poem. The way mouths have the shapes of leaves,
my body, forest of bones, I will not let
the skin fly off them like heavy birds
unperching, like wet laundry. I am not
unacquainted with desire. If you touch me,
my heart feels like a lost sock in the dryer,
if you touch me, the pronoun that you are sinks
to my lower abdomen and hurts
the way the darker blood hurts a way
you will never know. But if desire
were more than this habit of waiting. Still
inside the sleeve of my voice, I hid
an ace, a joker, I hid the bastos card from the
baraja española my grandmother played by herself
while my grandfather worked or, later, when he’d died.
I imagine her, in those hours where it was only
her and the house, that heavy solemn praise
of stone on stone. Security, of course, we want
and somewhere also to arm our body, bone
on bone, also to cover it with skin,
also to tell the world we are not, yet, a corpse,
though we carry it around, a thing to live by.
My grandfather, all day in the butcher shop,
his hands still bloodied though he’d wash
and wash them, holding the long tapering knife
full of gentleness, as a director facing his orchestra,
ready to cut into the sad ritual of music.
Meanwhile, grandmother waited, kneeling by the bed,
she prayed the rosary, Ave María, llena eres de gracia,
fingers charged with longing, the words on her lips
breaking as they touched the air.
She waited the way only those women knew
how to wait, the way dough was kneaded
by groups of women, one and then another
and another, untiring.
Before patience wilted, I see her
streak of white in dark hair, singing the old
tangos, electrified by the grief of desire.
Beatriz was her name, and my grandfather
called her with his Spanish accent,
Beatrish, a last syllable of wind, as if he had already
lost her, as if her name was a way of letting go.
How she would walk through the house,
light rising out of things, leaving a world
without contours, and her hands
touching the walls,
the furniture, with the lightness
with which one touches one
who is dying. Grandfather came to her
then, and lay on her body
the way meat lies on meat,
already skinned, bare, before he raised
and hung it from the hooks. Beatriz.
Her body lives somewhere in my body,
the child she was, unimaginable,
breaks the glass figures I keep
in the house of my voice.
Elisa Díaz Castelo was born and raised in Mexico. She holds an MFA from New York University in poetry and has received the Fulbright and Goldwater fellowships. Committed to writing in both English and Spanish, she recently won second prize in the Literal Latté Poetry Awards and her poems in Spanish have been published in Periódico de Poesía, Los Bárbaros, and Sobremesa, among others. She is currently a recipient of the FONCA fellowship for young writers.