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In a dream, my brother returns:
fingers intact, ears untouched,
tongue at rest behind
a row of unharmed teeth: a hammer
learning its own language.
We are relieved, devoured by joy.
My mother tumbles upward
from the ground where she’s been
grieving. She stretches her hand
to stroke the face we thought was lost
long ago. Her breath sticks to him
like a soft clump of moss and everything
is slower than usual,
and I begin now to think
maybe there is a God
listening from his impossible seat
to the stinging prayers pouring out
of this discarded one’s lips, allowing
this moment, however small,
to exist, to walk through the wavering
walls of disbelief and press
my ear to the dealer’s chest
right before the day, with its greed
and labor, he tears us apart. A God
to make of me that prophet coming
back to his glittering source,
to that hunger that will possess him to speak
first of beauty, and then humiliation.
• • •
When I Spoke the Language of Donkeys
Sit still you told me. Give the desert
what belongs to the desert. A vessel of dust
is all you will be, dimwit. Be a dear and shape
up, brown boys get sad too, you know.
There is no need for others to see. Cuidate.
To them, you are an entire village stuffed
inside an envelope. When they do see you:
body made criminal, body, lust factory.
Body, the thing dogs chase after.
You were born at night and that is why
you are so dark. Leave it alone.
Straighten your voice.
Can you name this bird?
Can you quote Shakespeare?
Are you fluent in donkey? Do you aim
to disappoint? You are the goddamn zoo
and all the animals in it.
Keep your hands visible,
they are as small as sparrows’ nests,
but still a threat to others. Never carry flowers
unless you are heading to a funeral.
Hold your head as straight as your voice.
Let me tell you, the door you
came though was always cracked.
Never mourn in public. Can’t you see?
Count the days, but you won’t hear back.
• • •
Now You’re Talking
right into my ear, screaming, actually,
an insult crawling down the littlest muscle
before striking the spine. I don’t see blood,
but I can feel it: rising, hard.
Stranger, don’t you know my mind
is more than a nest of candy or a sugar
cube dissolving with one good lick?
I am a different kind of tough,
the queen with too much powder
up her nose, spending nights
in a sweat, serving lust, spinning
a fan of feathers into light.
Too pretty to give a shit.
In another life you could’ve had me
without a hand over your mouth,
a knife trembling around your neck.
I’ve known your kind of thirst,
sheepish to the core, suckling the life
out of your face. I’ll keep a handsome
secret for years and years. Let me lean
closer to your filth. Tonight, we’ll see
whose arrow is the first to touch the sky.
Eduardo Martinez-Leyva's poems have appeared in The Adroit Journal, Apogee Journal, Nepantla: A Journal for Queer Poets of Color, The Journal, Best New Poets 2015, and elsewhere. He received his MFA from Columbia University, where he was a teaching fellow. He is a CantoMundo fellow.
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