everything kept inside writhes and piles
A Temporary Blindness
Beyond your city and love, out here
in the unfathomable cold
the brightest stars burn with frostbite.
Zoom in and you’ll find your rapture,
your exile in a dilapidated solar system
where the planetary bodies that didn’t fit
your expectations float and twirl
in their own menace.
Here, you’ll grow ill
if you don’t uncover your eyes
because this is still part of your city,
the love that has always been yours
to unsee through the hands
you’ve carried and worn,
tattered and now full of holes
from so much unseeing.
There is no kindness in not witnessing
the approach of your own death––
a line of men in uniform with rifles
aimed at the earth before passionately
rising in unison as if to salute God,
or slowly eating more and more
until parts of your body start disappearing.
Still, you’re here with chilled skin
looking beyond the empty branches
of a tangerine tree to the warm glow
a street lamp gives you.
You’ve been bitter for too long
about your own hunger
and now and only just now
do you walk underneath the lamp’s umbrella
to embrace sight and relish in the end
of your blindness. Dig with your irises.
The archeology of yourself has only just begun.
Already, you’ve found ancient tools–
sharpened bones and stones
dug out for drinking the blood
from the sky heart. Everything you find in mirrors
becomes as bright and as beautiful as the city
and love where your tangerines grow,
a hardened bark armoring the trunk
and branches full of green to drink the sun
until the stars of orange bulb out from their misery
in drought–bitter, sweet, or anything in between
you’ll savor but forget the expected,
the required ingredients for licking your lips,
and accept all the planets
toxic and furious, solid or gas,
unbearable and welcoming
like your first slice of tangerine.
And you’ll wonder why, oh why
you had hidden for so long.
your expectations float and twirl in their own menace
It’s all about the tool
oooooo you choose to dig
ooooooooooooooooooo with. The spade,
oooooo the pick o oooo your hands
oooooo have already done this
before you think
oooooooooooooo in a previous life
oooooooooooooo on a plain like this
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo where the earth was hard
oooooo and as unforgiving oooooooooooo as your father
and when you dig
oooooo you can feel the belt
ooooooooooooooooooo of his stones
ooooooooooooooooooo pummel you
ooooooooooooooooooo into the pieces
ooooooooooooooooooo of shame
oooooooooooooo sometimes violence
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo is necessary
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo for it to vanish
but first it must pass
oooooooooooooo through your body
ooooooooooooooooooo and so you heal
ooooooooooooooooooo your father
with your disobedience
ooooooooooooooooooo and your acceptance
ooooooooooooooooooo of his dying embers
in your palms
and this is how you discover
ooooooooooooooooooo how perfect your hands are
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo for digging
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo beyond him
oooooo to find all the buried stars
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooinside the earth
and when you’re almost nothing
oooooooooooooo but spirit and love
ooooooooooooooooooo you’ll set them free
ooooooooooooooooooo like fireflies twinkling
their sighs of relief.
the was no rapture
After Yusef Komunyakaa
As a kid, I searched for matchbooks,
the ones my father had
anywhere he would smoke:
his work truck, the back yard-–
the bench he built from scrap wood,
and the kitchen where Mom shooed
him away, though the smoke lingered.
The smoke always lingers and stains.
I found and lit them one by one
stared into them before I tested
the distance between palm and
burning myself. This, of course, led to
fireworks in Mexico. I held
bean sparklers between my fingers.
They spewed into the street as I ran;
a human comet on its way to the sun.
Last week, the smoke from the Rough Fire
stampeded into Fresno and stayed too long.
It rained ash and weakened the sun
long enough to stare into its red heart;
My father has become frail. He still believes
I will become the star to rest his last wishes on;
all of them collapse under their own weight.
The mountains burn and protest with ash
everything we’ve done to them.
In a forest fire, trees explode in the heat
sending out splinters of bark
embers of their flesh in all directions.
You can not quench a forest fire,
you can only contain it, dig trenches
and clear ground, fight it off before it turns.
I’ve been preparing for the departure
for the Enola Gay to rise into the sky
and fly directly over my chest;
the little boy inside loves fireworks too.
Perhaps this is why we gather on Independence Day,
why we’ll sit silently in our folding chairs
waiting for dusk to disappear
for the long coat of stars to drape themselves
over the land, for the thunder of something leaving
the earth to shake us, beat us like a drum
Kadoom. Kadoom. Kadoom. Kadoom.
Kadoom. And watch the darkened sky
light to make us whole again.
Maceo Montoya’s paintings, drawings, and prints have been featured in exhibitions and publications throughout the country as well as internationally. He has published three works of fiction, The Scoundrel and the Optimist (2010), The Deportation of Wopper Barraza (2014) and You Must Fight Them: A Novella and Stories (2015), as well as Letters to the Poet from His Brother (2014), a hybrid book combining images, prose poems, and essays.
David Campos, a CantoMundo fellow, is the author of Furious Dusk (Notre Dame Press 2015), winner of the Andres Monotya Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Luna Luna, Boxcar, and among many others. He teaches English at Fresno City College and College of the Sequoias.