Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2021  Vol. 20  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Notes from the White City

Broken shards of glass
are embedded in fences.
Dogs shrink inside of their
weather-wrinkled skin
and wash away in gray.
I swallow my eyes thinking
about the bright blue water
in the neighborhood cenote
hidden like a dark turquoise
jewel caught in the teeth
of the jungle—a bluing
dimension hollowed into
the earth for us to find
and drown our tangled bones.

I take pictures of the colorful buildings
because they remind me of pastels on an
artist’s worktable. The locals know I’m
not from here and their jagged stares let
me know that I’m right. My brown is a
different brown compared to theirs even
though we look the same. That’s why my
voice feels bleached in the sticky air and
my tongue feels like a wet bullet jammed
in the curved chamber of my throat.

On our way to a bus station,
we stop inside an indoor mercado
and I watch a man strike a large
rat in the head repeatedly with a
stick as men around him laugh
at its twitching body. Then one
of them flings it at a group of girls
sitting nearby as they scream and
scatter away. As if analyzing a
bad dream, I can’t decide if the rat
is supposed to represent my
depression, or my will to live.

My grandmother has to translate Spanish
for me as we watch fireflies flickering
chartreuse on the lawn in front of a step
pyramid with night falling into obsidian.
But I can’t feel the gods burning off me
like rainwater into steam. I can only count
the changing colors of death’s ancient plumage.

I leave Mérida stained
with the taste and memory
of bloodletting to communicate
with a world that will never answer me back.  

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