Back to Issue Thirteen.

After the Conquest



I remember the forest differently: trees stood
stiff as slender ghosts once did, crow feathers
blackened the ground before me.

There was no room for siblings
with gypsy-colored skin and stubborn manes.
I know about this the way a huntsman knows

how sharp an axe must be before saving the girl.
I was never she. No one ate from my hands,
led me out of my crimson robes.

I had no stag-heart to fool or follow.
What flickered here was my hair, wisp
by wisp now approaching silver.

I am forgetting the dignified shape
of the lover’s neck. When my eyes are shut,
I still hear the animal’s voice, rhyming.



At First Blush



I remember my mother in flowered skirts,
thighs stung by wasps as she hung the linens
behind the gazelle house. I was her corked migraine,

small enough to make a fist, and stuff it in my mouth.
If it’s true what they say, and you are what you eat
then what did that make me?

There was nothing sweet inside that house
except for tea. And so I saw with my hands,
shoved tennis balls under my shirt like breasts.

Come summer, she’d blow on the back
of my neck as if fanning a spark,
telling my skin a secret.






Those two feverish heads did not gather sleep.
Only mothers prayed. Inca doves were slaughtered.

Their scaled bodies rubbed against each small chest.
The neighbors’ beasts multiplied in spite of chains

or as a result of them. Little mouths with pink,
puckered gums declared thirst.

Brine was offered, syrup from a sweet potato, nothing.
From the nightstand, objects glittered as if to flirt

with the air. Tonsils removed and stored
as poor man’s rubies. How much grief can a mind hoard.

Eduardo Martinez-Leyva‘s poems have appeared in AssaracusApogee Journal, Nepantla: A Journal for Queer Poets of Color, The Journal, and Best New Poets 2015. He received his MFA from Columbia University, where he was a teaching fellow. He grew up in El Paso, Texas, and currently lives in New York City. He is a CantoMundo fellow.

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