. Give them the tree’s heart instead.
Put it in a bowl and carry the bundle of flame,
corazon, carry it to the horizon.
Editors’ Note: Desirée Alvarez was a runner-up in our 2016 Poetry Contest. The winner was Cori A. Winrock. The other runner-up was Marcus Wicker.